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Here’s the list of NHL brawlers still unemployed, courtesy of SI.com: Paul Bissonnette, Zenon Konopka, Mike Rupp, Kevin Westgarth, Krys Barch, George Parros.
Although a few of them may find a home before the 2014-15 season starts, it’s yet another indication that the league is moving away from the heavyweights that were once a staple on team rosters. It also makes the Sharks’ offseason signing of 31-year-old John Scott to a one-year, $700,000 contract all the more curious.
[RELATED: Sharks sign 'tough guy' John Scott]
Anyone who has followed Scott’s career knows that he’s primarily about policing the ice. He’s not going to play more than a few minutes a game (he averaged less than seven minutes last season, posting one goal and 125 penalty minutes in 56 games), and he’s supposed to act as a deterrent for cheap shots against his own teammates.
But it’s becoming more and more clear that these types of players are being phased out of the NHL, as evidenced by the unrestricted free agents listed above.
Scott is known as a solid locker room guy, and while that’s all well and good, his presence still seems to conflict with the Sharks’ stated goal of giving their younger players the opportunity to secure a roster spot. Guys like Freddie Hamilton and Eriah Hayes immediately come to mind as players that probably don’t project to anything more than a bottom six role, and both of whom got a taste of the NHL last season. Now, with Scott on the roster, their chances for the upcoming season are more limited.
It’s not like the Sharks lack toughness on their roster, either. Mike Brown, Andrew Desjardins, Adam Burish and Tommy Wingels have never been afraid to drop the gloves when necessary. There’s also still a guy around named Raffi Torres who has two years left on his contract, and although Torres isn’t much of a fighter anymore, he’s known for throwing the occasional devastating body check and sticking up for his teammates.
The Sharks signed Brown to a two-year contract extension earlier this summer, which was the right move. Brown is well liked by his teammates and plays a role on certain nights. The Scott signing, though, I can’t figure out.
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Some are calling it the summer of advanced statistics.
The Edmonton Oilers were the latest team to reportedly hire a guru in that department, joining clubs like the Toronto Maple Leafs, among others, who hired stat-centric 28-year-old Kyle Dubas as an assistant general manager.
A few weeks ago, I asked Doug Wilson how much weight the Sharks put into statistics like Corsi rating, which judges a players’ on-ice performance primarily through shot attempts. My impression was that the it’s something the Sharks consider, which makes sense, as they’ve been one of the better possession teams in the NHL for several years.
The best window into their philosophy on the subject, though, came from scouting director Tim Burke in his pre-NHL Draft media availability in June. According to Burke, the Sharks consider much more than traditional stats when it comes to selecting prospects.
“Assuming that the skating and the raw skills are there, it’s how many plays is he in in that game?” Burke said. “Our guys go in and see him, and we don’t want holes in his resume. … If he has a deficiency, we don’t want it to be in his consistency.”
Put another way, if a player the Sharks are looking at is on the ice for scoring chances, that’s just as important in their evaluation as whether the puck goes in the net.
Still, when the subject of advanced stats comes up, I can't help but recall Todd McLellan’s humorous response last November when meeting with reporters outside of the visiting locker room in Vancouver:
“I can’t tell you what a Corsi is. I can’t tell you what all these stats are. I’m a simple guy from Saskatchewan,” McLellan said. “I rely on my eyes and my gut. The coaches in this league watch more video than ever before and they know the players as individuals, they don’t know them as numbers or stats.”
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When will the NHL make the Sharks-LA Kings outdoor game official? That’s a question I’ve heard frequently in recent weeks.
The short answer is I don’t know, but I asked a league official at the draft in June, and he didn’t know at that point, either. The only thing he could pass along is that these games require so much planning and logistics that it can take some time to get team and stadium officials to sign off on everything that is required to build a hockey rink from scratch.
Keep in mind, too, that although the location of the 2015 Winter Classic has been known to be Washington, DC for some time, there has amazingly been no official announcement yet for the venue of that game between the Capitals and Blackhawks.