Today in the Every Goal series, we’ll look at the human bowling ball himself, Raffi Torres, and the 14 goals he scored for Vancouver during the 2010-11 regular season.

Though 14 was the lowest full season goal total of Torres’s career, his year in Vancouver was largely held to be a success. After signing with the Canucks late last offseason as a reclamation project on a one-year deal, Torres carved out a semi-permanent place for himself on the third line alongside Manny Malhotra and Jannik Hansen. He had a knack for massive hits, usually clean (but there was this one time…. and arguably this other time…). He gave the Canucks some physicality that their top nine truly lacked — and now lacks again, after Torres accepted a two-year offer from the Phoenix Coyotes.

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The Vancouver Canucks forwards present an interesting conundrum. Despite leading the league in goals scored, employing two Art Ross trophy winners, a Selke winner, and should-win-the-Selke-but-won’t-because-the-criteria-are-ill-defined player, the Canucks were let down in the playoffs by a fourth line that couldn’t hold their own and a lack of scoring from their second line. Losing Mikael Samuelsson, their fourth-leading scorer in the regular season, and Manny Malhotra, who would have allowed Maxim Lapierre centre the fourth line instead of the third, to injury heading into the playoffs can, perhaps, be blamed for these two areas, but there is certainly a sense that some improvement is necessary.

So what should Mike Gillis do with his forwards that are heading into unrestricted free agency? PITB is here to tell him. And you.

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Last year’s Stanley Cup Final opener was a 6-5 game, a classic barn-burner between two freewheeling offensive clubs, with nets minded by Antti “Just wins” Niemi and Michael “Just waived” Leighton, but anyone hoping for another barn-burner was kidding themselves. The Canucks and the Bruins don’t play that way. Instead, both are built around those two things hockey fans loathe: defensive systems and Vezina-nominated goalies. (Blech. Nothing ruins offense like a commitment to preventing it.) Unsurprisingly, then, the Canucks and Bruins gave us the first 1-0 Game 1 since 1984, with the goal coming after fifty-nine minutes of scoreless hockey. That said, that doesn’t mean this game was unentertaining. Anyone who says that clearly didn’t watch this game. Shun them and listen to me. Unlike them, I watched this game.

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When Raffi Torres signed a free agent contract with the Canucks last August, we were unsure about what the Canucks would be getting. Did they just acquire gritty, handsy, Raffi, capable of scoring twenty goals a season and clearing a lane like a human bowling ball, or did they just acquire uninvolved, inconsistent Raffi, who got run out of the Buffalo Sabres organization after failing to score a single goal after being acquired at the trading deadline?

The answer, of course, was a little of both, but little did we know that Raffi had a third side: the guy that somehow manages to photo bomb his own photos. His uncanny ability to emerge as the star of a gallery, with his mouth agape, his eyes bugging, his arms outstretched, and occasionally, his body completely upturned, was wholly undersold. Had we known late last summer that a year of Raffi Torres means a year of goofy photos of Raffi Torres, I suspect we would have been screaming for a longer deal. Here are my 15 favourite shots of the Canucks’ most expressive winger.

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Chicago fans are calling the Canucks gutless for their unwillingness to fight John Scott. Gutless, perhaps, but smart. If only Viktor Stalberg were so smart.

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So now I feel like I am forced to comment on an issue that I wanted nothing to do with, because the story of the Torres hit has become the story of the “special hitting zone” and how the NHL rulebook apparently doesn’t apply “behind the net.” It’s hogwash, bullpucky, and various other less cutesy words.

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Much has been written about Raffi Torres’s controversial hit on Brent Seabrook halfway through last night’s tilt between the Blackhawks and the Canucks. Torres’s hit is as divisive as any we’ve come across since the furor over headshots began, with some saying it was completely clean, and others saying it was one of the dirtiest hits of the year. Consensus isn’t on the way. Is it Raffi Torres’s responsibility to avoid the hit because Brent Seabrook isn’t looking, or is it Brent Seabrook’s responsibility to look? No one seems to know, and the NHL, with trademark clarity, has effectively said, both. Thanks, guys.

