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Thursday, May 16, 2013
Torres ban mostly fair, will test Sharks

By Pierre LeBrun

Raffi Torres of the San Jose Sharks hitting Jarret Stoll of the Los Angeles Kings
Raffi Torres' hit on Jarret Stoll has landed him a suspension, and puts the Sharks in a tough spot.

LOS ANGELES -- As expected, Raffi Torres paid the price for being Raffi Torres.

Eric Gryba got two games, Justin Abdelkader got two games, but Torres got the rest of his playoff series (three to six games) absolutely because of his repeat offender status.

If it’s Logan Couture with the same hit on Jarret Stoll, he loses one or two games, maybe even receives just a warning.

But Torres got nailed in large part because of his rap sheet. And from that perspective, I’m OK with it. You can’t reform a player with a bad habit if you don’t hammer home the message.

What’s curious though is the league’s decision to suspended him for the “remainder of the series.” Which means anywhere from three to six games.

I understand what Brendan Shanahan is saying here; he feels Torres has lost the privilege to play against the Los Angeles Kings in this series after knocking out a key player from their team.

But if I’m the Chicago Blackhawks or the Detroit Red Wings, I’m wondering why it’s fair that Torres could possibly be suspended for just four games if the San Jose Sharks come back to beat the Kings in five, and then be able to play Game 1 in the Western Conference finals.

If Torres was deemed worthy of being suspended up to six games against the Kings, why is it possible he’d sit out less time before playing in the next round?

The CBA says in Article 18.10, Timing of Suspension: “As a general matter, a Player who is suspended shall serve a specific number of games.”

"As a general matter" is legalese for "there are exceptions." And the league believes this is an applicable exception.

The question now is whether Torres appeals or not. He’s entitled to do so. Via the NHLPA, Torres must submit in writing his intention to appeal within 48 hours of the suspension announcement if he intends to appeal. So we’ll get an answer soon enough, either way.

The Sharks, meanwhile, always knew this was the risk they were taking when they traded for him. Heck, Torres took out one of their own in Milan Michalek with a high hit during the 2006 playoffs.

But Torres had shown in Phoenix this year that he was seemingly a changed player, and that was enough for San Jose to want to take that chance. And I will tell you that Sharks players have been impressed with Torres, and you could tell that with the impassioned way in which they defended him since the Stoll hit.

I think what the Sharks never counted on, however, was that his loss would hurt so much. He has surprised many with how impactful a player he has been since joining the Sharks, playing a top-six role on a line of late with Couture and Patrick Marleau.

That’s the other wrinkle in this story. This isn’t some third-line mucker/grinder that the team can live without. It’s a player who had really grown in importance on this team. So his loss for the series really hurts San Jose.

Compound that with the fact Adam Burish is out for the series via injury and skilled winger Martin Havlat also remains unable to play, and the Sharks have 25 percent of their forward group unavailable. That certainly tests the team’s depth.