Remember the circus that was the Raffi Torres suspension during the Phoenix Coyotes first-round series with the Chicago Blackhawks?
Torres' name was back in the news Monday as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that he was reducing the suspension from 25 games to 21 games.
The Coyotes advanced to the Western Conference Finals, but were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. They played 13 games after the Torres suspension before being eliminated. With this new ruling, Torres will miss only eight regular season games next season instead of 12.
While I agree with the suspension being reduced—since the main reason for the length was to keep Torres out of the playoffs, even if the Coyotes went to a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals—many are outraged.
After the hit opinions varied. We were fresh off seeing Shea Weber smash Henrik Zetterberg's face into the glass and escape with no penalty, and the series between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia was more of a riot-on-ice than a playoff hockey. It was arguably the most violent stretch of hockey since the 2004-05 lockout.
Some were calling for a lifetime ban, while others were saying six to ten games. Then there were those fans who were petitioning for Torres to be burnt at the stake. When all was said and done, 25 games was the ruling and it seemed excessive; the exact reason Torres appealed the suspension.
There are guys like Torres in every sport. In the NBA it's Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest), while the NFL has players like Ndamukong Suh and James Harrison.
Torres has made a career off being a gritty player who rides the a very fine line. He is in no way a goon though. In every season that Torres has played more than 60 games, he has been a 25-40-point scorer.
Sometimes he does go over the line, but he has paid for it. Under the new ruling he will miss $170,731.68 in salary, but more importantly had to watch from the sideline as his team went through the playoffs. While it is easy for a fan to say, "Yeah, but he deserved it," this is much more of a punishment for a professional athlete than any dollar figure.
But why now, almost a month after the Stanley Cup Playoffs have ended, did Bettman change the suspension. Could it be because the league and the NHLPA are in the midst of hammering out a new collective bargaining agreement? Is Torres, for a second time, being used as a pawn?
The heavy-handed Torres' suspension as a message to the entire league to stop the violence in the playoffs.
Now the message may be to the NHLPA that appeals do in fact work.
Pierre LeBrun had an interesting perspective on his Cross Checks Blog on ESPN.com saying, "First, it throws a wrench into the well-oiled theory that the appeals process for supplemental discipline is thoroughly flawed because the NHL commissioner rules on them. How could he ever overrule his own discipline chief? It's extremely rare that it ever happens.
"This has been a long-standing complaint from the NHL Players' Association and is expected to be an important component of the CBA talks that have already begun. The union wants a more objective decision-maker at the top of the appeals process. Now Bettman can throw this at them. "
Torres will make his 2012-13 season debut Nov. 2 when the Coyotes take on the Ottawa Senators. Interestingly enough, this is three days after the Coyotes play the Blackhawks in Chicago.
The Hawks will have to wait until Feb. 9 for a date with Torres.