Editor's note: The above video is from SportsTalk Live on Oct. 6.
SAN JOSE – Immediately after hitting Jakob Silfverberg up high during a preseason game in Anaheim on Oct. 3, Raffi Torres had no illusions that he was in trouble.
“I kind of knew right way. It’s one of those things where I need to be starting at the guy’s chest, not his head,” Torres said. “I lost my train of thought for half a second. I was coming a little too quick, and once I saw him pull up I was like, ‘oh man.’ It’s hard for me to pull out of those hits, but I know I can do it. I just made that one mistake.”
One mistake, maybe, but it was the latest in a series of illegal checks to the head by Torres, whose rap sheet includes 21-game suspension for hitting Chicago’s Marian Hossa in the 2012 playoffs.
The Silfverberg hit earned him an historic 41-game suspension that won’t expire until the Sharks host Edmonton on Jan. 14.
Torres, who was on the ice with his teammates for the morning skate on Thursday, spoke publicly for the first time since the NHL issued the half-season ban. He struck an accepting tone as to why he’s not allowed to play for the first three-plus months.
“I understand that part of the game. We’re taking a big look at it to try and get it out of there,” he said. “I’m a culprit. I’m the guy that keeps making mistakes. This one stung. Not that the last ones didn’t, but it’s tough.”
He decided in conjunction with his agent to not appeal the suspension.
“We just didn’t feel as a group that we were going to have much of a case,” he said.
Torres has played in just 12 games since the start of the 2013-14 season, missing all of last year with ongoing right ACL issues. In the late stages of training camp he was a near lock to make the team, and would likely have started the season in a fourth line role.
“I put the time in, and the work, and all that stuff that you need to do to be ready. I was actually feeling really good going into that game. It’s unfortunate. I’m disappointed in myself for losing my head for a second there, and it cost me.”
Currently, Torres is a non-roster player for the Sharks. The plan for now is to have him take part in game-day skates, but he won’t be practicing on a full time basis just yet.
His future with the club is still murky, since it’s impossible to predict where the Sharks will be in mid-January. His health is still a question mark, too. Whether he can still be an effective NHL player on an everyday basis is unknown.
Torres, though, feels good. At one point, he even referred to the suspension as a “blessing in disguise” for his knee.
“I’ll be ready, for sure. I can never say if I can be in or not, because I don’t make that decision, but I know for me, physically, mentally I’ll be ready to go,” Torres said. “I feel great right now. I’m not having any issues with my knee. I’ll be a good teammate here.”
Torres remains popular in the dressing room, according to coach Pete DeBoer, who was happy to have the forward back on the ice.
“I like him around the team. He’s a good teammate, he’s a good guy,” DeBoer said. “The guys respect him.”
When the Sharks acquired Torres on April 3, 2013, the thought at the time was that he had changed his game as a result of the Hossa hit and suspension. He gave the Sharks an energetic boost after joining the club late in the shortened season, and the team was playing its best hockey headed into the playoffs.
Then came the controversial hit on Jarret Stoll in the first game of the second round. It’s still highly debatable as to whether that hit warranted a suspension at all, and Wilson earned a $100,000 fine from the NHL after pointing the numerous inconsistencies in the league’s ruling.
Wilson is still supportive of Torres, according to the player.
“I feel disappointed that I’ve been letting him down the whole time,” Torres said. “He’s a big help. He says a few things to me daily, and it helps be out, big time. It keeps me pushing, it keeps me working, to know that one day I’ll be able to pay him back with the way I play out there.”