Last Wednesday, October 23, the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres took the ice in the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, for NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry game of the week. The Bruins were up 4-2 in the later stages of the 3rd period, when John Scott took the ice, and made his impact on the game, in the only way he knows how (0:05 mark of the video):
The hit, as you can see, was blatant, late, cheap, and to the head. Scott was subsequently suspended indefinitely, until Judge Brendan Shanahan, and the jury of Player Safety can decide on an appropriate punishment for Scott. The verdict is in, the charge (pun aside) has been made, and it’s only a matter of time until he gets his suspension. One can only speculate where it will stand within the standards of the rest of the league.
I can make an educated guess, based off of John Scott’s player profile, that the suspension won’t be as “lenient” as, say, the Islanders’ Michael Grabner’s hit on Carolina’s Nathan Gerbe, which was 2 games.
Grabner is a speedy, gifted scorer, who has 77 goals and 124 points, and only 44 penalty minutes in 229 career games with the Islanders and Vancouver Canucks. John Scott, on the other hand, has played 187 games with Minnesota, Chicago, the New York Rangers, and the Buffalo Sabres. He has accumulated a grand total of 5 points (1 goal in 2009-10), and 324 penalty minutes. Even more so, Grabner averages 15 minutes of ice time per game, Scott only 7 minutes.
John Scott is only the latest addition to a group of so-called hockey players categorized as “goons”. Such a group includes guys like Cam Janssen (312 games, 11 points, 752 penalty minutes, average ice time of 4:47), Eric Boulton (617 games, 74 points, 1311 penalty minutes, average ice time of 7:06), and Derek Boogaard (277 games, 16 points, 589 penalty minutes, average ice time of 5:06).
These guys all have a number of things in common: Few points, few minutes on the ice, penalty minutes galore. These guys have very basic roles on the team: If a guy on the other team goes after anyone on their team, take them out. Simply put, these guys are mercenaries on skates, and they only cause havoc when put on the ice. Whether it’s a big hit or dropping the gloves, no matter the method, they try and inflict damage on another player, in some sort of negative reinforcement gone wrong.
That’s not to say the guy with the most penalty minutes is a goon. This season’s current penalty minutes leader is New York Ranger Derek Dorsett, who plays regularly as a fourth line energy player, and does drop the gloves from time to time, but doesn’t have a history of broken bodies in his wake. Another classic example is Ottawa’s Chris Neil, who has 213 career points, and is an essential part of his team’s offense, while also being on the protection squad.
Protecting a player is not to be looked down upon. Having those bigger guys who don’t mind dropping the gloves every now and again, can take the body, and also contribute offensively are rare commodities in the league, and sought at by everyone (look at the pay day David Clarkson got from the Maple Leafs).
But the way that the goons do it, where their sole role in the game is to become a wrecking ball with skates and sticks, should not be condoned. They don’t bring any hockey skills to the game, besides toughness and balance (they gotta stand on skates after all).
Heck, Donald Brashear, one of the most notorious goons in NHL history, took to MMA for a short period of time, and TKO’d some guy named Mathieu Bergeron at the 0:21 mark of the first round.
Goons don’t have much of a place in hockey. If they want to hone their skills of face-punching and body checking, they can try MMA or roller derby. But they are one of the biggest threats to player safety, especially like last week’s incident where John Scott took out an innocent skill player.
Scott’s suspension will be a hefty one. He’s a goon, and isn’t looked upon nicely by any analysts or experts. After that, who knows if he’ll ever see NHL ice time again. After this incident, for the real players’ sake, I hope that’s the case.