Torres Injury Puts Sharks Offense in Bind

In only the second preseason game of the 2013-14 season, the Sharks were dealt a hefty blow.  Forward Raffi Torres was injured on a collision with the Ducks’ forward Emerson Etem on Friday.  It was Torres’ first game since his suspension in the playoffs last year.  The Torres injury puts the Sharks in a tough spot as they already lack physicality on the top lines.  The forward core will be forced to lean on the top six even more so now.  While the ACL injury has not been fully evaluated, the Sharks are optimistic that it will not require surgery.  If the Torres injury does put him under the knife, he will be sidelined until well into 2014.

Torres Injury
Torres is a key contributor to the Sharks offense (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

The collision came at 6:34 of the second period with the Ducks on the rush.  Their contact was incidental as the Ducks were attacking and Etem trailed his foot in an effort to remain onside and caught Torres by surprise as the Sharks forward skated behind him.  While Torres made it to the locker room under his own power, Etem was helped off by training staff.  Raffi seems to demand the spotlight, whether he plans it or not.  This injury seems like an unfortunate product of his playing style.

Torres Injury Forces Sharks’ Hand

If there was any doubt that Tomas Hertl was going to make the starting squad this season (there wasn’t), that doubt has been vaporized now.  In the same game that Hertl scored his first NHL goal, the Sharks offense got a little bit more tame as well.  The scoring is scarce with the Sharks already, and the Torres injury paired with the absence of Martin Havlat limits the offense further.

Raffi Torres was slated to play the wing on Joe Pavelski’s third line along with newcomer, Tyler Kennedy.  The three were meant to be physical and high-energy answers to opponents’ second or third line offenses.  Now, it seems that Pavelski will start the season without his big bruiser alongside him.  He will likely now be paired with a fourth liner that could severely limit his success against elite teams.

Sharks Season to Start in Murky Waters

This injury not only affects the Pavelski line, but it severely damages the entire team.  Torres is the enforcer on this squad.  He is not afraid to step up for his teammates and his earth-shattering hits change the flow of games in a heartbeat.  His absence will force the other goal-scorers: Couture, Marleau, Burns, and Pavelski to pick up the slack.  It also puts pressure on the defense and goaltending.  That third line would have been very effective, now it could be a liability.  Pavelski and Kennedy are talented, but they may not be able to hold possession against elite teams.

Sharks fans and staff are waiting with baited breath on whether the swelling goes down.  ACL damage is a wonderfully vague way of saying “We hope beyond hope that he can avoid surgery.”  One thing is for sure, however.  Torres will miss at least six weeks.  Whether weeks turn to months, we will just have to wait and see.  But if the Torres injury keeps him down for too long, the Sharks could fall behind the rest of the West.