Oilers: Q&A with Raffi Torres

By Guy Flaming

there has been one prevalent complaint from the Oilers over the past four or
five years it’s been that the team often plays lethargically and without much

Raffi Torres.

there is one thing Torres knows how to do well it is how to play with the volume
turned up to eleven.  With bone
crushing hits on nearly every shift, the ability to make plays at top speed and
a knack for bending the twine, Torres will be a welcomed addition to a team that
needs a spark plug.

has limited experience at the NHL level from his days with the New York
Islanders. Through his 31 total games he has yet to score. 
The winger from Markham, Ontario will get his chance to show he belongs
in the big leagues this fall with a fresh start in Edmonton.


rial” size=”2″>Q:  
What was your initial reaction when you were
traded at last year’s deadline? 

I was pretty shocked.  I’d
never been traded before so it was a shock. 
Everything kind of flashed at me, you know, changing homes and changing
teams and meeting a whole bunch of new people. 
Just surprised more than anything.

Does being traded for who you were traded for, I mean Janne Niinimaa is an All-Star
defenseman and a fan favorite in Edmonton, does that add extra pressure on to

Well the trade also involved (Brad) Isbister, which was another good pick
up for Edmonton I think.  I don’t
know if I feel any pressure, Niinimaa’s a great player and a great player to
get traded for but I know what I’ve got to do to help out and we’ll see what

I guess another way to look at it is that Edmonton gave up a lot to get you.   

Yeah exactly.  At the time it wasn’t for the better or for the worse but
the way things have been looking so far I would say it’s been for the better. 
So it shows that they had some confidence in me and now I just have to
show that I can play for them. 

There are a handful of players who were previously in the Islander
organization now within Edmonton’s.  (Tommy
Salo, Eric Brewer and Brad Isbister for example). 
Those players seemed to have excelled after leaving the Island. 
Does that give you any extra comfort knowing that?

It seems like every time a top draft pick for the Islanders gets traded
it seems like they do well.  I’m
not using that as my base priority but I’m looking at it as a chance to start
my career and we’ll see if this was the change that I needed.

You joined the Bulldogs very
late in the season.  What was the
adjustment time, how did you adapt joining the team so late in the year?

I thought I adapted pretty well.  It
was late in the year but I was going to a really good team in Hamilton and I
knew a couple of the guys there so there were some welcoming people.

Who did you know? 

I knew “Stollsie” (Jarret Stoll) and (Ron) Hainsey from previous
World Junior teams.  So I went in
there and kept my head up and I think I fit in pretty well. 
It was a pretty good bunch of guys there so it wasn’t too hard to

What are the differences in how the Islanders played from what you
learned of the Oilers system in Hamilton?

I think the Oilers give me more chances. 
They let me play on the PK and gave me some power play time. 
With the Islanders it got to the point where I was just supposed to crash
and bang and make sure the puck got deep out of my zone and off my wall. 
I think the Oilers want me to put the puck in the net but at the same
time, keep banging.

If someone asked you to describe your strengths that can you bring to the
Oilers what would they be?    

Some energy, some big hits when the team is running a little flat and
hopefully a few big goals along the way.  It’s
when I’m cleaning up out there and getting my nose dirty, that’s when I’m
at my best.

When I spoke to Ty Conklin a week or so ago his comment to me about you
centered on the fact that you seemed to throw big hits every second shift and
really kept the team going emotionally.

I kind of feel that that’s what my game revolves around. 
I make sure I’m banging and getting my face dirty trying to get under
guy’s skin.  When guys get
frustrated playing against me that’s when I know I’m coming into my own.

Are there still aspects of the game that you feel you need to improve on
to play at the NHL level?

Defensively.  I think
everyone can always improve defensively.  Getting
the puck out along the walls will be a big part of my game this year, making
sure I’m not a defensive liability out there. 
There are always lots of things to improve on and I could probably name
10 or 20 different things but it’s just an overall game. 
Now I’m just trying to stay in shape so I can go all game long and be a
player that’s counted on late in a game where we’ve got to keep the puck out
of our net or something.

You have been to two consecutive Calder Cup finals and have come out on
the short end of both of them.  What
positives can you take from those experiences?

