On Wednesday, Torres delivered a dirty hit to the head of Bruins blueliner Andrew Ference late in the first period of Boston’s 2-1 overtime win. Torres was given an elbowing minor on the play, but his real punishment came in the form of a flurry of punches from McQuaid, who didn’t take kindly to Torres’ treatment of his defense partner.
The NHL decided that McQuaid’s frontier justice was enough of a punishment, choosing not to fine or suspend Torres. But Torres proceeded to go out and deliver an even more dangerous hit the very next night.
Facing Colorado on Thursday, Torres targeted the head once again, this time catching Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda. There was no penalty called on the play and Hejda did lean forward just before contact, but Torres’ hit was also late, coming well after Hejda had gotten rid of the puck. Torres had no need to finish that hit, but not only continued into Hejda, but also drove his elbow directly into Hejda’s head.
Both Ference and Hejda were lucky to avoid serious injury. Ference didn’t miss a shift and Hejda returned to finish the game. Torres was lucky to avoid supplemental discipline for the shot on Ference, but that luck should run out after this latest offense, before the league’s luck runs out and Torres’ next victim is seriously hurt.
It’s hard for me to argue that the league needs to step in here. I’m not a fan of the suspension-crazed culture that has taken over the NHL with seemingly every borderline hit drawing calls for someone to get banned. There has already been too much physicality taken out of the game, and the professional sports equivalent of “Wait ’til I tell Mom” is a sorry substitute for settling issues on the ice the way McQuaid did so forcefully.
McQuaid’s response should have been enough, and for most players it would have been. Most players learn quickly not to deliver cheap shots after eating a few knuckle sandwiches.
But Torres isn’t like most players. He’s also not liked by many of his fellow players, far too many of whom have already been victimized by his questionable tactics.
In retrospect, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Torres did not learn his lesson from McQuaid’s beatdown. Torres’ track record is already far too lengthy. The fifth overall pick of the 2000 draft by the Islanders, Torres has never lived up to his potential, relying instead on playing on the edge as he’s bounced around the league with six different clubs, including four in the last three seasons.
His Edmonton days brought vicious blindside hits on San Jose’s Milan Michalek and Calgary’s David Moss, plus another borderline shot that was head on but arguably late as he sent Detroit’s Jason Williams off the ice on a stretcher. In Columbus he added St. Louis forward Patrik Berglund to his list of blindside victims.
But it wasn’t until he got to Vancouver last year that his heel turn was truly complete. Guess playing alongside such class acts as Maxim Lapierre, Alex Burrows and Kevin Bieksa really brings the worst out in a player, especially when under the stewardship of a coach more than willing to be an enabler for such dirty tactics as Alain Vigneault.
Last year alone, Torres took out Montreal’s Max Pacioretty (OK, Bruins fans probably won’t fault him too much for that one), then earned a four-game vacation (including the first two games of the playoffs) for a brutal head shot on Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle.
That suspension didn’t make much of an impression on Torres either, as he delivered another controversial hit to the head of Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook in his very first game back in the lineup.
Another suspension now for Torres’ latest escapade probably won’t deter him from future cheapshots either. This is a guy ignorant enough to dress in blackface for Halloween after all.
But at least for a few games the rest of the league would be a little safer if Brendan Shanahan would give Torres another unpaid sabbatical, and even a brief reprieve from Torres’ reign of terror would be welcome.