GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 01: Raffi Torres #37 of the Phoenix Coyotes celebrates with Radim Vrbata #17 and Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 after Torres scored a second period power play goal against the Calgary Flames during the NHL game at Jobing.com Arena on March 1, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
As we continue what seems to be the never-ending wait for the Phoenix Coyotes to resume playing on-ice hockey, we will have a brief discussion regarding one of the most controversial and colorful members of the 'Yotes, Raffi Torres (who wears #37).
Let's not revisit (in too much depth) the controversial hit that put Marian Hossa on a stretcher and prematurely put an end to Torres' season; suffice it to say that it wasn't a good hit, but it certainly wasn't the worst hit that anyone in the league has ever put on another playing. After the Coyotes were eliminated thirteen games later, it looked as if Torres would miss the entire preseason and the first 12 games of the upcoming season. However, after hearing Torres' appeal brought by the NHLPA, Commissioner Bettman modified the suspension to only 21 games, meaning that Raffi will miss the first 8 games of the 2012-13 campaign (including the first rematch against the Chicago Blackhawks on the Coyotes seventh game of the season).
First, let's take a quick look at the quick stats for the soon-to-be 31-year old winger last season.
|2011 - Raffi Torres||79||15||11||26||2||83||1||0||1||99|
Is Torres the strongest offensive threat the Coyotes possess? God, no. But he is an agitator of epic proportions. He is a pure grit player who has a history of crossing the line and turning solid physical play into dangerous, reckless, suspension-worthy play. And we saw that in flashes last season and he spent a few games in the press box as a result. When he is playing on the right side of the line, however, Torres is an essential part of the balanced Coyotes offense.
I remember towards the end of the year and in the first two games against Chicago, Torres was seeing a lot of time with Shane Doan and Antoine Vermette - and he fit in pretty well on that line. For the most part, Raffi takes care of the game in his own zone and he has just enough scoring touch that he fits in well with the Coyotes pack mentality.
I truly think that missing his presence and forcing guys like Kyle Chipchura into more prominent roles against the Kings was a major factor in that series not being nearly as competitive as it could have been. And you know that if Torres was on the ice during game 2 it never would have gotten as out of hand as it did and the Kings' physical play (especially behind the play) would have been tempered.
Torres has nobody to blame but himself for not being there in that Western Conference Finals. Hopefully this extended banishment will keep him from future questionable hits and allow him to do the job he is being paid to on the ice. I know that he will always have his detractors (::cough:: Yotesgurl ::cough::), but there's no denying that the team was better with Raffi on the ice last year and they need him if they are going to succeed for the coming season.