Just what it takes to get there.  Taking
care of yourself off of the ice and eating right, little things like that that
really make a difference.  You want
to get the right food into you; the right energy drink, your proteins and your
carbs because you’re dropping a lot of weight come playoff time.  When you’re in the playoffs you’re still going to be
playing for a while to get to the top, sometimes like thirty games if you go all
the way so you have to watch what you are doing.

Especially when you end up playing the equivalent of two games in one
night like in game 2 of this year’s finals!


Contract-wise, you are a restricted free agent right now?

We are in negotiations right now, yeah.

Do you know when you will come to Edmonton this fall?

I think maybe late August I’ll be heading out. 

If you haven’t signed by late August then, will you still be reporting
to camp?

I can’t really say right now, that’s something my agent and me will
have to go over.

Have you ever been to Edmonton?

I have not, but I hear nothing but good things about it.

What are your expectations or
perceptions of the city, the organization and the fans?

I don’t really know.  I
just hear about the big mall every once in a while but that’s about it. 
It’s a quiet town, they love their Oilers and they love hockey. 
I just want to go in there and get on the fans’ good side and at the
same time try and help the team.

Your hard-hitting style of play is notorious. 
In training camp, do you find yourself holding back at all in scrimmages
because you worry about injuring a fellow player or do you go all out to make
the club?

I think everybody is kind of in that situation. 
You know these guys and you’re going to be playing with them all year
long and eventually it’ll get to the point where everybody forgets about
training camp.  In the last two
training camps I had, you know I’m not going to run over Alexei Yashin or Mike
Peca.  You want to go out there and
make an impression with a big hit or if you’re a fighter you want to beat
someone up, but it’s tough to do.  When
you’ve got someone lined up you want to take a run at them just to let them
know that you’re not going to hold back.

Do you feel more pressure on you because you were a top 5 draft pick, especially
from the organization or the fans?

Well sure I do.  A team takes
you that high, I don’t really think I gave anything to the Islanders and I’m
really upset about that.  They took
a chance on me and, I won’t say I didn’t get the opportunity because if I
was playing well and I was scoring than they would have kept me. 
If there’s anything you can give in this game it’s effort and hard
work and as long as you bring that game in and game out then the real hockey
fans will know it.

Can I just throw some names at you and just have you give me your
feelings or impressions of them?

Yeah sure!

Jarret Stoll.

He’s a great young kid and I can see him playing 10 or 12 years in the
NHL.  He takes really good care of his body and he knows what he
can do to help out a team.  He’s
just a great all around player.

Ty Conklin.

From what I saw he’s really solid. 
He came up and played some really big games for us in the playoffs. 
When you have goaltending like that it was one of the reasons that we
went all the way.

Stephen Valiquette, you played with him in Bridgeport?

I think he just needs to be given a chance to take a team on his
shoulders and show what he can do.  When
he was in Bridgeport he had DiPietro in front of him… that’s tough. 
When he did get a chance to play he did show that he could win games for
his team.

Jani Rita.

So much strength on the guy it’s like he can put one in at any time and
change the scene of a game.  With
his explosive power he’s always going to give himself the chance to put the
puck in the net. 

Tony Salmelainen.

Two players kind of in the same boat. 
Both fast, thick and can create a lot of opportunities for themselves.

Last name, and I have to ask… Mike Milbury.

I never really had any problems with Mike. 
He had to make a lot of decisions when I was there and one of those was
to get rid of me.  I didn’t really
give him any reason to keep me because I wasn’t scoring goals or I wasn’t up
there helping out.  He had to do
what was best for his team at that point and he did it, that’s why he’s a

What numbers did you wear last year?

I wore #96 in Hamilton and #16 for Bridgeport. 
I just wanted to get something a little different and hopefully I can get
#96 again next year, you know, wherever I am. 

Who is your agent and why did you pick him?

Bill Markle.  I met him back
in Junior A and we’ve been together since day one. 
He used to help guys with scholarships and stuff and we just got to
talking and we’ve been together since then.

How have you been spending this off-season so far?

I’ve been working out five or six times a week with a buddy and a
trainer.  We’ve been working pretty hard all summer so hopefully
I’m ready to go.

What would you consider to be a successful 2003-04 season for you?

Just to make sure I’m up all season and contributing, playing every
game and making sure they don’t feel like they made a mistake by taking me.