Long suspensions, not fighting, will put players like Raffi Torres in their place

Ken Campbell
Raffi Torres (Photo by Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

Make no mistake, the NHL created the Raffi Torres who drilled his shoulder into Jakob Silfverberg’s head over the weekend. It created this player by continually slapping him on the wrist for being the kind of predatorial player he became. It created this player by enveloping itself in a culture of violence and hate, and justified his behavior with ridiculous “hitting zones” and encouraged it with its “finishing his check” mentality.

In that respect, it definitely has blood on its hands here. The league’s department of player safety is being lauded, as it should, for handing down a 41-game suspension to Torres for his most recent transgression. It was a long time coming and few would have complained if it had even been more. Torres will lose the right to play the game he loves for half a season and will miss out on almost $441,000 in salary. (Shockingly, even though this is the fifth suspension of Torres’ career, he’s not considered a repeat offender.) It’s a steep price to pay to be sure, and maybe, just maybe, Torres will get the message this time.

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Why suspending Raffi Torres 41 games was the right decision

Matt Larkin
Raffi Torres (Getty Images).

We had a feeling Raffi Torres wouldn’t play hockey again for a long, long time the minute Jakob Silfverberg fell to the ice Saturday night.

Torres had every conceivable strike against him. He’d run up a significant tab of suspensions in recent seasons. He got 25 games, appealed down to 21, for a devastating head shot that knocked Marian Hossa out of the 2011-12 post-season. Torres also earned a rest-of-playoffs ban for a head shot on Jarret Stoll in 2012-13. So Torres was in trouble the second he caught Silfverberg with a questionable hit Oct. 3. If the league deemed the play suspendable, Torres’ history of repeatedly violating one particular rule – 48.1, illegal check to the head – would greatly expand his sentence length.

But did anyone expect 41 games? Half a season? It’s a staggering punishment – and a staggeringly strong decision by the NHL Department of Player Safety.

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Blackhawks, NHL caught in the middle of bizarre Patrick Kane situation

Ken Campbell
Patrick Kane (left) and Jonathan Toews (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

When Patrick Kane showed up at the Chicago Blackhawks training camp last week, a heated debate began immediately concerning whether or not he should be there.

Those saying Kane had every right to be with his teammates argued that he had not been charged with any crime and deserved the same rights as any other person in any other line of work who faced the same circumstances. Hard to argue with that. After all, the presumption of innocence is one of the underpinnings of any criminal justice system.

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Culture of violence off the hook again, along with Andre Deveaux

Ken Campbell
Andre Deveaux (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

With the news that minor league enforcer Andre Deveaux will not be charged for his on-ice attack on an opponent in Sweden in March, it looks as though the culture of violence in hockey is once again off the hook. Sometimes it seems this game avoids court scrutiny more than a Mafia kingpin.

But like the Mafia kingpin, its day will come. One of these days an assault trial involving something done on the ice is going to make it to court and the game, by extension, will be on trial.

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The glaring flaw in the NHL’s playoff discipline process

Johnny Oduya winces as several members of the Lightning look on (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Sport)

In the second period of Monday night’s Game 3 win by Tampa Bay, Lightning right winger Nikita Kucherov, on his way back to the bench for a line change, collides with Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya. Kucherov’s left skate takes Oduya’s legs out from under him and it was Blackhawk down. And perhaps out.

Kucherov received a two-minute minor for tripping, while Oduya received treatment for a likely injury. A key cog on the Hawks’ depleted blueline, Oduya left the game in the second and played reduced minutes in the third. He clearly wasn’t 100 percent.

There’s been some chatter that Kucherov’s move was a slew foot, an intentional act to upend his opponent – the old “accidental on purpose” play as it’s come to be known and as NBC’s Pierre McGuire alludes to in the video. Whether you agree with this take or not, Lightning fans needn’t worry about supplemental discipline. It wasn’t close enough, at this time of the year, for it to merit more than a cursory review.

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Suspend him or not: Brooks Orpik steamrolls Dan Boyle

Brooks Oprik and Dan Boyle. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Dan Boyle has to be happy his New York Rangers fought back from a 3-1 series deficit and booked a trip to the Eastern Conference final. Aside from that good news, though, 2014-15 hasn’t been kind to him.

Boyle broke his hand in November and missed 14 games. When he was on the ice, his age showed, and he struggled defensively on and off throughout the season. In the second round of the playoffs he took a hard hit in the corner from Nicklas Backstrom in the dying seconds of Game 1, leading to Washington’s winning goal. And then, in Game 7, Caps blueliner Brooks Orpik positively erased Boyle:

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NHL fines Canadiens’ Brandon Prust $5,000 for referee rant

(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images Sport)

The NHL announced Tuesday it had fined Canadiens left winger Brandon Prust $5,000 for “derogatory comments” about referee Brad Watson on Sunday after Montreal’s 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of their second-round playoff series.

“Brandon Prust’s post-game comments were both baseless and demeaning of a referee whose 20-year career in the League has been marked by professionalism, integrity and a high degree of respect from players, coaches and management,” NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said in a news release. Read more

The NHL got the Kronwall suspension right. But what about Alex Ovechkin?

Alex Ovechkin (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Emotions run high during the Stanley Cup playoffs and, in turn, so does vitriol toward the NHL’s Department of Player Safety every time a questionable hit occurs. The victimized team and its fan base demand supplemental discipline. The perpetrating team and its fan base proclaim the player’s innocence. After the decision, one side ends up enraged.

The Detroit Red Wings and their tribe of keyboard warriors are furious with Niklas Kronwall’s Game 7 suspension. Sorry, Detroit, but you shouldn’t be. The Kronwall case wasn’t even vague. He hammered Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov with violent force directly to the head. It’s rule 48: illegal check to the head. Or, as the league stated specifically, it’s rule 42: charging. The DOPS had an excellent chance to send a zero-tolerance message by sitting down Detroit’s best blueliner for a series-deciding game. Consider the test passed with flying colors. The rationale behind the decision:

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