GLENDALE, Ariz. Sean ODonnell has been hit by Raffi Torres a few times. All cleanly. The Blackhawks defenseman said the Phoenix forward is one of the hardest hitters in the game; and if he just channeled that the right way, he could have a nice, long career in this league.
ODonnell said Torres could pull a Matt Cooke transformation of his own if he wanted to, and could be known for just being a solid NHL player instead of the reputation hes currently got for himself.
Hopefully he takes a page from Matt Cooke, ODonnell said. He could be an effective player, can still be a physical player. Youve got to have more respect for some of the other guys.
Cooke is, indeed, a changed player. The Pittsburgh forward was a poster child for bad behavior in the league, racking up suspensions for a variety of incidents. Then in March of 2011, Cooke landed an elbow to Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. The NHL dropped the hammer on Cooke, suspending him the final 10 regular-season games and the first round of the NHL playoffs. Cooke told the Pittsburgh media that, I realize and understand, more so now than ever, that I need to change.
It took a little time for Cooke to adjust, to get out of the bad habits. But it worked and Cooke had a monster year for other reasons in 2011-12. Cooke has stayed out of trouble, set a new career high in goals (19) and recorded his highest point total (38) since the 2002-03 season (42 with the Vancouver Canucks).
Torres has shown he can be that player. He had two 20-goal seasons with the Edmonton Oilers early in his career. He was one of the Coyotes best players in the first two games of this series. And ODonnell said he could be that guy all the time.
I think Raffi is a very good player in this league, its just some of his hits, ODonnell said. He can hit really hard, even when hes clean. So when he does something like that (the hit on Marian Hossa), hes going to hurt someone. So hopefully he takes a look at some of his actions and plays a long time in his career and has a good career.
Maybe thats part of the message the NHL was trying to send to Torres. Cooke got it last season. Torres still has a chance to get it himself.
Its a stiff sentence, ODonnell said. Hopefully he looks in the mirror, has a good career but just plays more between the lines.