After their gut-wrenching ouster from the playoffs this year, San Jose Sharks brass promised that change would be coming. The word “rebuild” was even tossed around. That's what makes their signing of enforcer John Scott a rather curious one.
The Sharks handed the 6-foot-8 forward-defenseman hybrid a one-year, $700,000 deal. It's obviously not an expensive contract, but it's still a roster spot, one that could presumably be used by a young player or AHL graduate even more effectively even in a rebuilding scenario.
When you consider Scott will join a team that already includes noted tough guys like Mike Brown, Adam Burish, Andrew Desjardins and the more-useful, but oft-suspended Raffi Torres, it seems like it's adding toughness is a bit redundant, unless the teams plans on shipping some of those players out.
It wasn't really a surprise that the Sharks were inactive as most free agents moved around on Tuesday, but the signing of Scott is a strange use of a contract when the team is planning to restructure.
Scott is often lauded as one of those guys teammates personally love, but his work on the ice leaves little to be desired.
Scott spent the last two seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. Last year he appeared in 56 games, where he averaged 6:45 of ice time per game, scored one goal and racked up 125 penalty minutes. He was suspended seven games for a high hit on Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson and sparked a line brawl in preseason when he went after Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel.
He has two career goals in 236 games with 430 career penalty minutes.
For a franchise that is in need of restructuring, going down the road of acquiring an extra player to fit a role that's value has decreased dramatically in recent years makes you wonder what direction general manager Doug Wilson is taking this team that had one of the best records in the NHL last season.
When you see that the notoriously tough Boston Bruins let go of their own enforcer in Shawn Thornton, with GM Peter Chiarelli stating that the game was trending away from that role being necessary, it seemed as though it would signal players like Scott going by the wayside. But Wilson's comments suggest otherwise.
“John brings a physical, no-nonsense element to our lineup," said Wilson in a statement. "As we integrate more younger players to our team, John's presence alone can act as a deterrent and help keep teams and opposing players honest."
Plugging up the bottom of their lineup with players that will do little to contribute offensively (or defensively for that matter) to protect younger players seems misguided. Time and time again, teams that employ enforcers watch their own players get injured by bad hits whether a fighter is dressed or not. Perhaps Wilson had images of Tomas Hertl getting injured from a knee-on-knee hit by Dustin Brown flashing before his eyes when he got the idea to sign Scott. Odds are, Brown would have done it anyway.
There's no question that the Sharks' loss to the Kings, having been up 3-0 in the series, was a heart-breaker for the franchise. And their lack of playoff success is well documented, but as previously constructed, the Sharks were not far away from competitiveness.
If the Sharks are concerned with playoff struggles, how does it help to sign a player that almost certainly would be a healthy scratch throughout the postseason? Scott has four playoff appearances to his name.
By making an addition based on stone-age ideology, it makes one wonder if that playoff loss to the Kings shattered management's psyche even worse than previously thought.