“A large number.”
“Very, very harsh.”
“Probably a little bit confusing.”
The Vancouver Canucks – for whom Raffi Torres played hockey last season – were not particularly impressed by the massive 25-game suspension laid on the repeat offender by the NHL on Saturday.
Some, such as Torres’s former linemate, Jannik Hansen, thought it was far too harsh. Others, such as the recently concussed Daniel Sedin, said he worried much more about intentional attacks rather than late, skates-off-the-ice, aiming-for-the-head blows like Torres’s hit on Chicago’s Marian Hossa.
The night of March 21 – when Sedin was brutally elbowed by Chicago’s Duncan Keith – coloured the talk. Sedin missed 12 games, including three playoff games. Keith was suspended by the NHL for five games – but judge Brendan Shanahan didn’t declare Keith’s elbow intentional.
“It’s probably a little bit confusing, for players, at this point,” said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault after a Saturday morning practice ahead of another must-win in Game 5 Sunday night at home against the Los Angeles Kings.
“Now, obviously, it [Torres’s hit on Hossa]is not something you like to see in the game, but in my opinion, anyway, that was closer to being a hockey play, finishing his check, late, than Duncan Keith on Danny. That’s not a hockey play. One gets a certain amount, the other one gets a very high amount, so I don’t know. Probably a little confusing for a lot of people right now.”
Hansen, a scrappy forward himself, was the most outspoken of any Canuck, his clearly stated opinions drawing wave after wave of reporters on Saturday in the locker room. The Dane declared: “It’s a very, very harsh suspension.”
Evoking March 21, and five games for Keith, Hansen said: “Where do we draw the line? Let’s say it’s a repeat offender who does what Duncan Keith did to Danny – is he going to get a season suspension? It [Torres on Hossa]is a hockey hit. Yes, it’s a little bit late, it’s a little bit high, but again I don’t think you can suspend a guy for a third of a season based on that, even though he’s a repeat offender or whatever their ground is.”
Daniel Sedin, who returned from 28 days out of hockey on Wednesday night for the must-win Game 4, said Torres’s hit merited a suspension but did not see it as a scourge in the game. He said, in fact, it wasn’t much worse than L.A. captain Dustin Brown’s blow on his brother Henrik in Game 3. The hit levelled Henrik but was declared clean after the game by Henirk and Vigneault.
“Hits are going to happen,” said Daniel Sedin. “It’s part of the game. I think those kind of hits, Raffi’s and Dustin’s, are pretty close to being equal. The only difference is Raffi left his feet. You can get suspended for that, guys know that.”
Skates-off-the-ice was Torres’s offside, said Sedin.
“You need to get suspended when you leave your feet, hitting guys. But 25 games, it’s a lot of games. But that’s the way it is. You’ve got to respect the job Shanahan does, too, it’s a tough job.”
Intent is the crucial issue, said Sedin.
But, then, what of Keith’s elbow, which the league did not declare intentional.
“You’ve got to ask Duncan Keith about that,” said Sedin, as he has said before.
Was five games fair?
“It’s Shanahan’s decision,” said the Swede, with a diplomatic parry. “It’s not up to me.”
Henrik Sedin called 25 games a “large number” and said the Vancouver-L.A. series is an example of hard-fought hockey well played.
“We’re playing like hockey should be played,” said Henrik Sedin. “There’s been some good clean hits – the Brown hit on me was a hard one but it was clean. It’s been a defensive series but I still think, myself, I would rather watch this series than a lot of other ones. It’s hockey the way it should be played.”
(The series hasn’t been entirely above board: Vancouver’s Byron Bitz was suspended two games for blasting L.A.’s Kyle Clifford into the boards from behind in Game 1.)
Cory Schneider, Vancouver’s new starting goaltender, remembers Torres as a good teammate and ferocious player. Schneider called the job of league disciplinarian “extremely difficult” because “everything’s subjective” but hoped that this new standard the NHL unveiled Saturday will be applied evenly.
“It’s a huge suspension,” said Schneider. “They’re obviously sending a message. Raffi has a recent history, so he’s a poster boy for what they’re trying to eliminate. But we know him well. He’s a great guy and a great teammate. He plays hard. He plays the game with a chip on his shoulder, and he plays with an edge.
“I just hope that they’re consistent with it, that it doesn’t matter who it is, or what your stature is in the league. If you have a prior record, and you make a hit like that, you’re going to get 15, 20, 25 games. They’ve set a precedent, and they’re going to have to keep doing that if they really want to send a message.”