For those that are casual hockey fans, the name John Scott might not mean a thing.
He’s a tough-guy, an enforcer, and at 6’8″ and 270 pounds, he’s built for it. Often enforcers aren’t glory guys, but instead fan favourites. They’re the guys who go to war for you, who stand up for the meaning of your team’s name and logo, and they will bleed for you if they have to. They’re normal guys elevated to hero status.
Or they used to, because in Chicago, John Scott has taken on a brand new meaning.
Those games which Scott is in the lineup — of which there were 40 last season — are either those of a physical nature, or those where Blackhawks fans are worried about the current slump. Scott’s presence in the lineup seems to be a sign of how things are going in Chicago, and right now, big number 32 is taking his seat on the bench.
It’s not that Scott is abhorrently terrible; no, that’s never been the case. He’s got size and he can intimidate, his skating ability has seemingly improved for a man of his stature, and he can be used as a defenseman or a winger given the teams need. His shot isn’t even all that bad.
What it is is that he doesn’t fit Chicago’s style, and with him in the lineup, all signs point to big problems on the ice.
John Scott’s tenure in Chicago has been rather rocky
He’s a big body. No two ways about that. With his signing, many thought they were trying to find some of the magic they had with Dustin Byfuglien on the powerplay. The GMs and coaching staff thought Scott’s big frame could be the net presence they once had in Big Buff, but that didn’t exactly pan out.
Matter of fact, it lasted about half of one single powerplay.
During that first season in Chicago — his second is just underway — Scott played an interesting role. Up front, he was sent in to just try to stir things up, maybe drop the gloves, and put some energy into the building. On the backend, he was supposed to stay at home, not get caught, and just play positionally sound hockey. Again, he wasn’t abysmal at either of these things, so why the hate?
Last season, Scott was inserted into the lineup in favour of guys like Nick Leddy, Jordan Hendry, and veteran Nick Boynton. And those were just when he was slotted in on D.
With Scott on the ice some of the depth disappears. He doesn’t take a regular shift, he puts extra weight on the shoulders of his teammates, and he takes a spot on the bench. At only 9.6 shifts per game, Scott isn’t used often. Try this on — in a game against Columbus on Oct. 15 last year, Scott took three shifts. Three shifts. All game.
Therein lies the rub — to succeed in this league, you need to be able to roll your lines successfully. Scott doesn’t allow Joel Quenville to do that. At least not effectively.
Playing with physicality is what makes Scott effective
Right now, Scott is taking the lineup spots of Sami Lepisto, Sean O’Donnell, and leaving some of the young up-and-comers to stew in the AHL.
With Ben Smith and Jeremy Morin in Rockford, the Hawks have two talented guys that slot in as third liners and play a regular shift. Lepisto, up in the pressbox a lot of late, can move the puck up ice, something that could be useful on the Blackhawks absolutely horrid powerplay. In their current struggle, the Blackhawks need a shot of life — Scott isn’t it.
Two years removed from a Stanley Cup victory, the fans in Chicago have come to expect a product that is elite. Scott doesn’t embody that, and is a far cry from that style. The reason why Blackhawks fans have a hatred for Scott is not Scott himself, it’s that when he’s out of the press box lately, it’s them trying to make him a fish out of water.
When he can play his game and his role, he plays it well. When they try and make him something he is not, the team struggles further.
For Blackhawks fans, it’s never been disdain for John Scott — it’s what the Blackhawks have made John Scott represent.