The Backcheck: Dennis Wideman, John Scott, and Montreal Should Probably Tank

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Every week, Sportsnet’s  Eliotte Friedman writes a column called “30 Thoughts” and it’s basically the NHL article I look most forward to, as it gives—you guessed it—30 tidbits about the goings on the NHL based off of info Friedman has gotten from his sources.

In the past, former TheScore.com writer Justin Bourne wrote the second article I most looked forward to, “Thoughts on Thoughts” in which Bourne picked his five favorite Friedman thoughts and elaborated.

Unfortunately for those who loving reading Hockey articles—but fabulously for Justin Bourne himself—Bourne was hired by the Toronto Marlies as their video coach and so his article has ceased to exist.

However! As is the American way, I shall not let a good idea go to waste!  So for this column, “The Backcheck,” I am going to rip off Coach Bourne and basically co-opt his idea for TheThreeFour.com’s purposes.

Each week, following Elliotte Friedman’s wonderful piece, I will go back (get it? Backcheck?) through—however many—tidbits that interested me and give my opinion on them. It may be five, like Bourne’s; it may be 1, who knows? Whatever topics need to be elaborated on shall be.

This week’s 30 Thoughts: All eyes on Dennis Wideman hearing

I wanted to start with the dominant story over the next 24 hours — Dennis Wideman’s disciplinary hearing for knocking down linesman Don Henderson….This isn’t a Player Safety Issue, so Colin Campbell rules on the suspension, not Stephane Quintal. Since there was no game misconduct on the play, there are no specific guidelines Campbell must follow. He has the power to punish as he sees fit….As is normal, the NHLPA will represent Wideman, arguing for as low a number as possible. (The Flames will defend him too, adding a storyline we will discuss shortly.) What makes this situation different is the inclusion of the Officials’ Association. It’s a powerful group, and it will push for harsh justice…. Sportsnet’s Mark Spector had an interesting take last weekend, writing that, in his opinion, a suspension of under 10 games could provoke blowback…. Wideman must plead his case. Word is he’s stunned and hurt by the damage to his on-ice reputation, which, previous to this, is very clean. Only twice in his 11 seasons has he reached 50 penalty minutes, and he’s on-pace for 33 this year. He’s never received a major penalty for anything other than a fight. He’s had eight of those, two of them this year, his first since October 2010. So, it’s not like he’d be a very high pick in the “this is a guy who’s going to knock over a linesman” poll.

Not to mention the fact that knocking over a linesman doesn’t make any sense. I’ve refrained from discussing this much because I grew up in the same town as Dennis Wideman and I unapologetically have a soft-spot for him, but since word came Wednesday that Wideman has been suspended 20 games by the NHL for the incident I thought I’d touch on it briefly.

The NHL was definitely in a tough spot on this one, and I think they actually had to suspend Wideman for the 20 games. But, I don’t think Wideman’s reputation should take a hit here, because it doesn’t make any sense to hit a linesman.

Linesmen can’t call penalties, so if Wideman was upset that there was no call on the play that saw him get hit, then if he was so enraged that he wanted to hit an official, he’d go after the referee. So if Wideman was deliberately going after anyone, he went after the wrong guy.

I think this is more of a case that Wideman didn’t make a good enough effort to get out of the way. He got hit, he was ticked there was no call, wasn’t paying attention on his way back to the bench—for whatever reason, woozy, looking at his skates, whatever—and at the last second he saw someone in stripes and just didn’t try to get out of the way. I think it’s very unfair to say he went out of his way to hit  a ref, which is what some outlets (*cough* ESPN *cough*) have been suggesting. And, if you go by the letter of the law, which is what the NHL did, the 20 games makes sense. Look at rule 40.2.

Basically, what the NHL is claiming that Wideman should have known that by not getting out of the way, there was a good chance that the linesman could be hurt. The liney’s back was to Wideman and he, a smaller person than Wideman, was moving at a good clip. Any impact from Wideman’s end was going to knock the linesman over.

With this “should have reasonably known” ruling, it gives Wideman a better than ought chance in his appeal to get the games reduced, which takes the onus out of the NHLs hands when it comes to the Officials’ Association. The NHL will say they gave the player 20 games; it’s not their fault (if) the arbitrator reduces the amount because Wideman argues his case well.

A few hours after the All-Star Game, John Scott’s parents, Howard and Marilyn, were relaxing with close friends Ian and Marie Gallagher, who joined them for the weekend.

“When John graduated Grade 12,” Marilyn quietly said, “They asked him on-stage what he wanted to be. He said he wanted to play in the NHL. They laughed at him.”

We are 33 days into 2016, and it’s going to be hard to top this story this year. We talked briefly about what I’d said and written, that I didn’t like the way people used him to make fun of the NHL at the start. Playing almost 300 games is to be respected, no matter your role. That’s why the highlight for me was not his first goal, but the second. Scoring that one took real ability and skill. That was a snipe.

I’ve tweeted and written about how great John Scott’s All-Star inclusion was, and I’m on record as agreeing with Friedman about how I believe that this all started out as voters laughing at John Scott, and now I’m agreeing with Friedman that Scott’s second goal was a snipe. But as I’ve already written, it didn’t really surprise me.

Let’s not kid ourselves: John Scott, skill-wise, stinks as an NHLer. And he’s probably not that great in the AHL. But he’s still a pro hockey player, and he’s still better than all of us watching from our couches. A lot of people think  that because, when up against a Sidney Crosby, John Scott looks terrible, Scott wouldn’t be able to play in their local men’s league. Well, they’re wrong. Heck, just practicing with Sidney Crosbys or anyone at the Pro level will make you a better hockey player. Scott’s been doing that since 2006. 10 years as a Pro player. He’s better than you are, guy who leads his men’s league team in scoring. Don’t confuse bad-at-Pro with bad-at-Hockey.

How determined were the players to make Scott look good? His first event was the hardest shot. Initially, one of the players said with a laugh, it was suggested to not include Shea Weber so he had a better chance. Then, they remembered they were in Nashville.

Remember how I said hockey players are brethren?

Another one to look out for is Carey Price, if only to troll us by practising in a different piece of equipment every day. My guess is it’s a knee injury, something a skater could play with but a goalie can’t. No one knows when or if he’s going to return, and Montreal isn’t making any short-term moves until that’s answered. I’ve wondered why Price took that trip to see a second opinion in New York. Now that it’s lasted this long, there’s only one logical explanation: Les Canadiens were told he didn’t need surgery and the goalie wanted to make sure. Sometimes those injuries you can’t fix with a scalpel are worse.

If I’m Marc Bergevin, if Carey Price isn’t back within the next 14 days I’m shutting him down for the season, going full tank-mode, and hoping for Auston Matthews. If they can get Matthews in the draft, they’d have the holy trinity of building a franchise. A top line center in Matthews, a stud defenseman in PK Subban, and the best goalie on the planet in Price. Despite some—I don’t want to say dumb-dumbs—suggesting Montreal should consider trading PK, that is just a ridiculous suggestion.

Every team desires the hockey holy trinity. If you trade Subban for a top line center this season, next season you’ll be saying that you’re just a PK Subban away from being great. Hold on to your two franchise guys (D and G) and try to acquire the last (C) by some other means.

If you tank this season and get Matthews, great. If you tank this season and don’t get him…well, you didn’t have the C to begin with, so you’re just back to having the top tier D and the best goalie in the world, which got you off to an unreal start this season, so in either case, there’s no need to push Price into a unfavorable situation this season if he doesn’t get 100% real soon.

What do you think?