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Down Goes Brown's Weekend Review: There Are No Winners in the John Scott Debacle

The John Scott All-Star Game story started off bad and has been steadily getting worse along the way. There's no happy ending here.
Photo by Jason Franson-The Canadian Press

(Editor's note: Sean McIndoe looks back at recent play in the NHL and the league's biggest storylines in his weekend review. You can follow him on Twitter.)

Faceoff: No winners in the John Scott debacle

For years, I've argued that the NHL All-Star Game had morphed into a miserable, embarrassing fiasco that couldn't possibly get any worse. I'll give the league credit where it's due: it went out this year and proved me wrong.

On Friday, the Coyotes traded John Scott to the Canadiens, who immediately assigned him to their AHL squad. Sunday, he took the warmup before being listed as a healthy scratch. None of that would be unusual, except that Scott also happens to have recently been elected captain of the Pacific Division All-Star team. So to summarize: as of today, the captain of the Pacific Division entry for the NHL All-Star Game is neither in the Pacific Division nor the NHL. He is also, presumably, no longer an All-Star, although we'll get to that in a minute.


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You know the backstory by now. This whole mess started off with a round of online ballot-box stuffing orchestrated by fans as a joke, one targeted largely at the league but that also took aim at Scott himself. There was an unmistakably mean-spirited edge to the fun for many, and that's hung over the story like a bad smell despite predictable attempts to reimagine the whole thing as some sort of feel-good story. The fact that the league left itself wide open to this sort of abuse by offering up a ridiculous fan-voting system didn't help matters.

After some initial reluctance, Scott eventually decided that he would honor the results and embrace his all-star status. You or I may not have made the same choice, but that's hardly important. Whatever the circumstances, Scott was voted in, and he had a right to handle it however he chose. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the player and his family, not to mention a chance at the $90,000 prize money awarded to players on the winning team—no small amount for a player earning the league minimum of $575,000. While nobody likes to be the butt of a joke, Scott seemed to have decided to make the best of it.

If only the NHL had done the same. While the NHL publicly acknowledged the vote as legitimate, it's now clear the league and Coyotes were working behind the scenes to convince Scott to stay home. Scott refused, and that's led to speculation that the NHL may have twisted a few arms to make Friday's trade happen.


Let's be clear: if the NHL actually got involved in orchestrating a trade to protect the All-Star Game and/or punish Scott for refusing to step aside, then we've got a scandal on our hands. The league has no place—none at all—in getting involved with facilitating transactions between teams, and if it turns out that someone at the league office was greasing the skids to make a Scott trade happen, people should lose their jobs.

But that's speculation, and right now there are far more plausible explanations available. Even if we make the reasonable assumption that this trade was tied to the All-Star Game story—the timing is an awfully big coincidence if it wasn't—that doesn't mean that Gary Bettman's minions pulled the trigger, and it doesn't mean that the Canadiens took on a quarter-million dollars in salary just to do the league a solid. For now, it seems more likely that Coyotes general manager Dan Maloney got tired of dealing with this whole headache and with a fringe player who wouldn't do what the organization felt was the right thing, and took the first opportunity to send him packing when a bigger deal came along. (For his part, Maloney has denied a connection between the trade and the all-star situation, insisting that the Coyotes simply wanted Jarred Tinordiand needed to free up a roster spot to make the deal.)

But even with the conspiracy theories set aside, it's really impossible to overstate how much of a mess this has all become. The whole campaign to elect Scott now looks like a classic case of a joke gone terribly wrong. The league and the Coyotes look petty, and are getting hammered for it. The All-Star Game itself somehow comes off looking worse than ever.


As for Scott, he at least comes across as a sympathetic character here, one who never asked for any of this. But that's probably little consolation for a guy who may have played his final NHL game, and who now has to move across the continent while his nine-month pregnant wife awaits twins.

As of Monday morning, the NHL had yet to actually confirm whether or not Scott could play. It's hard to see that as anything other than a league sticking its finger in the air to get a read on which way public opinion is blowing. The NHL got what it apparently wanted all along, and now it can't even decide if it really wants it after all.

This has been a story that started off bad and has been steadily getting worse along the way. And frighteningly enough, we've still got almost two weeks until the All-Star Game. There's still time for some unfortunate public statements, a union grievance, and maybe even a legal challenge or two, not to mention the anonymously sourced whisper campaign against Scott that you just know is coming. I've got that one penciled in for Wednesday.

There's no happy ending here. Even a late reprieve that sends Scott to Nashville for the weekend won't be worth much. There's no way to make this right; we're reduced to looking for the least-bad option now. And thanks to a league that couldn't be bothered to fix an obvious problem until it was too late, there aren't many to be found.


