After multiple incidents and quite a few suspensions already in this year’s playoffs, Brendan Shanahan finally put his “hammer” down. Right? Wait just one minute. Things might still be unclear in the NHL. While Shanahan has had to hand out a few suspensions this postseason, what has been the most talked about thing is the lack of severity and “real” suspensions for some dirty and dangerous plays.
Things changed this morning. After the Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes had his hearing yesterday in New York with Shanahan, the NHLPA, and others, speculation began as to what he would really receive for his hit on Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks. Torres laid Hossa out in the first period Tuesday night with a hit that was questionable on many levels, and most agreed he should sit for a while. Torres caught Hossa late, left his feet, and went high towards Hossa’s head with the hit. Hossa had to be taken off the ice with a stretcher and he is still out of the lineup for the Blackhawks (and it is not likely he returns anytime soon from what little the team is saying). Watch the hit again if you need a refresher: Torres hits Marian Hossa high on 4/17/2012.
In the end Shanahan sent a clear message, giving Torres 25 games for the hit. But who is the message for? Torres is a bottom-six forward with a long history that took out a star player and offensive weapon, and did it with one of the dirtiest plays this year. A hit that crossed multiple lines, ones that he has been in trouble for crossing before. Torres had been in trouble five times before for hits to the head or contact that the league wants out of the game. In the end Torres was showing that the small fines and suspensions were not changing his play and thought process.
One big, perfect storm happened and Torres now will serve a suspension that he does deserve. But I don’t think the suspension sends a clear message to the rest of the league like some are saying. Shanahan came down hard and he should have. Torres has become the new Matt Cooke. But the “message” was more of “pay attention now idiot” than a big announcement to every player in the league. The hit was wrong, he knew it with his history, and he combined multiple infractions into one ugly play that might have severely injured a good player and changed the playoff series. This isn’t a culmination of everything that has happened in the playoffs, it is a culmination of everything Torres has done the past couple of seasons and the league coming down on someone that refuses to change.
It is possible that all of the other suspensions and plays during this postseason pushed Shanahan to come down heavy with everything taken into account with this one hit, but it doesn’t changed what has happened or what many fans and media members think. The inconsistency is still there. One massive suspension when it was the right move doesn’t change everything else. It just sends one clear message to one individual. If Brendan Shanahan wants to set the record straight and really send a message, it will come in what he does next. If he is to change things for the better and regain a grip on the players, then he has to be willing to keep the hammer ready and swing hard again. He looked like he could change things early in the season when he was giving out multiple suspension over five games, maybe he can still fix things. Don’t expect this for every player, but serious infractions shouldn’t be met with one or two games. But the defining moment won’t be this suspension. We all knew Torres deserved a serious wake-up call. The pivotal climax to all of this will be what Shanahan does next time. Because there will be one, and at this rate it could happen before the first round ends.