San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres was suspended for the remainder of his team’s Western Conference semifinal playoff series against the Kings -- a ban of up to six games -- for what the NHL judged was an illegal hit to the head of Kings center Jarret Stoll on Tuesday.
The decision was announced Thursday by Brendan Shanahan, the league’s director of player safety, following a hearing in New York that was attended by Torres.
Stoll, one of the Kings’ primary penalty-killing forwards and a valued third-line center, likely sustained a concussion from the hit, which occurred near the end of the second period of the Kings’ 2-0 victory in the series opener. Stoll is expected to miss the first four games of this series and could be out longer than that, although the team has not released the exact nature of his injury.
Shanahan cited the injury to Stoll as a factor in his decision (see video below). The other influential factors he listed were that the hit was an illegal check to the head, and that Torres is a repeat offender.
Torres has previously been suspended three times and fined three times by the league for illegal actions. Torres’ biggest punishment was a 25-game ban levied against him a year ago for a hit to the head of Chicago’s Marian Hossa. The Chicago forward suffered a concussion. Torres got the ban reduced to 21 games upon appeal.
Shanahan said that even though Torres might have struck a “glancing blow” to Stoll’s shoulder, the principal point of contact was Stoll’s head.
“Torres approaches from the high slot as Stoll is heading up ice and tries to play a bouncing puck,” Shanahan said. “Rather than hit Stoll through the core of his body, Torres takes a route that makes Stoll’s head the principal point of contact….
“If he chooses to attempt a hit such as that Torres must take a route that ensures he hits through the core of the body and does not make the head the principal point of contact.”
Reaction to the hit has varied from declarations that it was a hard but clean hit to insistence that it was a dangerous and dirty play that should have gotten Torres a lengthy ban.
The NHL tends to put more weight on missing playoff games than on missing regular-season contests, so a six-game ban is considerable. But as a multiple repeat offender, it can be argued that Torres could have gotten an even longer punishment.