Raffi Torres and Sharks’ general manager Doug Wilson are en route to New York City today for a hearing regarding the forward’s hit on Jarret Stoll in last night’s loss to the Kings. According to the article put forth by the NHL, “he is suspended pending the outcome of the hearing,” being held on the grounds of an “illegal head check.” I didn’t think the hit would result in a suspension at the time, and I said as much in my post-game piece.

It looks like Brendan Shanahan and the Department of Player Safety have a different view on it.

Here’s a look at the hit:

Torres was slapped with a two-minute minor for charging, but now the speculation (especially considering he’s being called for an in-person hearing) is that the hard-hitting forward with a track record could be looking at a five-game suspension… or worse.

Is it worthy of a five-game suspension? Kerry Fraser of TSN broke down the hit, using Eric Gryba’s hit on Lars Eller as a point of reference:

As I viewed this play I noticed distinct similarities from the criteria Brendan Shanahan used in his explanation to suspend Eric Gryba for two games.  I provide quotes from that decision while inserting player name changes to appropriately reflect this current incident.

“As the illegal check to head penalty (rule 48) states: ‘A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted.’

There appears to be no malicious intent by Torres on the play. Stoll is eligible to be checked on the play and Torres does not extend an elbow or launch into the head of Stoll. However, Torres route is not correct and he does not make enough of a full body check for this hit not to qualify as an illegal check to the head. In attempting this check Torres does not hit squarely enough through the body. Stoll’s head is the principle point of contact and the subsequent contact to Stoll’s right shoulder is secondary.

“It is important to note that while receiving a pass or carrying a puck anywhere on the ice a hockey player bears some responsibility to be aware of an impending check, however since the inception of the current illegal check to the head penalty, no player should expect that his head will be made the principle point of contact whether intentionally or as it appears on this play, recklessly

“Taking into account the significant contact to the head as well as the fact that Torres does not hit Stoll through the body he does not succeed with his attempt to make a legal check.”

The parts I highlighted in this post are what interests me. I don’t believe, in watching this hit over, that Torres was targeting Stoll’s head on the hit. I also agree there appeared “to be no malicious intent” on the hit. He didn’t “extend an elbow” or “launch” either; two aspects of his game which appear to be eliminated.

Was the hit dangerous and reckless? Sure. But Torres didn’t throw it with an intent to injure.

This is a very accurate breakdown, and indeed the Torres and Gryba hits are similar. While we can only speculate on the length of his suspension at this point, it’s hard not to have a glum outlook on it. Torres has a history of nasty headshots — a history that will certainly be taken into account while the league decides what to do here.

Ideally, what should also be considered is the changes Torres has undergone in 2012-13. He only incurred 17 penalty minutes in the regular season, and the minor for charging was his first infraction of the postseason. His average PIM per season in his seven previous years was 55, including 2007-08 when he accumlated 36 PIM in only 32 games. He limbo’d his average by 38 minutes. It’s a fact I’m sure Torres and Wilson will bring to the hearing.

Torres should (and probably will) be suspended for his hit on Stoll. But like Fraser’s appraisal of the hit, the suspension shouldn’t span more than two games. Time will tell if the league agrees.