GLENDALE, Ariz. — In the oversimplified court of public opinion, Coyotes forward John Scott carries two labels. He’s a good locker-room guy and he’s a skill-deficient goon.
Scott hates both labels.
“The guys who say I’m just a room guy, I guess I am, but (expletive), I’m a good hockey player, too,” Scott said Thursday after practice. “I’m not just a room guy. I pride myself on being a well-rounded player. I’ve transitioned from just being a two-minutes-a-game and fights guy to now I can easily play 10 minutes and do my role and contribute in other ways.”
Scott doesn’t expect to change anyone’s opinion. He has just 10 points in 276 career NHL games over seven-plus NHL seasons. He also has a few infractions on his resume that went viral and solidified his latter reputation, like this shot to the head of Boston forward Loui Eriksson in 2013.
Scott isn’t going to play 82 games a season and he’s not going to play heavy minutes in the games in which he does appear. The 6-foot-8, 260-pound, 33-year-old forward is always going to fill the same role he is currently filling for the Coyotes.
He was signed to a one-year, $575,000 deal this summer to protect the younger and more-skilled players on Arizona’s roster. He is here to fill in when injuries have depleted that roster, he is here is be a positive voice in the locker room and he will likely have to endure more indignities from fans and even his general manager, who waived him on Oct. 8 to create roster flexibility.
Still, Scott wishes fans would notice that he played 13 shifts and logged 8:11 of ice time in a 6-0 loss in Boston on Tuesday, yet still finished as one of two Coyotes with an even rating. He wishes fans would notice that his line logged a lot of offensive-zone time. He wishes fans had noticed the scoring chance he created in a game where the Coyotes had precious few.
“I used to let it affect me, but I don’t even read the paper any more or look at the news because I know it’s going to be bad,” Scott said. “I’ll score a goal and everyone will make a joke of it. Then I’ll get into a few fights and everyone will be just lambasting me. I’m damned if I do; damned if I don’t.”
Instead, Scott contents himself by making an impact in the only ways for which he is afforded the opportunity.
“He adds some emotion to our team, actually,” said coach Dave Tippett, who credits Scott for coming in and doing his job. “He talks; he’s got some juice to him. Sometimes, you need that.”
Scott has also become a favorite of the younger players on the team.
“He gets along and is friendly to everyone,” defenseman Connor Murphy said. “Even when he’s not playing, he’s supportive and passionate about the team winning.”
When centers Martin Hanzal and Antoine Vermette return to the lineup, that is precisely what Scott will be doing as a healthy scratch — a role he held for the first seven games of this season.
“When you’re young coming up, you want to play 20 minutes. You want to be the guy and then you finally realize ‘OK, that’s not my role. That’s not where I’m going to fit in in this league’ and you just accept it and learn to do other things,” Scott said. “My first few years, I got a little frustrated and I got a little angry, but as it’s happened over and over and over again, it’s gotten easier. You learn to support the guys a little more and be a positive role model on the team instead of being so negative.
“That’s going to be my role so I just kind of tune out the other noise. If someone wants to make fun of the way I play or make fun of my game that’s fine. I don’t let it affect me. I know how the guys in here feel about me and I know how all of my ex-teammates feel about me. If it makes someone feel good to chirp me they can go ahead and do it.”