Vulgar Opinions: Playoff Hits
A big guy known for playing physical targets a defenseless player. It’s difficult to tell from replays, but it seems that the hitter got mostly body with maybe some head. The hittee was injured on the play and did not return.
Did I describe Eric Gryba’s hit on Lars Eller, or Raffi Torres’s hit on Jarret Stoll?
The difference is that before the playoffs began, 90% of hockey fans had no idea who Eric Gryba was, and probably 90% of hockey fans not only knew who Raffi Torres was, but actively hated him. Usually Backhand Shelf’s Justin Bourne is the voice of reason on things like this, if a bit of a hitter apologist, but today he had this to say:
I think it’s a bad hit, I really do. Jarret Stoll didn’t return for the third period due to “upper body issues.” AKA his brain. [...]
Objectively, maybe he hits Stoll’s shoulder at the same he hits his head. Maybe. But I think Stoll is a little vulnerable, and Torres takes advantage of that to “clip” him, as he often has in the past. I’d like to see him get suspended for at least a few games, but knowing his history, I suspect the League wants to deem this a clean hit, because if they don’t, they have to put him in the press box for a long, looong time.
Which is funny because in reference to the Gryba hit, he said this:
Good rule of thumb on the Gryba/Eller play is that if you have a super-polarized stance on it you’re probably not right.
Of course Raffi Torres is Raffi Torres and Eric Gryba is Not That Kind Of Guy… Except we don’t know enough about Gryba to know if he’s that kind of guy or not. (His PIM totals suggest that maybe he is.) And what we learn is that the method of giving Not That Kind Of Guys the benefit of the doubt doesn’t work because they go and target again.
It’s clear from his article that Bourne hates Raffi Torres and despite Marian Hossa being one of my favorite players, I do not. So here are the real facts:
- It’s difficult to tell where Torres impacts Stoll. At best we can say there was definitely body and head contact, and that the percentage is probably even to shifting towards mostly body.
- No one can read Torres’s mind.
- We don’t know what Stoll’s injury is yet. It may in fact be a concussion, or it may be something else. The Kings were up 2-0 with a period to play and Stoll isn’t exactly their most important player. We may find out that he was held out as a precaution and that the Kings are playing mum on the injury knowing people will assume concussion and that will likely impact a Torres suspension. (If that happens to be the case, how many will raise ire at the Kings for using a potentially traumatic brain injury for such a dumb selfish reason? Probably no one.)
Let’s assume for a minute that the NHL punished Gryba to take a stiffer stance on reckless play, that it doesn’t even want its players to think about doing something that could have catastrophic results, regardless of what the injury is. In that vein, I have no problem with whatever punishment comes Torres’s way. He has certainly earned a greater degree of scrutiny than most. But sadly I think that Raffi Torres is going to be punished for being Raffi Torres independent of the circumstances of a hit that most players wouldn’t be suspended for, and that’s just stupid.