Assessing the value of John Scott’s role, a.k.a. “caveman”

Matt Larkin
Scott edited

The keyboard clatters angrily as I type. I didn’t wake up on the wrong side of the bed, but I’m on it now. All thanks to John Howard Scott, a Buffalo Sabres “left winger/defenseman.”

Scott makes $750,000 a year. Why? When we ask that about any pro athlete, lamenting that doctors and firefighters make less, it’s often silly. Sidney Crosby makes $8.7 million per season because we pay him to entertain us, because we purchase tickets and populate NHL arenas to watch him hit a piece of rubber with a piece of (composite) lumber while gliding on metal shoes. We do so gladly because, as trivial as hockey or any sport may be, it makes us happy. Crosby is so darned good at what he does that he’s worth every penny.

And how about Mr. Scott? What do we pay him to do?

Behold, the extent of his talent:

We don’t pay to see him hit the piece of rubber past a goaltender into a net. Scott has done so once in 187 career games. We don’t pay to see his pretty mug, as he plays just 4:57 per game, last among qualified Sabres.

That leaves us with one job description for Scott: dirty hits and fighting. Ultimately, he’s paid to fight. And I don’t know why.

I’m NOT starting a fighting debate. My point has nothing to do with that. I’m asking why pay Scott to do nothing but punch people when there are plenty of players who can fight, for those who still want that in the game, and pass the puck, score goals, and generally play the actual sport?

And don’t tell me Scott has value to the Sabres and the game because he’s an enforcer who protects his stars, a role championed by Bobby Orr. John Scott’s victims this year are PHIL KESSEL AND LOUI ERIKSSON, whose combined malicious streak is that of a mildly irritated puppy.

Scott’s cheap shot hit last night enraged me more than any in recent memory, more than Raffi Torres on Marian Hossa, more than Matt Cooke on Marc Savard, more than Todd Bertuzzi on Steve Moore. The reason: Scott shouldn’t have been on the ice in an NHL uniform. Torres has 134 career goals, Cooke 156, Bertuzzi 308. For a better comparison: Andy friggin’ Sutton scored 38 goals in his career. John Scott: just the one.

There’s a place for power forwards in the NHL, or agitators, or even rugged, mean defensemen who stick up for their teammates. But it’s a joke that the league still employs the guy whose role is “caveman,” who plays five minutes a night and accomplishes nothing but carnage.

If the NHL “only” throws the book at Scott with, say, a 25-game suspension, I won’t be satisfied. I want him gone for the season or even for good. Not simply because he’s a dirty player – he is, but there are dozens of dirty players in the league. More specifically, I want Scott out because he adds absolutely zero to a hockey game. What few skills he does bring can be mined from other more talented players (see: Lucic, Milan).

I’ll hope for the best from the NHL, but my expectations aren’t too high.