Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day Fifty-Nine: Big John Scott

You know what I haven't really blogged about yet? Hockey season.

Veterans of my former attempts at semi-regular blogging will tell you that I post entirely too many hockey-related blogs. Well, it's been fifty-nine days, and I really haven't touched on the subject yet. Plus, the well of blogging ideas has never run drier than tonight, so we're going to touch on that subject, just a tad.

A couple of years ago, I caught my first glimpse of hulking Houston Aeros defenseman John Scott. Scott's got a lot of things going for him. First, he's on my local team, so that's working in his favor. Second, he's a product of American collegiate hockey, and I'm always in favor of seeing the NCAA boys make it. Third, he's six-foot-eight-inches tall and two-hundred forty-seven pounds. Johnny is a big boy.

His story's pretty cool. Scott used to lie about his height and weight because people would associate athletes of his size and build to be basketball players, and he desperately wanted to be a hockey player. So he always said he was six-seven, because apparently that is much more acceptable for a hockey guy. He played in college and went undrafted before finally signing a tryout with the Aeros. Houston's NHL affiliate, the Minnesota Wild, really liked the kid's size, so they signed him to a pro contract after his first season in Houston. He's now in his third year with the club, so there's your classic underdog rising above story. Everyone loves those!

I really like Scott. In fact, I've really only got one knock on the guy:

He's one of the worst hockey players I've ever seen at this level.

To be fair, he has improved leaps and bounds in his two-plus seasons in Houston. He's gone from being atrocious to merely not very good. I remember going to games at the Yo (which is what I've nicknamed the Toyota Center, by the way. Spread the news, it's the Yo now) Scott's first year here and wondering who on earth would pay this man to play professional hockey. On more than one occasion, I swear this is not an exaggeration, Scott was on the ice for every single goal against, and was a key contributor to more than one of them due to his being out of position, slow, screening the goalie, running into his own guy, falling down. Whatever. You name it, Scott could do it. (Favorite Scott story: I was at a game once and Scott took a 2-minute penalty. I turned to the guy beside me and said, "Scott's in the box. AT least we know they won't score for the next two minutes." And sure enough, they didn't. FOUR SECONDS AFTER THE PENALTY EXPIRED, when the man stepped on the ice and took two large, lumbering strides toward the action, they score.) He skated like one of the Easter Island heads put on ice skates. His stickhandling was worse. If Scott had the puck, you could rest assured that, within ten seconds, it would be on an opponent's stick.

The news wasn't all bad. The man plays well in the corners, mostly because he's immovable. He also plays his role as The Giant Guy very well, and he likes to go with the other team's big guys if they start taking liberties with his teammates. He's a good guy to have around, at least on a minor league level.

BUT the coaches didn't just use Scott as a goon. He was on the ice killing penalties! He was on the ice ON THE POWER PLAY!! Guys are skating around him left and right! He kinda shifts his weight to one side or the other, and if he gets close enough he'll knock the other guy on his can due to his girth and strength, but usually they just go merrily on their way to an odd-man rush. I once saw Scott defend a two-on-one that ultimately ended up in our goal. The man sitting in front of me said to his companion, "With Scott the only D back, it's more like a 3-on-0!" The man wasn't wrong. (To be fair, a few months later I saw Scott in a similar situation, and he actually broke up the play. He broke it up because the guy with the puck tried to skate through him, and there's no going through John Scott, but nevertheless Scott gets credit for making a play there, even if he didn't have to move his feet for it)

Now as I say, he's gotten better. His passes aren't as awful, and his skating has improved by leaps and bounds. (Not literally) I still cringe when I see him on the powerplay or the PK, but it's not quite as bad.

Why am I talking about John Scott (aside from the fact that I had nothing else to talk about tonight)? Well, as I said, I really do like the guy, and I think he's got a great story, and now you can add another unbelievable accomplishment to his resume: Scott is currently wearing #36 for the Minnesota Wild in the NHL.

Not only that, but the coach loves him! And not in that "I love the guy, he's just not that good" tone you're getting here, but in the "I love to play John Scott in NHL games" way! Scott's played seven games so far (with limited ice time, but still. Them's NHL games!) and here's what Mike Russo of the Minnesota Star-Tribune says that the coach says about big #36:

"He also continued to praise 6-8 defenseman John Scott, whom he says keeps it simple, doesn’t try to do too much, makes great first passes out of the zone."

Re: great first passes, I haven't seen much of it, but then that's not really his role with the Aeros, and I haven't been able to attend a game since late December. (*whine!*)

Re: "keeps it simple, doesn't try to do too much": WHAT??? I always assumed that was because he was painfully slow! Sure he wasn't doing much; you mean to tell me that all this time it's been intentional? The reason I never noticed him doing anything good aside from throw his weight around in the corners was because he was staying low-profile?

Could it be that I (and many Houston Aeros fans) have been completely wrong about John Scott for almost three years now?? Could this have all been part of the same masterful plan from the brilliant mind that concocted the infallible "lie about your age so people stop bugging you about basketball" plan???

I don't know, man. I just don't know.

I do know that it's been a ton of fun watching our young players develop and--some of them, at least--make their way up to the NHL, either with the Wild or other teams. My minor-league hockey experience in Wichita never got anywhere near that. It's a blast seeing future-NHLers every time I go to the Yo, and usually even a few former ones. Guys I've seen come up from Houston in the almost-four seasons I've been here to become regulars in the NHL, even if only for a year: Erik Reitz and Aaron Voros (most recently NYR), Patrick O'Sullivan (EDM), Ryan Jones and Joel Ward (NSH), Josh Harding, Colton Gilles, Cal Clutterbuck, Peter Olvecky, and Kurtis Foster (MIN). Plus a bunch of other guys who've gotten a cup of coffee in the bigs. It's been fun. And the hockey's been great. And you really want to see a lot of these kids succeed.

As for Scott: Hey, the coach likes him. He's a great teammate and a good kid. Maybe he's in Minny for the rest of the year, maybe he's back home in a week or so. Whatever the case, you're playing with the big (well, relatively speaking) boys now. Enjoy it.

Somehow, you've earned it.


By the by, here's a link to a John Scott fight on youtube. See how small he makes the other guy look???