"Gee, imagine that, (Fill in name here) was on the ice for that goal against. Shocking." - Any random hockey fan
Every fan base has a guy they love to hate. Never mind the fact they wear the home team's sweater, were drafted a developed by the organization, or had that one really good season three years ago.
Sure, the fault lies with the management, maybe even the coach, but it is difficult to call out the GM after your team just gave up its 14th straight on the penalty kill, all while the same hack defenseman just stands there and watches as your goalie tries to see around Sean Avery or Thomas Homstrom's rear end.
Here in Minnesota, we are no exception. In the past, we had Filip Kuba, who seemed to be on the ice for every goal scored against the Wild in their second playoff run. Yes, the Wild were actually in the playoffs once upon a time. Ask your grandpa, he'll remember.
After Kuba, we had Martin Skoula, oh he of the human traffic pylon cross breeding. Then came Antti Miettinen and his inability to hit an open net from six feet away. To add to the fun, Cam Barker, a former third overall pick, was brought in to have concrete skates and get beat to every puck in his short run with the team.
Finally, there was James Sheppard, the poster boy for a young franchise destroyed by poor drafting and development. If Sheppard was on the ice, fans just knew something was going to go terribly wrong. It just had to. Sheppard was out there.
A quick Twitter poll will tell you every team has this guy. Brett Lebda in Toronto, Olli Jokinen in Calgary, Kevin Klein in Nashville, Brian Rolston in New Jersey, Roberto Luongo in Vancouver, Jiri Hudler in Detroit, Joe Mauer for the Twins (thanks Jesse)... wait, I went too far. The point is, you know who that guy is on your favorite squad.
We all know there are generally six guys on the ice, all contributing to whatever failure we just witnessed. No one man is to blame when a goal is scored. Well... unless you're Martin Skoula. Still, the Lebdas and Luongos of the world take the blame, it adds up, snowballs and that guy becomes that guy. After that, he could win the Stanley Cup-clinching goal and he still wouldn't be able to shed the sins of his past.
Issues arise when scapegoats are traded away. Then, the fans are left to scrounge around, looking for a new reason why their favorite squad won't go 82-0 this season. The Wild bought out Barker, failed to offer Miettinen a new contract, and traded Sheppard to the Sharks. Who in the world are Wild fans going to blame this year? Who knows, but without a doubt, someone will step forward. They always do.
The only problem with labeling these guys "scapegoats," is that the definition of the word suggests that they are not truly to blame, but simply made to suffer the sins of others. And we all know that it really is our guy's fault. Right?
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.