For most of his career, Raffi Torres has been nothing more than an NHL goon. Through multiple injuries caused and suspensions, he’s raised the question of whether or not he even belongs in the National Hockey League.
His latest suspension was the big one. He vicious and completely illegal check to the head of Marian Hossa cost him 25 games and more than a few bucks. Though that suspension has since been reduced to 21 games following a review by the league.
Not long ago, Matt Cooke was the posterchild for NHL violence. The Pittsburgh Penguins forward had been suspended multiple times for his reckless play before the league finally dropped the hammer.
Cooke’s elbow to the head of New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh earned him a 10-game suspension as well as the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where the Penguins were eventually eliminated in seven games by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After that, Cooke vowed to change his game. And he did. His 44 penalty minutes were a career low. He also managed to stay out of trouble in the penalty-riddled series against the Philadelphia Flyers, where he had plenty of opportunities to join in on the nonsense.
The question now is whether or not Raffi Torres can follow the example of Matt Cooke. We’ve heard no such declaration from Torres, but 20-plus games is enough to make anyone sit back and think.
Ultimately it’ll be up to Torres to show he can change his game. There is still a place for pests and enforcer types in the league, if you can go about it the right way. Which Torres obviously has not.
It’s going to be up to Torres to gain the respect of hockey players and fans, as well as the trust of his teammates, with his absence from the lineup having been a contributing factor in the beating that the Phoenix Coyotes received from the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals.
We’ve seen Matt Cooke do it, but can Raffi Torres? If not, he better be bracing for unemployment.