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SAN JOSE – John Scott is just like any other player skating with a new team – he wants to make a good first impression on his coaches and teammates.
On the third day of training camp, that’s what he did in an intra-squad scrimmage. Scott took exception to Taylor Doherty’s thundering hit on linemate Eriah Hayes, gave Doherty a forearm shot, and as he turned to skate away was on the receiving end of a two-handed slash to the back of the leg by Doherty.
The two tallest trees in the Sharks’ forest – both stand at six-feet-eight-inches tall – immediately dropped their gloves and grabbed each other’s sweaters. Had they gone through with it, the fight would have been a sight to behold.
No punches were thrown, though, which was probably a good thing as no one needs to get hurt in training camp. Still, the brief quarrel was an example of what Scott’s role will be when he suits up in a regular season game for San Jose.
“It was just one of those things. He hit my guy, I didn’t really care for it,” Scott said. “I gave him a little nudge. He slashed me and I kind of went after him. Cooler heads prevailed, and we went our separate ways.”
Todd McLellan said: “I thought it was a really good moment for our team. Taylor finished a teammate really hard and John stepped in. He let everybody know what his job was. Taylor responded well. We didn’t need to wound or injure anybody. They handled it very well, and we moved on.”
Scott's role is clearly defined. He’s not going to play every night, and even when he’s in the lineup, his minutes will likely be limited. In 56 games with Buffalo last season, Scott had one goal and 125 penalty minutes – including five fights – while playing just 6:45 per game.
He is here to deter opponents from making mush of the Sharks’ skilled players, something he and the team’s brass believe is essential. Last season, Dan Boyle was never the same player after the Blues’ Maxim Lapierre ran him into the boards from behind, while Dustin Brown ruined Tomas Hert’s bid for the Calder Trophy with a questionable knee in mid-December.
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“If someone goes out there and they know I’m on the other bench, I think they’re going to think twice about running around that game,” Scott said. “Whether it’s a clean hit or a dirty hit, I don’t think those guys are going to be as brave or as running around as much.”
McLellan said: “He brings an element of security.”
The era of staged fighting in the NHL is coming to an end, something Scott says he actually agrees with. Many teams are opting to ice more skilled fourth liners, rather than cement-heads whose only tool is an ability to throw haymakers.
McLellan suggested that Scott’s hockey IQ is high.
“He has, throughout the first three days, shown us that he understands the game,” McLellan said. “He positions himself properly and does that type of stuff. He also has played both as a defenseman and as a forward in the NHL, so he has that set of tools within him.”
Scott said: “If I couldn’t play or get up and down the ice I think I’d be out of the league. I think they’ve gotten rid of the one-dimensional guys who just drop their mitts and play two seconds.”
Still, dropping the mitts – or at least the threat of doing so – will remain a part of Scott’s repertoire.
“It’s always going to be important I think to have guys patrol the ice,” Scott said. “I know no one likes to hear that, but we have skilled guys. Other [teams] have skilled guys. I don’t like when teams take liberties and take runs.”