|| Derek Roy (r) traded for Steve Ott (l)
Just a few weeks after the Niagara Falls Reporter called out the Buffalo Sabres’ organization for its commitment to failure, mediocrity and cowardice, the team appears to have reversed itself with the acquisition of tough guy players, John Scott and Steve Ott. This is an indication that GM Darcy Regier knows how to read.
Scott, who stands 6’8” and weighs 270 lbs, is one of the best fighters in the NHL. He comes to the Sabres in an exchange for soft-nosed center Derek Roy.
Last year, the Sabres displayed a stunning yellow streak following the Ryan Miller-Milan Lucic incident in which the tough Boston bruiser concussed Buffalo ’s goalie with a cheap-shot forearm to the head. The Sabres failed to respond and became the laughingstock of the league. The Sabres, comprised predominantly of pacifists, underachieved the rest of the season and failed to make the playoffs.
The timing couldn’t be better for the acquisition of Scott and Ott, as the Reporter was seriously considering calling on the NHL to craft special anti-bullying regulations to protect the timid Sabres from Bruin thugs like Lucic and Sean Thornton and other scary players in the league.
It was suggested the league’s “You Can Play” propaganda project, which promotes homosexuality by addressing alleged homophobia among players, was actually targeting certain Sabres as poster boys.
Regardless of these unsubstantiated rumors, Buffalo must man-up quickly if it hopes to improve on last season’s performance. The addition of enforcer Scott, however, is a double-edged sword. Oftentimes, a soft team picks up a player like him, sits back and lets him do the fighting for them. If the Sabres take this approach, his signing will be in vain.
Despite coach Lindy Ruff’s insistence that the Miller-Lucic incident has been “settled,” and the team can move on, Buffalo has yet to earn respect from Boston or the rest of the league.
The Sabres’ predicament is reminiscent of a situation involving the Boston Bruins and the Minnesota North Stars in 1977.
Boston ’s rugged winger Terry O’Reilly destroyed Minnesota captain Steve Jensen in one of the most lopsided fights in NHL history. Then Bruin tough John Wensink grabbed forward Alex Pirus and pounded him into submission. Then Wensink skated directly in front of the Minnesota bench and challenged the entire team. Not a player accepted.
The humiliating scene haunted Minnesota for years. It was not until 1981 that Minnesota set things right. In a game at the Boston Garden, Minnesota instigated one of the most fight-filled evenings in NHL history. The first period featured 10 fights and a bench-clearing brawl. The game set records for penalties (84) and penalty minutes (392). Following the game, coaches, Gerry Cheevers and Glen Sonmor nearly came to blows.
The North Stars knew the only way to exorcise demons that lingered within the organization from the Wensink incident was to go to Boston and beat the Bruins at their own game.
Similarly, the only way the Sabres are going to win the respect of Boston and the rest of the league is to earn it. John Scott can’t do this alone. The rest of the team has to follow.
No one is suggesting the next time the Sabres and Bruins meet that they empty the benches and incite mayhem. The suspensions incurred by players who act in this manner are too severe to warrant consideration. But a message must be sent to Boston and the NHL: Teams and players that take liberties with the Sabres are going to be dealt with swiftly and decisively.
Only then will the Sabres’ organization be able to put the degrading Miller-Lucic incident behind them and get back to the business of achieving owner Terry Pegula’s goal of winning the Stanley Cup.