Raffi Torres. A name that strikes fear in the minds of those who cross his path, including both current and former Sharks. He can change a game or a series with a single hit whether it be legal or not. It is no wonder Doug Wilson made a move at the trade deadline to acquire him with those kinds of abilities.
From a business perspective it seems like the right move, especially for the short-term goal of winning a Stanley Cup. For fans, however, forgiving him may be a little bit due to his well-earned reputation, but here’s why you should.
First of all, the guy is a true power forward. Yes, I know the Sharks just parted ways with one a week ago, but there was definitely a need for someone with a little grit and anger about them. Also, when it comes to playoffs you need those ‘sandpaper’ guys who can do damage in a seven-game series and can work along the boards in the process.
Also, let’s not forget that while the Sharks are not the type to employ many “goons” or dirty players, there have been a few who played that role in the past. There was the always ineffective Jody Shelley who was part of a now extinct breed of hockey player, the “goon.” There are two others, however, that stick out the most to me. They are defenseman Bryan Marchment and my personal favorite player of all time, Owen Nolan.
Marchment was known for his ability to change a game with one hit and everyone knew if you went down the middle with your head up you would be lit up. Unfortunately, he probably threw more knees than a Muay Thai fighter, but his point was clear; don’t mess with any of guys if you don’t want to get messed with.
That is what Torres can bring to this team, something that has been lacking (especially in the playoffs) for some time. He makes opponents think twice about laying a hit on a Sharks player because they know in the back of their head they may get an elbow on their very next shift. Now tell me, when is the last time a team was scared to throw an elbow or nail a Sharks player in the back along the boards? I can tell you Raffi Torres was not scared of anyone when he illegally checked Milan Michalek in the 2006 playoffs, so you would have to go further back than that. If San Jose had a guy like Torres on the team when that happened it would not have occurred in the first place.
The same could be said for Nolan who is probably best known for two specific events; calling his shot on Dominik Hasek to score a hat trick in the all-star game in San Jose and committing the most blatant goaltender’s interference known in hockey’s existence. Nolan basically checked Ed Belfour into the boards while the goaltender was playing the puck with no other reason than to fire his team up when they were struggling in a playoff series against Dallas. He was as pure scoring a power forward as you will ever see, and yet, he did not mind throwing a few elbows nor getting thrown out of a game if he thought it would aid the team.
Again, his hitting ability (and sometimes dirty play) has been seen on the ice in San Jose before so it is not a reach to say the Sharks have never gone this direction. And while Torres is not the pure scorer Nolan was he is a dual threat nonetheless and can hurt you with goals and hits.
The fact is that he can be an offensive presence while eating up third and fourth line minutes.For example, in his debut for the Sharks, he racked up seven hits and also added two assists while playing on the third line. I would say the only other guy capable of doing that on the third or fourth line is Joe Pavelski, although we all know he is a top six forward playing down for depth reasons.
Also if you think about it, in the long-term sense of things San Jose traded Clowe for Torres and ended up getting a few draft picks thrown in as well. Not a bad trade off, especially for a guy in Clowe who was going to be gone at the end of the year anyway.
Fans need to forgive and forget what Torres has done to the Sharks in the past because it’s just how he plays the game. I mean, look at it this way, whether you hate the guy or not, would you rather play with him or against him? I for one choose the former, and you should too because of what he can bring to this team.