With the NHL changing the rules to cut down on head-shots and concussions, players who like to make big impact hits had to redefine their game or get left behind. Players like Matt Cooke, Dan Carcillo and Steve Downie have all had to change the way they play to stay on the right side of the law. But one player who hasn't been able to adjust his game successfully is Raffi Torres.
From his hit on Jordan Eberle in 2011 to his hit on Marian Hossa in last years playoffs, Raffi Torres just can't seem to figure out a way to play within the "rules". There is a fine line that a player like Torres must toe, but he continually crosses that line. Torres is the type of player who can't find a permanent home, he's bounced around between 6 different NHL teams. His job is to bring something to each team he plays for to convince them to keep him and thats usually physicality. But Torres keeps crossing the line and after his last hit on Tuesday night in the second round of the playoffs, it may be time for teams to start crossing him off their team.
We'll start with his latest hit of Jarret Stoll. Was it a dirty hit or a head hit? It was not a dirty hit but rather an illegal hit, the principal point of contact appears to be the head. The tough thing about this hit is that Stoll leaned forward to get the puck and by that point it was virtually to late for Torres to stop. Had this been a player not named Raffi Torres, they probably get a phone hearing and 1 or 2 games max. Since this hit involves the controversial Raffi Torres, an in-person hearing is called and there's a lengthy suspension.
What's really startling about Torres is his MO. He seems to be aiming to take star players out of the game and that's exactly what the NHL is trying to get rid of. He hits Jordan Eberle one of the Edmonton Oilers best young players, Marian Hossa a key member of the Chicago Blackhawks offence and Jarret Stoll another key player on a Stanley Cup contending team.
Big hit's with unfortunate outcomes happen in the NHL, look at the Eric Gryba hit, but continually going after key players is something the NHL can't continue to allow.
When you look at the Stoll hit it's a really grey area that the NHL needs to make clear. Torres doesn't extend his elbow or leave his feet, but he did finish his check on an angle that targeted Stoll's head on the play. Basically what the NHL is saying is Torres took a "bad route" to finish his check, as he skated east-west. Torres also hits upwards into Stoll's body forcing his head backwards instead of hitting through Stoll. Had this been anyone else, I think they get the benefit of the doubt with this hit, but it's not it's the infamous Raffi Torres.
The consensus online is that Torres shouldn't be suspended for this hit and that the only reason this is such a big deal is because of Torres' history. A team can no longer get the benefit of the doubt when Torres hits somebody, anytime anything is borderline with this guy you know Brendan Shanahan will be calling. Which is why teams are going to start to give up on him. No team wants a player that can't get away with anything, he's become a liability on the ice.
Whether people like it or not and despite his best efforts, Raffi Torres is a dirty hockey player. The book is out on him, he likes to take star or impact players out of the line-up. If a 25 game suspension in last years playoffs didn't deliver the message clear enough to Raffi Torres what's it going to take?
With the 6 game suspension, could this be the final hit of his career? Raffi Torres will be an un-restricted free agent this coming offseason and if the San Jose Sharks don't resign him, where does he go? While his hit on Stoll wasn't malicious, it was a dangerous play and it may cost him a lot more than 6 games.
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