Gary Bettman hasn’t been around 19 years at the helm of the NHL because he’s a dummy.
Monday’s decision to reduce the 25-game suspension of Phoenix's Raffi Torres by four games was a wise choice on a couple of fronts.
First, it throws a wrench into the well-oiled theory that the appeals process for supplemental discipline is thoroughly flawed because the NHL commissioner rules on them. How could he ever overrule his own discipline chief? It’s extremely rare that it ever happens.
This has been a long-standing complaint from the NHL Players’ Association and is expected to be an important component of the CBA talks that have already begun. The union wants a more objective decision-maker at the top of the appeals process. Now Bettman can throw this at them. Mind you, I don’t think the NHLPA will flinch one bit. It still will want a change in the process.
But really, the reason Monday’s decision shouldn’t surprise anyone is that all along I believe Brendan Shanahan’s purpose with slapping Torres with 25 games was simply to ensure he wouldn’t play again in the postseason. Thing is, the league couldn’t just announce that. What if the Coyotes lose their first-round series to Chicago and he ends up getting just four or five games? Way too lenient. Hence, what I believe the league did with Torres was look at how many games the Coyotes could possibly play in the postseason after the hit on Marian Hossa in Game 3 of the series against Chicago. If you figure four rounds at seven games apiece, that left 25 possible games.
Bingo, a 25-game suspension. And as it turns out, with Phoenix reaching the Western Conference finals, it was a healthy 13 games suspended in the playoffs.
Now, Torres still has to sit out eight regular-season games this coming season, but I think the point here is clear: Those 13 playoff games sent a message, in the league’s view.
And in the end, an interesting chip to play in labor talks.