By: Rich Miller (@pensbender)
This is pretty straight forward, right? John Scott is a statue on skates and is basically as one-dimensional as they come in today’s NHL. In 187 career games, he’s tallied five points. Five. It’s counterproductive, yet punch-throwers and cheap-shot artists like Scott continue to take roster spots away from guys who can actually play hockey. Guys who may be capable of actually doing something entertaining. Does anyone really want to see Loui Eriksson, who is a pretty fun player to watch, have his head bounce off the ice like a basketball?
The argument for so called enforcers hanging around for their usual five minutes of ice time every night is so their presence can protect the more talented players. Ultimately, what you end up with is criminals like Scott policing the other John Scott’s of the world. The whole premise is completely backward and the argument is dumb. There is a difference between guys who go out and play a tenacious brand of hockey every night, and the others who cash paychecks based on their reputations of not being afraid to drop gloves. This isn’t about fighting though, this is about the players who consistently fail to play within the rules of the game. Furthermore, despite being a noted fighter Shawn Thornton’s meaningless presence in the lineup for Boston did nothing to prevent this hit from taking place.
The league has taken some steps in the right direction. This much is true. The system as a whole has come a very long way from where it was just a few years ago. Brendan Shanahan is dishing out suspensions like free meals this season, yet every night it seems we all find ourselves wasting more time reviewing and debating dirty hits.
Last night, Benoit Pouliot on Max Talbot…
This one may be more careless than malicious, but the end result is still the same. Pouliot is out of control when he leans on Talbot sending him face-first into the boards. If Pouliot was smart he would have cutoff Talbot’s angle up the ice by playing the puck, not the body. The league can suspend as many players as they want, and guys like Scott and Patrick Kaleta (who has been suspended six times in the last four seasons) will eventually run out of rope to hang themselves with, but the fact remains that the message still is not being completely received across the league. There is still a problem.
What we’ve grown accustomed to is the league making up the rules as it goes along. Ultimately things have gotten better, but there is still variations of grey within the interpretation and application of rules and discipline. There is a certain level of discretion that needs to be taken into account on a case-to-case basis, especially regarding long-term suspensions. But if the league is going to talk about player safety then it truly needs to own it, beginning with the referees acting the moment an illegal hit occurs. Major penalties and a game misconducts shouldn’t even be a question. The league can dish-out the suspensions accordingly, but too many calls are blown on the ice to say the problem entirely revolves around the legislation.
Players can change and they deserve a chance to. The Matt Cooke story is a great one. But when there is a consistent behavior of veering away from the rule book by a player, then the player and the team should be held accountable. It is as much on the team to control the actions of their players on the ice as it is on the player to control themselves. Is it a coincidence that Scott and Kaleta both play for the 1-9-1 Buffalo Sabres? If the argument is that these guys are there to protect the stars, then Tomas Vanek must feel bulletproof. The difference is that perennial jokes like the Buffalo Sabres continue to believe there is value in parading the “tough guys” out on to the ice each night. They’re wrong. They’re so wrong that they made Steve Ott assistant captain of the circus.
It’s time the league turns it up a notch, not on the players, because that clearly is not working, but on the teams who continue to roster the repeat offenders. The problem between the players is nothing more than respect. The guys who are playing reckless do not respect the guys they are hitting; it’s that simple. If you’re the league, what you can do is make them lose the respect of their teammates by penalizing the team as a whole. The league could even do a lot more than that, actually. Lost draft picks, heavy fines, extended penalties, and lost roster spots are all options to choose from.
It’s time the no-talent sideshows find their way out of the game. Common sense and respect for other players continues to somehow go by the wayside, it’s only a matter of time before the consequences of this hit an unparalleled level. Plain and simple, the game is better when the guys who can actually play the game, can actually play the game, and nobody wants to see someone die.
A Look Around The Metro
Still bad, but a little better this week coming in with a combined record of 28-36-10.
Pittsburgh (14 points): Olli Maatta. Also, Kris Letang’s hair returns to the ice tonight against the NY Islanders.
