Haggerty: No place for goons like Scott in NHL anymore

Haggerty: No place for goons like Scott in NHL anymore
October 24, 2013, 4:30 pm
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John Scott has been suspended by the NHL for his hit on Loui Eriksson.

What happened on Wednesday night in Buffalo was an embarrassment on so many levels.

From the outset it was pretty clear that the Buffalo Sabres were a rudderless group of skaters without much in the way of discipline and organization. Guys like Tyler Ennis were visibly loafing on shifts and giving up on plays that hung his teammates out to dry when they passed the puck to the area the diminutive forward was supposed to be. For a group of players to do that in a divisional game in October after getting out to a 1-8-1 start to the season is a pretty severe indictment on the lack of urgency fostered in a dressing room managed by Ron Rolston.

Unfortunately it went a lot deeper than a hockey team simply going through the motions in the third period of Boston’s 5-2 victory over the Sabres at the First Niagara Center, and one of Boston’s core players will miss games because of that. The wanton disregard for player safety that both Patrick Kaleta and John Scott have shown opponents throughout this dreadful start to Buffalo’s season raise plenty of red flags about a lawless group running amok in Buffalo.

That’s exactly what NBCSN hockey analyst Mike Milbury was getting at in a scathing diatribe against Rolston and the Sabres on Wednesday night during the postgame show NHL Overtime, and Made Mike was dead on.

“The talk in Buffalo is that this guy [Rolston] is in over his head. I’ll tell you right now, he’s in way over his head. In fact, he’s drowning. That’s a bush-league play by a coach that doesn’t know any better, doesn’t have enough experience in the league, and shouldn’t be afforded another game – not one,” said Milbury. “That’s an embarrassment to the league, and to the Buffalo Sabres. I’m saddened by it. Before the league has a chance to step in, the Sabres should fire him. His team has no discipline . . . It's a mess."

Unfortunately, the milk has already been spilt with both Rolston and Scott after the 6-foot-8 Buffalo behemoth clobbered Loui Eriksson in the jaw with a dangerous blind side check to the head. Just as unfortunate was the Buffalo Sabres game operations workers playing Scott’s “Big Bad John” theme song as Eriksson’s teammates carried their spaghetti-legged winger off the ice never to return.

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli released a statement on Thursday afternoon saying that Eriksson suffered a concussion due to the hit, and is out indefinitely.

Scott has been suspended indefinitely pending an in-person hearing for his actions, and that gives the NHL Department of Player Safety the freedom, per the CBA, to suspend him for more than five games. Brendan Shanahan should go far above and beyond a simple run-of-the-mill five game suspension, and make an example of one of the few true hockey goons still staining the sport.

Amazingly, Scott spoke with the Buffalo media on Thursday a day removed from the incident and tried to claim he didn’t intend to hurt Eriksson.

“I don’t think I’m a dirty player,” Scott said. “I try to play within the code, within the rules. This is my first suspension. I don’t think I’m dirty. I don’t try to be a dirty player. I kind of feel really upset. I was sick to my stomach last night knowing what happened watching the video. I just kind of regret the whole situation. I don’t want to be a dirty player.

“I’m a hockey player. I go out there and I play my game. I’m physical, I hit. That’s my role. Like, I’m not going to score a million goals. I get frustrated. I get frustrated when people say I’m a goon and this and that. I have a role, I do it. I go out and I’m physical. It’s unfortunate what happened last night. But to say that Ron sent me out there to do anything with any malcontent or anything is just completely false.”

A million goals?

How about one goal scored in 187 career games, and the whopping 4:57 of ice time he’s averaged this season for the Sabres?

The thought was Scott was an honest player that adhered to “The Code” prior to this season, and that was clearly the case when he whipped Thornton in a fight that concussed Boston’s enforcer last season. But chasing after Phil Kessel during a face-off in the preseason and throwing a dirty, vicious head shot at a Lady Byng finalist are about as far away from “The Code” as somebody could get.

In an ideal world Shanahan would simply kick Scott out of the NHL, and make the statement that there’s no place in the game for “players” that can’t skate, pass, shoot, defend or do anything discernible aside from throw punches and scramble brains.

“This was bound to happen,” lamented Milbury in the postgame after labeling Scott a “goon” during the NHL Live pregame show. “This guy is a predator. He was put out there to seek and destroy.”

Old fashioned hockey goons like Scott are simply NHL dinosaurs that should already be extinct, and should have long completely deferred to enforcers like Shawn Thornton, Brandon Prust and Arron Asham that can both fight and still actually play the game well enough for a regular shift.

That won’t happen in this age of NHLPA appeals for true hockey villains like Kaleta and Scott, but hopefully the NHL comes out of the gate swinging and clobbers Scott with a 10-15 game suspension. Perhaps then he’ll get the message that the thug-like behavior won’t be tolerated on the ice, and then Scott will quickly be gone from the league given his utter lack of anything resembling a hockey skill.

Instead of attempting to outlaw the act of hockey fighting that still has a place at the NHL level, a good first step would be flushing one dimensional goons like Scott out of the league once and for all.