Does Raffi Torres Deserve A Suspension for Hit on LA Kings’ Forward Jarret Stoll?

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In the 2nd period of tonight’s 2-0 Los Angeles Kings win in game one of the Western Conference semi-finals, San Jose Sharks’ forward Raffi Torres delivered a vicious hit on the unsuspecting Jarret Stoll which would injure the Kings’ center and keep him out of the remainder of the game, presumably with a concussion. If you haven’t yet seen the hit, watch it below.

 
My first impression upon watching the video in real-time is that Torres delivered a shoulder-to-shoulder hit with a dash of shoulder-to-head contact mixed in due to the violent upwards-explosion of Torres through the hit, combined with Stoll’s vulnerable and unsuspecting position upon receiving it. However the camera angle in the video is so poor and from the wrong side that it is impossible to discern with any certainty whether the hit was legal or not, and so further analysis is required.

Unfortunately I do not have access to other camera angles like the NHL presumably does, but we can get a better idea of what happened by looking at a couple of screenshots. Click on them to see them in full size, which is probably necessary to see the points of contact.
 
Torres Hit Screenshot #1
 
In this first screenshot, we can see that while the head was not the principal point of contact–that would be the shoulder, Torres did contact Stoll’s head because Stoll was unsuspecting of Torres and slightly bent over, while Torres was exploding upwards at fast speed. To what extent Stoll’s head was impacted is not entirely clear in this screenshot or the video given that the wrong-sided camera angle could be making the impact to Stoll’s head appear less than it really was.
 
Torres hit on Stoll screenshot #2 no arrow
 
In this second screenshot, we can discern that while it is very difficult to see in the video due to the camera angle hiding it, Torres’ arm, elbow, and shoulder do explode upwards through the hit and slightly after impact, although I don’t believe Torres’ elbow made any contact with Stoll’s head so much as the momentum gained by raising the shoulder arm and elbow in that matter would have created more force in the shoulder as it connected with Stoll’s body and head.

If you’re having trouble making out Torres’ raised arm and elbow, here is the same picture with a small arrow pointing towards the black on Torres’ uniform which is his elbow/arm area.
 
Torres hit on Stoll screenshot #2
 
So what’s the verdict? Was Torres’ hit legal or not? Should he be suspended? My answer: by the letter of the law, no. NHL rule 48 – “Illegal Check to the Head”, states that “A hit resulting in contact with the opponent’s head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted.” Per my reading of that rule, hitting someone in the head is still legal in the NHL as long as it’s not on purpose or obviously the principal point of contact, and I don’t think Torres targeted Stoll’s head on purpose (although you never know with him), and even if he did, I don’t think he caught it flush; i.e. it wasn’t the principal point of contact.

So if you’re judging Torres based on the absolute literal reading of the rule, he gets off without any supplemental discipline. However, just as our President in the U.S. governs by his own laws these days and completely disregards the actual written law of the Constitution, Brendan Shanahan has also been known to do whatever he wants to, when he wants to, ignoring the NHL rulebook and deciding on NHL disciplinary matters using a selectively-enforced set of ever-changing rules and standards, such as when he let Ryane Clowe off with only a two-game suspension when the NHL rulebook explicitly said his infraction warranted an automatic ten-game suspension, and plenty of other examples.

And if Raffi Torres is judged by a different standard, one where Shanahan notes Torres is a repeat-repeat offender whose shoulder impacted Stoll’s head at high speed, even if it wasn’t a on purpose or the principal point of contact, and one where Shanahan notes that Stoll was already in a vulnerable position with plenty of time for Torres to slow down and adjust his hit, but instead he sped up and exploded through the hit, essentially blind-siding Stoll (which used to be a penalty) and giving him a concussion, all of these being factors Shanahan has put weight on in the past, then Torres could end up with a suspension, possibly a severe one, and I wouldn’t really be able to argue. This is the third postseason in a row where Raffi Torres has concussed another player.

If someone with a history like that injured one of our players, we’d be up in arms. And if someone tried using words like “intent” or “principal point of contact” to excuse the offending player, we’d probably punch them. Torres’ history of injuring players every postseason in recent memory means that at some point he no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt, and after getting suspended 25 games last year for concussing Marian Hossa in what seemed like a final warning, it would make a lot of sense for Brendan Shanahan to bring down the hammer on Torres regardless of the circumstances. Jarret Stoll has a concussion, and Torres is the cause. That might be all Shanahan cares about at this point, given Torres’ history.

However, Raffi Torres is no longer a Phoenix Coyote; he’s a San Jose Shark, and that could change everything. If you’re asking me what I think will happen as opposed to what I think could, this is my answer: the San Jose Sharks have concussed multiple opposing players over the last few seasons, played the puck from the bench, come off the bench and instigated an altercation, not to mention dove a lot, and not one of their players has received a single significant suspension (the highest was two games to Ryane Clowe for an altercation the NHL rule book says requires an automatic ten-game suspension), and possibly not a single diving penalty either. In other words, the Sharks seem to have an “in” with Brendan Shanahan and the NHL discipline committee, just like with the referees, and it’s for that reason I don’t expect any supplemental discipline for Raffi Torres.

In fact, I expect Shanahan to dismiss the case before everyone on the west coast even wakes up, not even a hearing. It will probably get swept under the rug as quickly and with as little fanfare as possible. That’s just the way I see it given that I’m not as naive about the NHL as I used to be. Hell even an NHL player, a star player in Alex Ovechkin, is accusing NHL officials of having an agenda and perhaps orders from above to do everything reasonably in their power to make sure the New York Rangers survived to a game-seven against Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals in their recent Eastern Conference quarterfinal series, plus the Vancouver Canucks basically all admitted in their end-of-year interviews, and were resigned to the fact, that referees (Kelly Sutherland seems to be at the forefront) have a grudge against them, Alex Burrows in particular, for I guess back-talking them or criticizing them in the media a few years ago or just not sucking up to the refs as much as other teams, or whatever the exact reason is, and that they would have to continue their recent good behavior and hope that over time the officials would forgive them and start to officiate their games fairly.

But for now, including their recent series against the Sharks, the Canucks were resigned to the fact that the refs didn’t like them and were never going to give them a fair shake. They weren’t even complaining about it. It was more matter-of-fact resignation, like “that’s just how it is.” And when NHL players are matter-of-factly discussing how referees don’t like them and play favorites (or rather non-favorites), that says something. And if you’re thinking it was a calculated move to call out the refs in the media, you’d have to have seen the actual interviews, because I can tell you the way the Sedins and others were talking, it was in a tone of honesty and resignation, a matter-of-fact, “It’s too late to change anything now so I may as well just lay out the way it is, that we need to work better with the refs to get calls in the future” type of tone.

And those are just two examples this postseason already, and these aren’t the only times officials have failed to call any power-plays against certain teams in big games or seemed to have an agenda. I’m just saying I’ve noticed this with the Sharks recently, too, that the league office and the officials treat them well (maybe they like Doug Wilson, also Todd Mclellan seems to be very diplomatic and have a great rapport with the officials, or maybe it’s something higher up with the owners), but whatever the cause, I’ve noticed a favoritism towards our team in the past, and that’s why I’m expecting no suspension for Raffi Torres now that he’s a Shark, which should be great news for the Sharks. We need him.

Written by Shark Circle

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