David Haugh's In the Wake of the News
7:11 PM PDT, April 18, 2012
If the Blackhawks truly want to retaliate Thursday night for Raffi Torres' dirty hit on Marian Hossa, the most satisfying method will be measured on the scoreboard and not in the penalty box.
Hurting a Coyote won't necessarily help the Hawks.
As tempted as sniper Brandon Bollig might feel to take a shot at unsuspecting Coyotes captain Shane Doan, the best way for the Hawks to get even will be eventually getting rid of a team that gets more grating with every faceoff. One game after full-time goaltender and part-time actor Mike Smith flopped after colliding with Andrew Shaw, Torres flipped out in attacking Hossa — a hockey thespian and a thug defining a series that suddenly got personal for the Hawks.
The league suspending Torres indefinitely seemed fair, provided that indefinite means mid-October. The hit to Hossa's head was so egregious that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell probably felt like fining Torres based on principle.
Yet all the incident cost the Coyotes was an abrasive third-line forward, while it forces the Hawks to do without a core player.
"That's a pretty good trade for them," Jonathan Toews said Wednesday.
Agreed, but in losing a star, perhaps the Hawks gained a purpose. The last time Torres knocked a Hawks player out of action — Brent Seabrook in the 2011 playoffs — they responded by beating the Canucks three straight times.
Only if the Hawks funnel their furor in a positive direction, and worry about killing penalties and executing power plays more than exacting revenge, do they have a chance of going on a similar streak now.
The line between inspiration and instigation is a fine one, but the Hawks must walk it. Let the outrage come from everybody else in Chicago, where it's overflowing.
In a sports city that respects hard, clean competition, a place fueled by people with little tolerance for punks and phonies, it wasn't hard Wednesday to find hockey fans who could relate to Hawks coach Joel Quenneville.
The anger Quenneville admitted waking up with fit the local mood. There was anger toward Torres, forever considered Bill Laimbeer on skates to Chicago. There was anger toward the officials Quenneville kindly called "a disgrace" for costing the Hawks a scoring opportunity by not penalizing Torres.
There was anger toward NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, whose wait-and-see comments to the Tribune made it seem like he was at a deposition instead of a playoff game that showed how out of control his sport suddenly is. Out of habit, there was more anger toward NHL discipline chief Brendan Shanahan, who made Torres the ninth player suspended during what have devolved into the 2012 UFC Playoffs.
My own anger, more like exasperation, peaked after hearing Coyotes coach Dave Tippett insult our intelligence by suggesting contempt for Torres' actions was misplaced and manufactured locally.
"He turned full speed, caught a guy in the chest (and) unfortunately a player was injured,'' Tippett said. "I don't think it was malicious."
I don't think I would send Tippett any more Christmas cards if I were his old buddy Quenneville.
Tippett referred to Duncan Keith elbowing Canucks forward Daniel Sedin in the head last month as an example of malicious intent, and it was. Keith, who had no history of discipline, deserved the five-game suspension for that cheap shot and repeated Wednesday that it was "a mistake.''
Torres, a reputed headhunter, showed no remorse and a lack of respect for the game by claiming he attempted to make a hockey play — when the puck was nowhere in sight.
Sorry, Coach, that's not a provincial viewpoint. It's a continental one.
"This one may be the (incident) that says, 'Hey, boys, we're toeing the line here, it's time to get a little more serious about how we play this game,' " said NBC analyst Mike Milbury, who drafted Torres as general manager of the Islanders in 2000.
Kerry Fraser, an NHL referee for 37 years who writes a blog for TSN, called Torres a "predator" who went too far.
"It was obviously a late hit that Torres delivered,'' Fraser said in a phone interview. "It should be a long suspension. Raffi Torres is known to finish his checks hard, late and high.''
The officials' negligence in ignoring a penalty bothered Fraser as much as Torres' intent.
"With Torres on the ice, the radar absolutely should have remained on where he was,'' Fraser said. "The NHL has an officiating problem. This is the worst I've seen in the playoffs for player aggression toward one another.''
How well the Hawks play with controlled aggression will determine whether they ultimately get the retaliation on everybody's mind.
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