Coming To Terms With Raffi Torres
Raffi Torres arrives in San Jose having injured key Sharks during playoff runs. He also comes with a checkered suspension history, and I hear he likes to murder kittens as a hobby. But could Sharks just possibly come to accept Torres as a soldier on their side?
Man, that Raffi Torres sure is a jerk. He blindsides guys and separates shoulders and attempts to decapitate guys named Marian. There's really not a lot to like about his game, especially when he scores against you (which he can do).
There's no debating that Torres has done his share to injure Sharks at critical times. Thing is, it's not personal -- he injures EVERYONE, though to be fair, he's averaging less than .5 PIMs per game this season, which is way down from his usual season average. He may be a reformed man, but it's still difficult to embrace someone with such a checkered history. It's like inviting Merle Dixon into the prison after he beat the bejesus out of everyone's favorite zombie-killing Asian dude.
But, like Merle Dixon, Torres has a purpose when he's on your side. He can play third-line minutes, pop in a few goals, and be an effective forechecker. If used strategically, this could actually be a shrewd depth move by Doug Wilson.
Of course, there's that whole "But he's a dick!" aspect. Here's the thing, though. It's not like the Sharks have totally abstained from having dirty players on their roster. I'm not talking about wall-climbing goons like Scott Parker or teddy-bear thugs like Jody Shelley. I mean guys that, had they not been wearing teal, we'd be after them with pitchforks and torches. Here are two examples:
#1 Owen Nolan
The former Sharks captain is remembered for being the power forward that sunk the St. Louis Blues, called his shot on Dominik Hasek, and ran Ed Belfour into the boards -- all awesome moments, for sure. What's probably more buried in history is that Nolan was notoriously surly and wasn't afraid to give an extra shot or two along the boards or in a scrum. His PIM totals, particularly during the first half of his career, speak for themselves, and one of the frustrating things about him was that he was so damn easy to goad into a stupid retaliation penalty. He's also responsible for one of the longer suspensions in NHL history: this beauty of a blindside elbow to Grant Marshall.
Hockey - Owen Nolan elbows Grant Marshall (via ShorthandedGoal)
You can even see the Sharks on the bench give a WTF look after it happens. And for dessert, here's another Nolan elbow, this time to Tim Taylor of the Detroit Red Wings.
Nolan elbows Taylor 95-96 (via vindiggs)
Owen Nolan may have been a jerk (and though his mood mellowed in his later years, he wasn't the friendliest to fans) but he was our jerk -- and for most of his time in teal, our best player. Sometimes those two go hand in hand, and you have to overlook the uglier side of things.
#2 Bryan Marchment
Ol' Mush's reputation for being a dirty player preceeded him when he arrived in San Jose. The funny thing is, at least for me, knowing this meant that you kind of expected it and so it wasn't shocking or horrifying when it happened. I remember the 1998 first round series against Dallas quite vividly: my college buddies and I, along with the dozen or so hockey fans at UC Davis, went to the Grad to watch the first game. We had joked that our only hope was that Marchment had to take out Mike Modano or Joe Nieuwendyk. Lo and behold, early on Mush rammed someone's knee into the boards, and when it was revealed that the writhing Star was Nieuwendyk, the small but roudy crowd at the Grad cheered. Here's a look at the hit:
Marchment hit on Nieuwendyk 97-98 playoffs (via vindiggs)
When you look at Marchment's rap sheet (13 suspensions, 2307 PIMs), it's clear that he never had a "Come to Jesus" moment. And yet, he remains beloved by most Sharks fans, warts and all.
So where does that leave us with Torres? He's a UFA following this season, and at age 31, he may still have some legs left in him. He's also a surprisingly good skater, which means he could have some value being resigned. If he does come back, he may prove to be an effective depth forwad. But for now, he's a good option and not the most notorious player ever to skate for the Sharks. Marchment will probably always carry that title, and if you can learn to love Mush, maybe you can come to accept Raffi. After all, isn't it about the logo on the front, not the name on the back?