NHL finally says 'enough' to Raffi Torres

The league sends a message with Torres' suspension (3:36)

ESPN NHL reporter Scott Burnside explains why Raffi Torres received such a lengthy suspension for his illegal hit in Saturday's preseason game. (3:36)

If it's possible for a film short from the NHL's department of player safety to be nominated for an Oscar, Monday's thoughtful, point-by-point dismantling of serial predator Raffi Torres should be considered.

Maybe there's a category for "Lowering the Boom."


Two days after yet another patented sneak attack by Torres, this one on an unsuspecting Jakob Silfverberg of the Anaheim Ducks, the NHL lowered the boom on the San Jose Sharks forward with a 41-game suspension that ranks as one of the longest in NHL history.

For all but the most myopic of Sharks fans or Torres supporters, this was all about paying the piper. Finally.

Patrick Burke, the narrator of the well-constructed video explanation posted by the league Monday afternoon, explained Torres had previously been involved with NHL disciplinarians nine times in his 703-game career, including four suspensions.

The video outlined those hits, the similarities in the reckless assaults on Jordan Eberle, Nate Prosser, Marian Hossa and Jarret Stoll, eerie and more than a little nauseating.

Was the hit on Silfverberg any worse than the others?

Not really.

In fact, if you hadn't seen the hit on Silfverberg, it wouldn't matter because they are basically the same: an elbow or shoulder delivered high to the head, usually from the side so there's no warning, no way to defend against the assault.

But the difference in this hit was it was the one that led the department of player safety led to say "enough."

Enough from a player that has never learned what it means to change.

Enough from a player whose lack of respect for his employers and his opponents seems to know no bounds.

Enough from a player who threw a stain on his team's positive offseason, putting them in the unenviable position of having to defend the indefensible, not to mention find a player to replace him in the lineup.


Although not technically a "repeat" offender because injuries have limited Torres' playing time in the past couple of seasons -- he's only played in 15 games since torpedoing Jarret Stoll in the 2013 postseason, which earned him his last suspension -- the league took his history into account in banning him for half a season.

In some ways it's a landmark ruling from a league that has struggled over the years to come to grips with how steep to make suspensions for plays like this.

But because of the type of player he is, Torres made this one easy.

The game is a better place today than it was yesterday, when Torres was still an active member of the NHL.

The game will be a better place for every single one of the 41 games Torres will miss while serving this suspension. Certainly it will be a safer place.

Sure, it's possible Torres might appeal this suspension, and won't that be a joyous moment in the halls of the NHL Players' Association if it comes to that?

Having to go to bat for a player that has consistently done things that very well could have ended other players' careers. Talk about conflicting emotions.

You know what would have made this day better?

Had San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson emerged from the Shark Tank to throw his support behind this suspension.

With an appeal possible, it's a convenient escape clause for the Sharks that he didn't speak, but will the Sharks really welcome Torres back for Game 42?

It's hard to imagine.

If the Sharks had any backbone at all, they'd have been in contact with the NHL and prepared their own statement to follow up the league's announcement.

Wilson could have come out and said, "This is our player and we'll pay him the $2.125 million he's owed for this season (minus the $440,860.29 he will be paid to the players' emergency assistance fund during the suspension), but he'll never play for us again."

Even if Wilson was looking for a way to somehow get Torres off his opening day roster -- he's on a one-way deal and there is no cap relief for a player who is under suspension -- this was a great chance to make a stand against this type of behavior and the damage it does to the game.

Wilson could have talked about how the Sharks respect the game, the league, the process too much to allow Torres to remain a member of the San Jose Sharks once his suspension is completed.

He could have talked about the culture that he wants to develop on his team and how Torres, through his blatant disregard for the rules, does not fit that culture.

He could have talked about the message he wants to send to his team in the same way the NHL delivered a strong message with Monday's ruling.

He could have done all that.

But he didn't.

Wilson would have been howling in outrage had Torres been playing for another team and hit Tomas Hertl or Logan Couture in a similar fashion. So it would have been nice if the Sharks had tied a neat little bow on this preseason package by finishing the job started by the NHL.

But they've got lots of time -- 41 games, in fact -- to get their part of this right.

And who knows, maybe this will be the last time we mention Raffi Torres and the NHL in the same sentence.

A person can dream, no?