A recent skid has knocked Tyler Seguin and the powerhouse Stars out of first place in the Central. —Photo by Charles DeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Race to the Cup

The five teams that appear to have the best shot at winning the Stanley Cup.

5. Florida Panthers (26-14-5, +14 true goals differential)The Blues have passed them in the standings, but can a team with a negative goals differential really be in the top five? Nope.

4. Los Angeles Kings (28-13-3, +19)—Their division lead has shrunk to ten points over the Coyotes. But those guys just traded away an all-star, so…

3. Dallas Stars (29-12-5, +30)—They've lost three straight and six of seven, and now the Hawks have passed them in the Central. Don't do this to me, guys. I've invested so much.

2. Chicago Blackhawks (30-13-4, +29)—Make it 11 straight wins. If you wanted to bump them up to No. 1, I'm not sure I'd have a good argument against it.

1. Washington Capitals (34-8-3, +51)—They still own a five-point cushion in the Presidents Trophy race. Their opponents for this week: Blue Jackets, Ducks, Penguins. It's like the Massive Disappointment Teams Tour of 2016.

So about those Florida Panthers…

Last week, with the Panthers riding a 12-game winning streak, I ranked them fifth while admitting that I still wasn't quite sold on them being the truly elite team that they'd looked like since early November. Presumably devastated by that lack of support, the Panthers went on to lose three straight, including Monday's controversial overtime tilt in Vancouver, a 6-0 blowout in Calgary on Wednesday, and Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Lightning.


READ MORE: The Panthers Are Relying Too Much on Roberto Luongo

The good news is that the Panthers are still holding down first place in the Atlantic, three points up on the Red Wings. They've also got six of their next seven at home, and knee-jerk jokes based on past years aside, they're playing to some pretty decent crowds these days.

But it's still not especially hard to imagine this Panthers team collapsing, either down the stretch or under the glare of playoff favorite status. They're young, with most of their key pieces under 25 years old, and their few veterans are so old that they could wear down as the season drags on. On paper, the talent level still isn't especially scary and the underlying numbers are a cause for concern—they're a bottom ten possession team and boast the league's third highest PDO (5v5, score adjusted).

But none of that has hurt Florida yet. And with Roberto Luongo enjoying one of the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career, the Panthers have the sort of goaltending edge that can paper over plenty of problems on most nights. Maybe more importantly, the Atlantic suddenly doesn't look so scary, with the Canadiens plummeting and the Lightning still spinning their wheels. This thing is up for grabs, and maybe there's still something to be said for a team being too young and inexperienced to know that its not supposed to be good yet.

Or maybe not. If I had to place my bet today, I still see the Panthers fading. A more reasonable second half, featuring occasional bursts of elite play mixed in with stretches of mediocrity, and a bottom-half playoff seed followed by a first-round exit still seems like the most likely scenario. But that would have been considered a success heading into the season, and it feels like a worst-case now—one that would still leave the Panthers looking ahead to a bright future.


And maybe, just maybe, the future is already here. I'm far from sold, and certainly I'm not the only one. But the Panthers don't seem to care—you know how kids today can be.

Race to No. 1

The five teams that appear to have the best chance of landing Auston Matthews, the likely No. 1 overall pick.

5. Calgary Flames (20-20-3, -14)—Is it possible to finish dead last in the league and still have home ice in the Pacific Division playoffs? At this point, I'm pretty sure that it is.

4. Buffalo Sabres (18-23-4, -15)—I think we all had the Sabres in the "who would hand Braden Holtby his first regulation loss since early November" pool, right?

3. Toronto Maple Leafs (16-20-7, -14)—On Saturday night in Boston, the Leafs played well but lost a close one in regulation. At this stage, that's probably Toronto's best possible outcome.

2. Edmonton Oilers (18-23-5, -26)—They snapped a four-game losing streak with a Saturday night shootout win for the second time this month. Consistency!

1. Columbus Blue Jackets (17-25-4, -31)—They've won two straight and have moved within one point of escaping the league's basement. I guess Ryan Johansen was the problem all along.

One team that's spent a good portion of the season hovering just above "bottom five" territory is the Colorado Avalanche. By this point, the case against them is well-worn. They remain a truly terrible possession team, one that sits dead last in the league in score-adjusted Corsi by a wide margin; the next worst team, the Ottawa Senators, is closer to 24th than to the Avalanche at No. 30.


