First, the numbers. Six seasons, 187 games, one goal, four assists and 319 penalty minutes. In those almost 200 games, there’s an average ice time of a little more than 7 minutes, with that average falling every season.
Those are the numbers of Buffalo Sabres goon John Scott for his illustrious career. The 6-foot-8, 270-pound monster would be better served as an extra on an episode of Sons of Anarchy than he is on an NHL rink. He can barely skate, he has no real hockey skills to speak of, and “skates” around looking for people to pummel.
He proved that once again Wednesday night against the Bruins. His brutal, blind-sided hit against Boston winger Loui Eriksson in the third period was as bad as it gets. The big forward caught Eriksson looking up the ice and glided right toward the forward and delivered a shoulder to the head. Eriksson skated off with help and went down the tunnel. He did not return.
Bruins coach Claude Julien summed it up best Wednesday night after his team defeated the Scott’s Sabres 5-2.
“The guy that did it, did his job tonight I guess,” Julien told reporters. “He’s only out there for two reasons: to fight, and hurt.”
Simply put, it was a scumbag hit by Scott, a player who everyone knows plays the game the wrong way. He’s someone who doesn’t bring much to the table aside from what he does with his fists, and when that doesn’t do the trick, he apparently resorts to this.
It’s the type of hit that the NHL simply can’t allow. It’s the hit they’re trying to ban, but it shouldn’t end there. Brendan Shanahan and the department of player safety will no doubt come down hard on Scott. They have no choice. They’ve already set a precedent for hits like these, so there’s no doubting that Scott will get some sort of punishment. It better be a strong one, though. Short of kicking him out of the league — not the worst idea in the world — they need to be resounding.
The fighting debate and the debate about getting dirty hits out of the game aren’t going to go away any time soon. There’s too much grey area. The real issue is why teams continue to employ players like Scott. Why does a team like the Sabres, who are destined to be one of the league’s worst teams this season, even have someone like Scott on their roster and in their lineup? Furthermore, why is he even on the ice in a situation like that, against the Bruins’ second line, no less? Is it really a coincidence that Scott’s first shift of the third period came a minute after the Bruins pushed the lead to 4-2 in the third?
Scott was in a similar situation during the preseason when he challenged Phil Kessel to a fight late in a game against the Maple Leafs.
“I would have went after whoever they put lined up next to me,” Scott said at the time.
It’s just so nonsensical. There are players in the game who can handle themselves with and without gloves on their hands. John Scott isn’t one of them. How many more times does he get to do something like he did Wednesday night before it gets fixed? The NHL needs to not only hold someone like Scott accountable, but they must also hold the teams who employ and the coaches who play these players in these situations as well.
The NHL doesn’t and shouldn’t take fighting out of hockey. They shouldn’t take hitting out of hockey. They should take players like John Scott out of hockey and go from there. It won’t solve all the league’s problems, and it won’t totally get rid of hits like this, but it’s a start.