Carolina (11 points): Well, they WERE on to something here. Injuries absolutely killed them last season, but this season they had been healthy and finding ways to earn points. Unfortunately though, they lost Cam Ward, Jeff Skinner, and Ryan Murphy in last night’s 3-1 loss to Minnesota. Backup goalie Jason Peters allowed goals on the first two shots he faced, yikes. They play Colorado tonight.
Washington (10 points): The power play is good. At even strength they’re bad. Their penalty kill has been really good, but their goaltending has been really bad. Hence the 5-5 record with 30 goals for and 30 goals against.
NY Islanders (9 points): Like Carolina, the Isles are earning points via OT losses. The encouraging news is John Tavares has points in eight straight games. Matt Moulson is on a four game scoring streak with five points (three goals, two assists) in his last two games. Their power play has been really good with a 28.1% success rate. Like last year, however, the Isles can’t play a consistent 60 minute game because their defense is garbage and their depth is less than good. The John Spano story on 30 for 30 this week put some perspective on how embarrassing this franchise operated in the past. Credit Spano with getting Mike Milbury out of town however, realistically that may have been their first step in the right direction.
They will get a great test tonight in Pittsburgh; never forget Nabokov.
Columbus (8 points): This is probably the most difficult team in this division to gauge. Some in Columbus do not want Brandon Dubinsky to be the captain. I’m holding out an opinion on them until they show some signs of consistency or at least until things like this stop happening.
New Jersey (6 points): This team is bad and Corey Schneider is deservingly starting in net more than Martin Brodeur. Brodeur is apparently handling it professionally, for now.
“Over the last three years, I haven’t played as many games. It’s somewhat of a transition, but definitely it’s not fun. You don’t play hockey, especially at the age I am, to just sit on the bench and hang out. It was fun in practice on Wednesday. I had a blast. But ask me that in two months. I don’t know if I’ll say the same thing.” – Brodeur
NY Rangers (4 points): They fell into the Philadelphia trap of playing “their” game not “ours” last night in a 2-1 loss. I still think this team is better than they’ve shown. Henrik Lundqvist has a minor undisclosed injury, but there is no way he comes back playing as bad as he was. Either way, they aren’t playing well right now and it really doesn’t matter who’s in net.
Philadelphia (4 points): Max Talbot is a tough dude. This was his face after eating the boards last night on the hit delivered by Pouliot.
Talbot returned to the game, which the Flyers won. The win marked their second on the season, for some reason Paul Holmgren’s job isn’t in jeopardy though.
Around The League
The Winter Classic: Will once again be chronicled in the weeks leading up to the game by HBO and their tremendous 24/7 beginning December 14. Should be fun to watch Randy Carlyle talk about how much he hates statistics.
Tampa Bay Lightning: What are you doing?
Florida Panthers: Until December 23, if and when the Panthers win, single game ticket buyers attending that game will receive tickets for the next game free of charge. Considering their win total and current attendance, it’s hard to say how many people will actually benefit from this, but it’s a nice gesture nonetheless.
David Clarkson: Will make his season debut tonight in Columbus after serving a 10-game suspension for leaving to bench to fight none other than John Scott.
“We think that he can make a contribution, but we don’t want to put too much pressure on him, he hasn’t played in a while. We just want him to do the simple things, be David Clarkson and make the simple, strong play.” – coach Randy Carlyle
This shouldn’t be that hard since everything about Clarkson’s game is simple.
Dan Boyle: Isn’t taking Max Lapierre’s calls. And he shouldn’t.
“He left a message. I think it’s been documented that I didn’t take the call. I’ll leave it at that for now.” – Boyle
Surprised Lapierre even knows how to use a telephone.
Pekka Rinne: Is going to miss a month with a hip infection.
Patrick Kaleta: Had his 10-game suspension upheld. If the NHL really wanted to penalize the Sabres, they would force them to play Kaleta 20 minutes every night.
Everything you need to know about tonight’s games here.