A New Breed
There are goons, and there are rats.
Rarely do you get both in one hockey player. But the Buffalo Sabres, a franchise fallen on very hard times, have such a player.
A goon rat in Sabres clothing, as it were.
A player, quite simply, who needs to have his membership as a player in the NHL revoked for a considerable period of time, an exceptional case even these days when there seems to be a suspension-per-day and NHLPA members seem more determined than ever to cause each other serious brain injuries.
People complain that we in the media only want to talk about this stuff.
How can we not? There's a new sensational violation every day.
The notion that 6-foot-9 John Scott "polices" anything took a body blow in September when he decided to try and pick a fight with Phil Kessel, the star forward of the Maple Leafs. Kessel got suspended, David Clarkson got suspended, and Scott skipped away free and clear.
On Wednesday, Scott blew the "code" to smithereens with another brutal decision, this time racing across the ice to deliver a vicious, late, blind side head shot to another skill player, Loui Eriksson of the Boston Bruins.
Presumably, Scott's next target will be a player standing on crutches in the hallway. Or perhaps a grandmother in the first row.
For some time, while the "code" has become increasingly cloudy, there was still a line between goon and rat.
A goon was there just to fight and only to fight. Not to score or forecheck or backcheck. Just fight.
Scott, 31, fits the profile. Over the past six seasons, he has 35 fights and one goal. He used to play defence, and thus play a little more, but now most nights he's in the five- or six-minute range.
Generally speaking, the idea is that goons fight goons, or at least similarly sized players. Occasionally a middleweight like Brandon Prust or Clarkson might get involved, but mostly goons drop 'em with goons and people know how the system works.
Rats, meanwhile, are there to take cheap shots at good players, to distract them, irritate them and ideally get them to retaliate and take penalties.
They might score once in a blue moon, but usually the puck, or possession of it, is of little interest to them. They abide by no code, by no rules of conduct generally accepted by others.
They just want to take free shots at skill players - slashing, board and charging are the usual tactics - and thus are generally loathed by all except their teammates in contrast to goons, who are generally liked.
Scott, by going head-hunting on Wednesday night, seems to fit both categories now, which doesn't mean his pay should be doubled.
In fact, he's going to take a big hit in the pocketbook from Brendan Shanahan, at least five games and maybe more.
With Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta already up for a 10-game ban - the appeal decision is expected today - the last place Sabres are carving a new reputation for themselves these days.
Indeed, the coaching of Ron Rolston will again be up for scrutiny, not simply because he doesn't appear capable of guiding the 1-9-1 Sabres to any level of competence.
Rolston was fined in the pre-season for sending Scott out after Kessel - a Sabre player had challenged a Leaf and been beaten up, which to Rolston meant an unusual escalation in hostilities was necessary - and in theory could be on the hotseat again, although it seems unlikely.
But if you believe hockey coaches should be held more accountable for the actions of their players, as I have for many years, than this would be a case for taking some action against a coach who clearly can't control his Rottweiler.
After the Bruins scored to make it 3-1 on Wednesday, Rolston sent out Scott, ostensibly to challenge Shawn Thornton, who ignored him.
In the the third with the Sabres theoretically trying to come back from a 4-2 deficit, there was Scott on the ice again, and it wasn't to cut the lead in half.
Maybe to try and cut Eriksson in half, and the Bruin forward stayed behind overnight in Buffalo after, presumably, being concussed by the ridiculous open ice hit.
Shanahan seems to be ramping up the suspensions these days, while the players union seems, as usual, intent only on defending the goons and rats rather than protecting the health interests of the Erikssons and Kessels of the world.
Shouldn't the union be out to get justice for Eriksson, not just Scott?
When Chris Simon took his thuggery to a new level in 2007 by stomping Jarkko Ruutu, the league gave him 30 games.
Scott doesn't have Simon's rap sheet, so that length of suspension seems almost unthinkable.
Then again, why wait?