A Closer Look at Raffi Torres

BOSTON - APRIL 19: Raffi Torres #17 and Henrik Tallinder #10 of the Buffalo Sabres react after Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins scored the game winner in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 19, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeated the Sabres 2-1. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)


(Kent is a Flames fan/Flames Nation contributor and therefore a card-carrying member of the "Canucks Haters" club. He’s also learned to shelve his disdain for Vancouver the last few years, instead replacing it with grudging respect. He’ll be chipping in around here now and then)

The newest Canuck had quite the season of extremes last year. Cam Davies did a good job teeing up the Raffi Torres signing below, but the details of the player bear further examination.

A 19 goal scorer last year and a two-time 20 goal getter, Torres came pretty cheap this summer at $1M. The causes are two-fold: a stagnant buyers market in the UFA pool and a rotten run of results for Torres in Buffalo after he was acquired at the trade deadline. The first issue is just an ugly fact of life for any UFA who happens to be left of the inital frenzy in July.

The second issue may be something of a concern for Canucks fans. Grabbed by BUF to buff up their depth, Torres went scoreless through 19 straight contests (including 4 in the post-season) before ending up a healthy scratch. Quite the reversal from his efforts with the Blue Jackets, where his 19 goals and 31 points in 60 games placed him amongst the team leaders. So what happened?

His role didn’t appreciably change from one team to the other – he even recieved comparable PP time in each location (2:03/game in Buff vs. 2:18 in CBJ). What did change was the bounces: Torres’ personal SH% fell from a career high 19.2% with CBJ to a can’t-get-any-worse 0% in BUF. Absent a significant injury, that’s probably just a regression to the mean after riding some good fortune. Bad shot strings can happen to any player and unfortunately for the Sabres, Torres hit his in their jersey last year.

It was just bad bounces coming off his own stick however: Torres on-ice percentages went into the toilet across the board. Thanks to Timeonice, we cans see that Torres spent more time in the offensive zone than otherwise as a Sabre (corsi ratio = 50.5%), but his PDO (on-ice SH% + SV%) was a terrible 96.4 (.905 + 5.9). The club’s average over that period was 100.6 (91.8 + 8.8) suggesting Torres was either one of the worst players in the league at the time (an assertion contradicted by his decent corsi rating) or just plain unlucky. PDO number are notoriously unstable, especially over small samples, and tend to regress to the mean of 100 over time. Chances are Torres bad results were more borne of bad luck than bad play, therefore.

In short, don’t regard his time in BUF as a true reflection of the player. His totals from last season (19 goals, 36 points) are probably more indicative of his abilities than a couple of weeks of bad luck. Torres isn’t a superstar and he’s not going to become a gamechanger on his own, but at $1M/year and as a capable third liner who can knock people down and chip in on the PP, the Canucks have a really good bet contract on their hands. He was well liked as a mean-spirited, hard-nosed SOB during his days in Edmonton and will likely win fans in Vancouver for similar reasons.

  • Maybe one day Sutter will make a steal of a deal like this, instead of a steal of a deal for other GM’s.

    This signing will make watching the Flames vs. Canucks games harder.

  • Yankee Canuck

    If the third line pairing remains as speculated, Malhotra/Torres is simply a beautiful improvement over Wellwood/Bernier in just about every on-ice situation possible other than the shootout where Wellwood seemed to shine.

  • Ahh, yeah that’s true.

    Definitely one of his better signings. I suppose Bourque falls into that category. Just hard to erase his recent work.

    Torres and Malhotra (who I feel is overpaid) will certainly be a successful 3rd line, probably no matter who they’re paired with. Both are effective guys.

    • Yankee Canuck

      After his season in San Jose I’m sure many GMs were lining up for his services. Gillis had the hometown family card to play along with a bit more money to use, perhaps saved on Hamhuis signing for less.

      If he comes as advertised, the cap hit is
      comparable to Bernier’s with more of an upside. If there’s any cap hit on the Canucks that’s tough to look at it, it’s either Luongo ($5.3) or Ballard ($4.2).

  • Yankee Canuck

    Thanks for article Kent, I too find myself losing hatred for teams (maybe it’s the stats blogs), and enjoying reading about other teams.

    There was a Buffalo blog that talked about him probably never really getting into Ruff’s system. That doesn’t sound like enough of an explanation, but maybe he was feeling uncomfortable. Funny enough, the Buffalo fans writing it didn’t really blame him for his troubles.

    I hope he doesn’t take anyone’s head off.

    • Yeah, “not getting the system” has become a catch-all phrase for “didn’t work out, not sure why”. Coaching systems aren’t all that different around the league and these guys have been playing hockey their entire lives. I really doubt NHLers have that much problem learning new systems.

      One thing I failed to mention was Torres’ regular linemates in BUF: Guastad, Grier, Mair, Ellis and Kaleta. Not exactly conducive to scoring.