Faceoff: No winners in the John Scott debacle
For years, I've argued that the NHL All-Star Game had morphed into a miserable, embarrassing fiasco that couldn't possibly get any worse. I'll give the league credit where it's due: it went out this year and proved me wrong.
On Friday, the Coyotes traded John Scott to the Canadiens, who immediately assigned him to their AHL squad. Sunday, he took the warmup before being listed as a healthy scratch. None of that would be unusual, except that Scott also happens to have recently been elected captain of the Pacific Division All-Star team. So to summarize: as of today, the captain of the Pacific Division entry for the NHL All-Star Game is neither in the Pacific Division nor the NHL. He is also, presumably, no longer an All-Star, although we'll get to that in a minute.
You know the backstory by now. This whole mess started off with a round of online ballot-box stuffing orchestrated by fans as a joke, one targeted largely at the league but that also took aim at Scott himself. There was an unmistakably mean-spirited edge to the fun for many, and that's hung over the story like a bad smell despite predictable attempts to reimagine the whole thing as some sort of feel-good story. The fact that the league left itself wide open to this sort of abuse by offering up a ridiculous fan-voting system didn't help matters.
After some initial reluctance, Scott eventually decided that he would honor the results and embrace his all-star status. You or I may not have made the same choice, but that's hardly important. Whatever the circumstances, Scott was voted in, and he had a right to handle it however he chose. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the player and his family, not to mention a chance at the $90,000 prize money awarded to players on the winning team—no small amount for a player earning the league minimum of $575,000. While nobody likes to be the butt of a joke, Scott seemed to have decided to make the best of it.
If only the NHL had done the same. While the NHL publicly acknowledged the vote as legitimate, it's now clear the league and Coyotes were working behind the scenes to convince Scott to stay home. Scott refused, and that's led to speculation that the NHL may have twisted a few arms to make Friday's trade happen.
Let's be clear: if the NHL actually got involved in orchestrating a trade to protect the All-Star Game and/or punish Scott for refusing to step aside, then we've got a scandal on our hands. The league has no place—none at all—in getting involved with facilitating transactions between teams, and if it turns out that someone at the league office was greasing the skids to make a Scott trade happen, people should lose their jobs.