Awful possession is almost always fatal in the long run, but it can be overcome in the short term with a combination of goaltending, special teams and shooting percentage. In the Avalanche's case, the goaltending has been merely OK, but their power play is among the best in the league and they're a top five team in overall shooting percentage.

None of that has exactly been enough to make them a good team. But by the start of the weekend, it was at least enough to get them into the Western Conference's final wild-card spot. Saturday's loss to the lowly Blue Jackets cost them that spot, and was exactly the sort of game that teams on the playoff bubble can't afford to cough up in the dying minutes of regulation. But the fact remains that the Avalanche are solidly in the race, which was more than most expected, and could keep them from being sellers at this year's trade deadline.

That trade deadline, by the way, arrives Feb. 29. Two days before that, Colorado will finally get to host its first outdoor game, as the Avalanche and Red Wings take the ice at Coors Field. The legendary rivalry between the two teams has faded over the years, but the event will be a nice showcase for the city and franchise, and may yet feature a pair of playoff-bound teams.

But that leads us to what I'd think we'd all agree is a far more pressing topic… can we take a second to talk about those alumni rosters? Given the history between the two teams, fans could be forgiven for being more interested in the outdoor alumni game than the main event, but the initial rosters released on Friday won't do much to stoke any old fires. That Avalanche roster looks like it could probably win the Pacific today, but the Red Wings have some work to do—when Martin Lapointe is one of names you're highlighting in your press release, you've left out a few names that were integral to the rivalry. No Steve Yzerman, no Sergei Fedorov, no Brendan Shanahan. No Darren McCarty, despite an earlier indication that he'd be playing. And no goalies, which would make this the first Red Wings team to take to the ice without any goaltending since the 1993 playoffs.


That last bit is a problem, since the Avs' roster features Patrick Roy, and his battles with his Red Wings' counterpart were the best part of the rivalry. The NHL says that "additions to the rosters will be announced in the coming weeks" and that's good, because there's still time to fix this. I'll even help. Hey, NHL, there are only three options when it comes to a Red Wings alumni game goalie facing Roy and the Avalanche:

1. Mike Vernon

2. Chris Osgood

3. Mike Vernon and Chris Osgood coming out together to Demolition's theme music.

Make it happen, Red Wings. And you're welcome.

Assorted thoughts

  • One of the longest running sub-plots of the season came to an end over the weekend, with news that Anze Kopitar had finally signed an extension with the Kings. The front-loaded deal is for the maximum eight years, and carries an annual cap hit of $10 million. Over to you, Steven Stamkos.

  • Clocking in at slightly less than Kopitar money, Oilers goalie Cam Talbot signed a three-year extension with a cap hit just south of $4.2 million. Talbot's an interesting case, breaking into the league late at the age of 26 and then posting excellent numbers over a limited sample, and this meet-in-the-middle deal would seem to reflect that.

  • We have (yet another) trade to announce: The Ducks sent Carl Hagelin to the Penguins for David Perron and Adam Clendening. Hagelin had never quite clicked in Anaheim, scoring just four goals in 43 games after coming over in an offseason trade with the Rangers. Perron scored in his Ducks debut on Sunday.


  • Analytics fans got some bad news Saturday, as popular stats site War on Ice announced that its winding down operations. The site will close down at the end of the season, at which point it will still be more useful than the enhanced stats pages.

  • The Caps earned a win over the Rangers for the second straight weekend, coming away with a 5-2 decision on home ice Sunday afternoon on the strength of a Justin Williams hat trick. Holtby left late in the second period due to dehydration, which seems to be a recurring issue for him.

  • Philadelphia's Ryan White can expect a call from the league's department of player safety over this ugly high hit on Detroit's Tomas Jurco. White got five and a game; the Flyers ended up winning in a shootout.

  • Another questionable hit: Islanders forward Mikhail Grabovski got five and a game for this hit from behind on Vancouver's Henrik Sedin, who did not return. The Canucks won 2-1 in a shootout.

  • The Canadiens lost two more over the weekend, and have now dropped four straight to fall to fifth in the Atlantic. Montreal holds the East's last wild card, and as of this morning are the only Canadian team with a postseason spot.

  • Also losers of four straight: the Wild, who lost to division rivals Winnipeg and Nashville and now head out for the Dreaded Three-Game California Road Trip™.

  • Speaking of California, the Sharks have won five straight. Granted, the first four of those came against Canadian teams and should only count for three given the conversion rate, but Saturday's overtime win over the Stars was impressive.

Finally, the strangest injury of the week award goes to Pittsburgh's David Warsofsky, the victim of this bizarre play in which he was taken out by sliding referee Tim Peel. His status for Monday's game in St. Louis is unknown.