Programming note: Every now and then, I’ll have a recommendation of such high merit that you should open up a new tab and add a guy before reading this column. This is one of those times, as David Clarkson is only owned in 32 percent of leagues thanks to that dopey 10-game suspension. Add him.
What? You aren’t convinced yet? Head to Page 2 for reasoning IF YOU DARE DEFY ME.
Loui Eriksson is a really, really good hockey player. I have my doubts that history will view the Boston Bruins as the victor of the trade that brought him to town in exchange for Tyler Seguin, but aside from Jamie Benn, he was the closest Dallas had to a guy who could make Boston fans feel better about the franchise parting ways with a prodigiously talented player who (gasp) liked to party.
Now, I’ve critiqued Eriksson’s fantasy value in this space before, but mainly to argue that he’s maybe a tier below snipers with similar 70-point potential; he simply doesn’t take enough shots, deliver enough hits or enter the penalty box often enough to be valuable when he isn’t scoring.
That doesn’t change my feeling that he’s (again) really, really good at hockey … and also possesses a two-way style that’s a great fit for the B’s.
Wherever you place him on the fantasy forward totem pole, he sure is world’s better than Buffalo Sabres “forward” - giving these guys positional titles really seems like a joke - John Scott, who viciously headhunted Eriksson on Wednesday night with a hit you can view here, if you really want to feel a little angrier today.
(Hey, at least it’s almost the weekend … where more terrible things like this will probably happen in the NHL. Darn it.)
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A PROFESSIONAL HURTIST
You may remember John Scott from other catastrophes, including threatening Phil Kessel during a preseason game to the point that the Toronto Maple Leafs star started swinging his stick at him in a way that Mac from “It’s Always Sunny” would probably approve.
What you probably won’t remember Scott from is doing anything useful in a rink besides hurting people, getting hurt or both. In 186 career regular season games, he's averaged 7:07 minutes per night (that almost seems a little high) and has one goal and four assists ... and 309 PIM. Hmmmm.
NO REAL CONSEQUENCES FOR BUFFALO
After the game, Bruins head coach Claude Julien remarked that Scott is there to do two things: "to fight and to hurt." I would simplify that and just say he's there to hurt. He's a hurtist.*
Naturally, Sabres head coach Ron Rolson simply said "I'm not going to comment on it" and ... that's basically where this stops for him. (OK, maybe he’ll offer another no-comment or complain about Scott’s supplementary discipline.)
Rolston won’t face any monetary loss and surely won’t badly miss Scott’s .03 (rounded up) points per game. Really, the only way Scott’s almost inevitable absence will hurt Buffalo is that they’ll probably put a better player in Scott’s place - because it’s not exactly challenging to find someone better than Scott - and that might hurt the Sabres’ chances of getting higher odds in the draft lottery.
Then again, maybe they’ll get Patrick Kaleta back soon enough, so they can just start this cycle once more?
I mean, Rolston isn’t going to lose any money and neither will the Sabres organization. They’ll just mosey along, being terrible and learning nothing. Essentially, teams that see their monsters unleashed - harming the innocent and more talented - probably roll out the same vacant, sociopathic inner monologue that Patrick Bateman splayed out at the end of “American Psycho.”
Actually, that might require some self-awareness and culpability. Scratch that.
AT LEAST THIS WOULD BE A START
Circling back to that column from barely more than a week ago, the only way to even slightly improve this situation is to make teams pay for these kinds of hits, not just the players.
The NHL suspended Ryan Garbutt five games for his senseless hit on Dustin Penner, which may or may not be a lot like Scott’s check on Eriksson. (Honestly, I don’t know any longer; the league has succeeded in very few ways with its schizophrenic disciplinary system, but it’s at least left me baffled and too exhausted to parse out the viciousness vs. accidental nature of most hits.)
What I do know: losing Garbutt won’t make the Stars lose another game. It won’t make them any worse in any period or shift.
The Stars, Sabres, etc. etc. can just keep bringing out pawns like Scott, Garbutt, Raffi Torres (hey, did you hear he’s feeling great? That means a much better player might not soon. Yay!) and so on to take out the league’s knights, bishops and queens. Except NHL teams don’t even lose a chess piece when their pawns get cleared off the board; they can just bring in another one.
The league can dole out suspensions and change the rules regarding which hits are dirty and which hit aren’t - hey, isn’t a relief that Matt Cooke’s horrific check on Marc Staal would be illegal today! Progress! - but these things won’t slow down until teams that employ the offending player feel a consequence other than losing something valuable. Repeat offenders face harsh penalties, yet the people who employ and enable them go whistling along the golf course without a care in the world.
(Every now and then, an actually good player like Alexander Edler will miss some time, but that’s rare. And the league mysteriously tends to punish quality parts a little differently than the Kaletas of the world.)
For all we know, Scott might be a good dude off the ice. He might be a pillar of the community and he probably loves his family. Many tough guys are basically big teddy bears; Cody McLeod probably meant it when he said he doesn’t want to hurt anybody. The problem is, NHL franchises might just want them to hurt people and have little incentive to act differently.
So, long story medium, Loui Eriksson stayed overnight in a hospital for a hit that John Scott delivered. It served no purpose, aside from making the hockey world a slightly darker place. And we can expect plenty more of this until the NHL actually does something real to prevent these things from happening.
After the jump: Game notes and some tough injury news.
*Can we settle on that as a term instead of pitbull? Because pitbull enthusiasts don't really like that analogy, shockingly.