The San Jose Sharks will be forced to enter the season without Raffi Torres. The 31-year-old forward is out for at least six weeks due to a knee injury and might end up missing far more time.
Although his past transgressions make him a controversial figure, he was also an important player in the Sharks’ late season resurgence in 2013 and his intensity will be missed by his teammates. At the same time, his absence is an opportunity for Anthony Stewart, 28, as he tries to make the team after agreeing to a professional tryout offer.
“Raffi fills a big role for the team, but it’s an opening for me, a similar type player where I like to get in on the forecheck and throw some big hits,” Stewart told CSN Bay Area.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan certainly sees Stewart as a viable candidate, but nothing has been cemented yet. Stewart will still need to compete against some of San Jose’s young prospects, like former Boston University standout Matthew Nieto and 21-year-old Freddie Hamilton.
Both are talented and Nieto in particular has some offensive upside, but Stewart brings 262 games worth of NHL experience to the table and has impressed the Sharks during the preseason.
San Jose still has about a week to make its decision and there are three exhibition games left on its schedule. That’s enough time for Stewart to make one final pitch for a contract.
Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.
We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.
It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”
Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)
Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.
So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”
… You get the idea.
The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.
The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.
Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.
It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.
The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.
As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.
Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?
The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.
This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.