Torres: It was an easy decision to come back
Of the changes the San Jose Sharks have made this summer, only one has come as a surprise –- Hasso Plattner’s complete business-side remake. And if that moves your needle, then you need to drink at the other end of the bar.
But the hockey-side moves -– extending head coach Todd McLellan and team face Logan Couture, and re-upping highway flare Raffi Torres –- were all quite predictable, logical and defensible.
The timing on the Torres deal, though, is the one false chord, because the time to do the deal was the minute after general manager Doug Wilson decided to poke Gary Bettman’s cage over Torres’ six-game playoff suspension.
[NEWS: Sharks re-sign Raffi Torres]
And why? For the sheer provocative joy of it. And Wilson is now beginning his new professional life as the joyous provocateur. And if he isn’t, he should be.
Torres had performed enough useful tasks for the Sharks in their playoff drive to make it clear he would be invited back for 2014 and perhaps beyond. He represented a Sharks team that had suddenly developed a greater taste for grit, grime and growling, and his return was as a close to a requirement for Wilson as any of the core players.
But the perfect moment would have been right after the $100,000 fine Wilson provoked for ripping Torres’ suspension in the first place (We make no stand on the validity of the suspension itself, only on Wilson’s reaction).
[REWIND: NHL slaps hefty fine for statement on Torres]
Wilson, now backed by the new more assertive ownership, was willing to poke the cage, and once you’re in, you may as well be in all the way. Once poked, the cage cannot be unpoked.
Thus, we would have been greatly amused if Wilson had read the release fining the club $75K and himself $25K, and then put out a release of his own saying, “We’ve just signed him for three more years, so laugh that off.” It doesn’t save any money, and it would surely irritate the league office all the more, but . . . well, why the hell not?
The Sharks have always been one of those play-nice franchises, resting on the certitude that they were “doing it right,” whatever that means. That got them a place in the painful middle of the league stratus, and all squeezes start not at the bottom but in the middle.
This has always been the franchise’s stand for good or ill –- that the system punishes them disproportionately as being neither too powerful or too inept, and with new and more economically powerful ownership, the Sharks are ready to start throwing around their weight. In that state, one can actually lose points for subtlety at times.
And what’s less subtle than signing Raffi Torres right in the face of the league office, I ask you. Doug Wilson never really looked the part of a merry prankster, but he seems ready to make the full turn, and he should be encouraged to do so, because we should never turn down the possibility of future entertainment.
So yes, Torres should have gotten his deal the moment after the fine was sent to the league. But we live in hope that the era of the careful buttoned-down Sharks is actually over, and that Plattner and Wilson are beginning a new interleague pot-stirring stage.
You know, just for the sheer chaotic fun of it.