Since it won’t accomplish anything, let’s stop debating the legality of the hit, and start debating the intelligence of the hitter. Raffi Torres is not very zen these days. He may be giving the Canucks a certain level of needed grit, but he’s also giving them something they don’t need: a bad reputation.

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Tanner Glass isn’t the only one who battles grizzlies in his spare time.

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After two consecutive years of being “outcoached” by Joel Quenneville, Alain Vigneault is winning this series with shrewd icetime management. Three days ago, he announced that he planned to limit the Sedins’ shifts to between 30 and 35 seconds, and he caught flack for it (Tony Gallagher said there had never been a dumber idea). Despite criticism, however, he’s followed through since. For the second game in a row, Daniel and Henrik averaged 35-second shifts. In a series where the Blackhawks’ stars are being played to exhaustion, the twins have been able to hop over the boards fresher than the prince of Bel-Air and score timely goals against exhausted opposition. It made the difference two nights ago, and it made the difference again tonight. I watched this game.

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You had to know that it wouldn’t be too long before Raffi Torres found himself in hot water over a headshot. Having watched him play all season, it’s been clear to me that, while he tends to hit cleanly (and beautifully, at times), he also hits often (134 this season). This style of play is not without its risks. By this, I mean head hits like the one Torres laid on Jordan Eberle.

I’m not excusing it or arguing against the suspension handed down this afternoon. Torres deserved to be suspended for this hit because of what it was. This was a headshot. He did not, however, deserve to be demonized for it. Unfortunately, he was, and it wasn’t fair. This was an accident. Most headshots are.

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PITB is all about classic, old-school, screwball comedy, so you know any time someone takes a gob to the gob, we’re gonna be all over it. Here’s an Aaron Rome postgame interview that comes to an abrupt halt when Kevin Bieksa, Tanner Glass, and Raffi Torres, doing their best Ryan Kesler impressions as they peer from behind the curtain, successfully conspire to smear shaving cream all over Rome’s cheeks. It’s a well-executed prank, probably because Keith Ballard isn’t involved.

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As you may know, PITB is making the California road trip this year, but we’d hate to leave you with nothing new to peruse in our absence. With that in mind, we’d like to welcome to round three of the Raffi Torres bowling ball photoshop gallery. If you’re new to this series, I recommend starting [...]

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Canucks 2 – 1 Blue Jackets (SO) It’s a shame that the Canucks weren’t wearing their retro jerseys, because this game was a total throwback. The team played poorly, showing a complete lack of offensive flair and a general disarray throughout, but thankfully, Roberto Luongo stood tall and singlehandedly kept them in the game. You’d [...]

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Welcome once again to the Raffi Torres BallTor photoshop gallery. If you’re new to this, I recommend starting either with the original photo, or with the first photoshop gallery, posted yesterday. Otherwise, let’s just dive headfirst into the awesome: I think this image is real. I hardly have to suspend my disbelief at all. If [...]

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You might recall the Raffi Torres bowling ball image (BallTor) from the minor photoshop party we tried to jumpstart last week. It comes from this goal, Raffi’s second of the night in a 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars. The goal led to this photo, which is wonderful for many, many reasons, chief amongst them [...]

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Canucks 2 – 3 Canadiens Not sure why, but the Canadiens started this game like they had embarrassed themselves on national television in their previous outing. Frankly, they skated like it was their first time on indoor ice in days, shooting like they hadn’t scored a goal in over sixty minutes, and playing like above [...]

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Canucks 3 – 4 Avalanche (OT) Give the Canucks credit for showing up to play this one. After a horrendous outing in Minnesota exposed their tired road legs, the excuses for a second consecutive poor performance were readymade. Instead, the Canucks vehemently defied the wishes of their bodies in Colorado, and kept up with the [...]

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Yes, this picture is from the future. Don’t ask how we got it. Earlier today, news broke that the Canucks had recalled Manitoba’s leading scorer Sergei Shirokov, likely in response to my goading. Shirokov becomes the thirteenth forward on the Canucks’ active roster, a spot that opened up when Alex Bolduc went down with another [...]

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