You’ve got to hand it to the NHL. In a league that has typically based it’s discipline policy on precedent, it seems that in the wake of a never ending run of head injuries, they’ve decided to throw history away and break new ground.
And until some more systemic changes are implemented from the big leagues down to the grass roots to address the risks of play in the “new NHL”, we’ll have to embrace the tough love being handed down despite how confounding it must be to the players.
You see there was a time when you had to come close to killing someone to even be considered for a suspension that would include playoff games. Indeed, today’s suspension of Canucks’ winger Raffi Torres for the final two regular season games and the first two playoff games amounts to a suspension of roughly 10 regular season games in the established currency.
And this punishment seems extraordinary given the play and Torres’ clean record. Remember the last time the Canucks were involved in a situation where a prone player with his head down and body outstretched in pursuit of a loose puck met with the accidental on purpose elbow of an opposing player? Yes, we’re referring to Steve Moore on Markus Naslund - a very similar play that didn’t even draw a minor penalty let alone a multi-game suspension.
In the end, the veteran Torres was doing what he must do - finish his checks. And the victim, rookie Jordan Eberle was doing exactly what he shouldn’t, pursue a loose puck with his head down.
So it follows that you have to feel for Torres and the Canucks. In a mean nothing game on a mean nothing play, they have lost arguably their most reliable grinder when it matters most - their depleted third line now down to simply Jannik Hansen. And while there will be the usual cries of conspiracy from the frantic faithful, what we’re seeing is the swinging pendulum of NHL justice. As they say, timing is everything…
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