The days of the one-dimensional enforcer in the NHL are long gone. So why is it that teams continue to employ John Scott?
For the longest time, it was a must for clubs to have a policeman on their roster, a player who usually served little purpose other than to pound an opponent. It could have been for any number of reasons — the opponent took liberties with a skilled teammate, your team needed a spark, or just because it was expected of you.
Some clubs even had two enforcers in the lineup. The Detroit Red Wings had arguably the most feared duo in league history in Bob Probert and Joey Kocur, while the Minnesota North Stars possessed an extremely formidable one-two punch in Basil McRae and Shane Churla.
However, the aforementioned players — and the majority of NHL tough guys — could actually play the game to some degree. Probert reached the 20-goal plateau twice in his career and fell one short on another occasion, Dave Schultz and Chris Nilan each hit the mark once and Paul Holmgren even netted 30 tallies and 65 points in 1979-80.
Sure, there were a handful of so-called “goons” who served no other purpose but to wreak havoc with his fists. John Kordic immediately comes to mind, and who could forget Tony Twist and Krzysztof Oliwa?
Scott falls squarely in this category. Undrafted after four seasons at Michigan Tech, the native of Edmonton toiled in the American Hockey League for a few campaigns before signing with the Minnesota Wild.
The 6-foot-8 left wing/defenseman never really displayed his “skills” in his first season with the Wild, engaging in only three fights and logging 21 penalty minutes in 20 games in 2008-09. He doubled his fight total the following campaign and participated in a career-high eight battles over 40 contests in 2010-11 with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Scott got into five fights while splitting the 2011-12 campaign between Chicago and the New York Rangers and another seven with Buffalo the following season before erupting for a career-best 125 penalty minutes despite only five fights in 56 games with the Sabres in 2013-14. He came full circle last season, dropping the gloves only three times in 38 contests with the San Jose Sharks.
The 32-year-old did have a breakout offensive campaign with San Jose, scoring three goals and adding an assist after registering two tallies and four assists in his previous 236 NHL games. A large part of the reason for his small number of fights is ice time, which Scott saw very little of.
But even though he received fewer minutes on the rink than any given arena’s ice girl crew, Scott still managed to pile up suspensions. He received a seven-game ban in 2013 for an illegal check to the head of Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson, a two-game suspension in October 2014 for leaving the bench to start a fight and a four-gamer two months later for blindsiding Tim Jackman of the Anaheim Ducks.
The main reason for Scott’s minimal ice time is that his breed is no longer a necessity in the league. And that brings us back to the initial question — why has he been given a roster spot that could be better used on a young prospect or a defensive forward who actually serves a purpose?
The Arizona Coyotes are the latest culprits, having signed Scott to a one-year contract on Friday. Unless general manager Don Maloney feels the need to have a player with five goals, five assists and 517 penalty minutes in 274 career games and who will average less than five minutes of ice time on his roster, this one is a baffler in every sense of the word.