Raffi Torres is on the end of another arbitrary suspension by NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan as he was suspended for "the remainder of the second round of the playoffs," according to the NHL's Department of Player Safety.
Torres' questionable hit came against Jarret Stoll of the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Shanahan's video explanation of the hit and suspension is below:
This is obviously not the first time that Torres has been suspended for three or more games. Indeed, it was Torres who received a 25-game ban (later reduced to 21) for his hit in last year's playoffs that knocked the Chicago Blackhawks' Marian Hossa out of the playoffs.
While it is obvious that Torres has a tendency to overstep the boundaries sometimes, it is actually Shanahan who managed to circumvent the NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement with his “second-round” suspension.
Regardless of whether one views this hit as a "clean" or "dirty" hit, the fact remains that Torres might have gotten hoodwinked as far as this suspension goes. As the suspension occurred in Game 1 of the series with the Kings, Torres could be suspended up to six games, assuming the series went seven games.
If Shanahan is playing by the rules—as he seems to have a tendency to do in his suspension videos—then Torres could see his toes being stepped on by this ruling.
The new "proposed" Collective Bargaining Agreement (via NHL.com) specifies that “a subsequent appeal right to a neutral arbitrator will be available for suspensions of six (6) or more games. The neutral arbitrator shall have full remedial authority in respect of the matter.”
As Torres will not know the length of his suspension until the end of this series (whenever that may be), it is clear that there is a fair bit of ambiguity going on in this suspension length.
Eric Macramalla, TSN's legal analyst, had some interesting thoughts via his Twitter account on the Torres' suspension.
Eric Macramalla @EricOnSportsLaw
#Torres suspension not long enough on its face to be open to appeal to indep arbitrator and if hits 6 games wouldn't have time to appeal it2013-5-17 00:08:52
Eric Macramalla @EricOnSportsLaw
Bottom line: Non-fixed suspension seems to remove opportunity for #Torres to appeal ruling to an independent arbitrator2013-5-16 23:21:08
If there truly was an attempt by the NHL to remove Torres' opportunity to seek a ruling from an independent arbitrator, then he may have a case for a grievance against the NHL.
As the NHL has shifted away from the fixed-game suspension length for Torres' hit, the grievance that he could file would likely seek to put the game limit back in suspensions for other players.
If this does not become the case, the clause of the CBA that guarantees an arbitrator if a player is assessed more than a six-game suspension becomes null and void.
This is definitely something to keep an eye on going forward. Not just because it is Torres, but because it could be a growing theme in the playoffs for suspensions.
If players get injured and they miss more games than the player is suspended for, then the severity of the suspension can be undermined. This "non-fixed number of games" suspension seems like a good idea on paper for that reason.
Unfortunately, as is the case with this current suspension of Torres, it can also potentially circumvent the prescribed measures in place, set out by the CBA.
With the Sharks now trailing in the series 2-0, Shanahan will be in the clear if the series fails to go seven games.
If it does go seven games, there could be some big-time contentious feedback from Torres and the NHLPA.
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