Raffi Torres Suspended 25 Games for Hossa Hit; Terrible NHL Playoffs Officiating
The NHL suspended Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes 25 games for a hit on Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa that was not even a penalty, proving it’s not what you do in the NHL anymore – it’s who you do it to and how badly they’re injured.
NHL playoff officiating has been struggling with consistency, seemingly cultivating controversy with every call. Some mistakes have been innocent enough, like the missed delay of game penalty in overtime of Game One of the Sharks Blues series, or the two pucks on the ice incident in the Sens Rangers series. Others have been far more egregious, like the no-call on the Raffi Torres hit on Marian Hossa.
The NHL suspended Torres 25 games for a hit that didn’t warrant a penalty. Perhaps saddest of all, the Coyotes ended up on a power play after a retaliation from the Blackhawks. Personally, I don’t think the physical hit itself was particularly dirty. Torres left his feet, but only as a shuffle through contact, much like almost any open-ice hit. The real issue is that Hossa had his head down and had passed the puck away well before contact occurred. The fact that Torres targeted a player nowhere near the play who was not looking makes this a horrifyingly dirty and dangerous play. The suspension fits the crime, but the no-call points to how dreadful officiating has been this postseason.
Another issue is the hypocrisy of the suspension policies this postseason, again on display in the 25-game suspension laid down on Raffi Torres. Torres goes for the big hit on a player that he should have never hit, but at least it was loosely hockey-related. Shea Weber smashed Henrik Zetterberg’s face into the boards at the end of a game and wasn’t suspended, seemingly because Zetterberg was uninjured despite his helmet cracking. James Neal had one of the dirtiest hits of the postseason, but apparently steamrolling players in self-defense is legal if Brendan Shannahan believes you, or the player you hit is a relatively unknown rookie. On the flip side, the Rangers are without rookie-winger Carl Hagelin for an elbow to Ottawa Senators superstar Daniel Afredsson for three games. It seems more and more that it’s not about what you do in the NHL, it’s who you do it to and how frequently.
Suspensions cannot be gauged based on the severity of the injury they cause. Primarily, this style of justice falters when a goon like Torres takes out a superstar like Marian Hossa. Do the Coyotes really care that Torres, a multiple-offender with limited production, is out for the rest of the playoffs? Probably not – but I’m betting the Blackhawks missed Hossa in yet another overtime thriller in Game Four. Additionally, the world of concussions is a confusing one and it is impossible to tell if a player is battling through minor symptoms – just ask Sidney Crosby about that.
The NHL is operating with a backwards disciplinary system. The game appears to fast for its referees and the playoffs are out of control. If the speed of the game and the responsibilities of the referees are too great, the introduction of more replay might be required. It is a travesty that Torres is suspended 25-games for a play that was missed on the ice. Delay of game penalties should certainly be reviewable, and the same is true of goaltender interference calls. The state of the game is already worrisome due to concussions and wide-open play. Something needs to be done to at least ensure that the right calls are being made, and consistency in suspension rulings will only come when discipline decisions are decided before injuries to a player are considered.
The NHL, quite simply, lacks credibility right now – and it’s starting to impact the most exciting playoff system in sports.
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