Monday, 5 October 2015

41 Reasons?

It may seem like a random number, but 41 has a vast integration into modern society. It's a prime number, and the atomic number of the element niobium which was formerly called columbium. Dave Matthews Band composed and performed a song called "#41". Sum 41 is a Canadian punk rock band, although they haven't performed together in some time. George H. W. Bush was the 41st President of the United States. New York Mets great Tom Seaver and Atlanta Braves legend Eddie Matthews both wore 41 in Major League Baseball. Montana was the 41st state added to the United States. And the number 41 was used again today as the NHL's Department of Player Safety added its stamp to 41's history.

Raffi Torres, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, will watch 41 games from somewhere other than NHL rinks as the NHL suspended him for half of the season for his rather brutal check to the head of Jakob Silfverberg. Torres is looking to ressurrect his career with the San Jose Sharks after the Sharks traded for him back in April of 2013. One ACL injury and recovery later, and it appeared he would be back in The Show this season. Like the fable of the scorpion and the frog, though, it appears that Torres just can't help himself stay in the league.

Honestly, for a guy with eleven suspensions, fines, and/or warnings on his rap sheet, you'd think he'd tone down the fly-by brain-scramblings. Since he isn't getting the message, though, it's nice to see the NHL taking a hard stance on his garbage brand of hockey. I would assume, based on a number of players' reactions, that the NHLPA may find it difficult to file an appeal when so many players expressed disgust at Torres' latest incident. Stephane Quintal made it very clear why the number was so high for this suspension, and I happen to agree with his justification.

"Raffi is so unique in his situation," Stephane Quintal, the NHL’s senior vice-president of player safety, said to Matt Larkin of The Hockey News. "I know he came and tried to change his behaviour, and he only played 15 games since he got hurt, but he obviously doesn’t get it. A warning, fine or suspension 11 times. He's put us in a tough position."

Yeah, I'd say so regarding that tough position. You know that if the NHL had come out and been lenient for any reason that the fans would have been all over them, and there may even be a few owners who would raise eyebrows at the NHL's Department of Player Safety if they had put down, say, a ten-game suspension. However, the league took into account the reasons for his previous fines and suspensions, and they had a common theme: late hits, high hits, dangerous hits to the head of an opposing player.

So why let him off the hook at all if there's a better-than-good chance he'll do it again?

"He offers the league something, he offers the team something," Damian Echevarrieta, the NHL's vice-president of player safety, told Larkin. "He scored 27 goals in this league. He can skate. He's an effective player. We don’t want to ruin his career. We just want to make sure he doesn't ruin anybody else's."

Hold on. Wait a second. Torres scored 27 goals in 2005-06 with the Edmonton Oilers. That's a decade ago, Mr. Echevarrieta. In his past four seasons, he's combined to score just 25 goals with 15 of them coming in 2011-12 while with the Phoenix Coyotes when he played 79 games. You may also remember that he destroyed Marian Hossa in the playoffs that year, causing him to miss 21 games the following season. In other words, he doesn't really offer any team anything other than the chance to donate Torres' salary to the players' emergency fund.

I really hope that Silfverberg is alright. The hit was devastating, and you know there was some brain trauma in that collision. However, if I'm the NHL, the leash on which Torres' career rests is a very short one. One more hit like this, and it might be time to say sayonara for good.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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