NHL Playoffs: Brendan Shanahan Gets Things Right with Raffi Torres Suspension

Isaac SmithAnalyst IApril 22, 2012

Raffi Torres unknowingly helped Brendan Shanahan regain control of player safety in the playoffs with his hit on Marian Hossa last Tuesday night.

Torres received a 25-game suspension, the longest suspension in the "Shanahammer" era.

Shanahan was criticized for not issuing harsh enough punishments for several incidents in first-round series games.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman called the criticism "gamesmanship" and Shanahan redeemed himself in the eyes of the public with what is a tie for the third longest suspension in NHL history.

Why does the suspension fits the crime and player?

Raffi Torres has no sense of the new NHL rules, and has made this perfectly clear through his actions on the ice.

Torres was fined for an incident on December 29th, 2011, and two days later (the day he received the fine) delivered a similar hit that got him suspended for two games. Shanahan issued him these slaps on the wrist so that Torres would finally take the hint.

Torres obviously didn't take the hint.

As a career third or fourth liner, Torres has no real scoring value to his team. Dave Tippett and past coaches use him more as an agitator and in a checking role.

But Torres refuses to acknowledge that his hits are now against NHL rules.

He might share the sentiments of Coyotes' television color commentator Tyson Nash, who originally said that the Torres hit on Hossa was "as clean of a hit as you're going to get."

Nash took back his assertion, but Torres said that "...as far as the hit goes, I just felt like it was a hockey play, just trying to finish my hit out there."

Come on, a hockey play?

Yeah he finished the hit, but if you can slowly count to three after the player releases the puck, don't hit him!

Shanahan had to put his foot down

Shanahan has had trouble getting the NHL general managers on the same page with more lengthy suspensions.

When Shanahan suspended James Wisniewski the rest of the preseason plus eight regular season games, Shanahan faced immense pressure from the GMs to not suspend anyone for that length of time again.

All of Shanahan's suspensions since then have been nine games or less (and eight games or less if you don't count a mandatory minimum suspension for Jean-Francois Jacques leaving the bench in September).

There has been media attention drawn to the fact that these kind of head-shot hits are still occurring, and Shanahan could not do anything about it because the GMs were not on the same page as he was.

Players with prior histories were not getting punished properly. It took Matt Cooke a 17-game suspension to finally get the message, and it looks like Raffi Torres will start next season riding the pine, even if the Coyotes make a run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

The Number of Rules That Were Violated

Shanahan found three rules that Torres violated.

Rule 56: Interference, Rule 48: Illegal Check to the Head, and finally Rule 42: Charging.

The Aftermath

Brendan Shanahan made the right decision to suspend Torres for 25 games because he had to set a precedent to discourage checks to the head.

One check to the head can effectively end or seriously endanger a players career.

A simple six- or seven-game suspension will not compensate for losing a player to 20 games or more.

Just ask the Vancouver Canucks how much they missed Daniel Sedin after he was hit by Duncan Keith.

Keith got a five-game suspension, and Sedin missed the last 10 games of the season plus the first three games of the playoffs.

Hardly equal "compensation" if you ask most people.

Raffi Torres may not have deserved all 25 games, but he did deserve to have an example made of him by Shanahan.

A new era is starting in the NHL—an era of compliance and respect. If not by choice, then by suspensions.

This is the right way to go, and Shanahan has made an example for anyone who continues to violate league rules in an attempt to injure players.

Going forward, expect suspensions to be more lengthy if liberties continue to be taken. Shanahan is serious about player safety, and if it takes a 25-game suspension to get players to take the new rules seriously, so be it.

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