Saturday, March 21, 2009

Scouts Notes, March—April, 1975

The first season of NHL hockey in Kansas City ended with a whimper over the course of March and April in 1975. The Scouts eked out just one victory in that time, going 1-13-3 (.147). Jay Greenberg penned a piece for the March 25th Star examining possible reasons for the sharp drop off after a relatively successful stretch over January and February:

“The most tangible reasons are the injuries to Jean-Guy Lagace and Simon Nolet. Lagace’s departure with a fractured ankle turned out to be more critical than feared and emphasizes how important he is to the club’s future.

‘He’s the type of guy who motivates,’ says Gary Croteau. ‘Not only verbally but by the way he plays, too. He’s experienced, too; he helps the younger guys. He starts things. It’s contagious.’ ...The power play has been abysmal since (Lagace) was lost.

Nolet has been back now for nine games, but (until recently) wasn’t the same player he had been before being shelved.”

Greenberg also theorized that since the Scouts were already assured of besting the Capitals in the standings and having a moderately respectable expansion year, the Scouts had little motivation during the end of the season.

Some notes:

• The Scouts signed defenseman Larry Johnston on February 28 for the remainder of the year and the following season. Johnston had been with the Baltimore Blades of the WHA, but was released by mutual agreement so that he could sign with the Scouts. Johnston told the Star that the WHA was a “nightmare,” and that he was “anxious to get back to the NHL.” Johnston had a history of piling up penalty minutes in every league he’d played in.

• The below ad ran in the March 2nd Star and details promotions for March home games. Greenberg revealed in an article that the Scouts had just hired an advertising firm in February, and the change is reflected in this ad. Ads for home games ran in the Star throughout the year, but they were small, unimpressive things that promised little in the way of promotions other than “plenty of parking.” I realize that the world of marketing and advertising is vastly different today than it was in the mid-’70s, but the lack of promotion during the early days of the Scouts seems downright asinine. Owner Ed Thompson vastly underestimated the work that needed to be done to sell the sport and team to a market like Kansas City, and that has a lot to do with why the Scouts were gone after just two years.

• On March 5th, the Penguins came to town, and goaltenders Denis Herron and Michel Plasse, who had been swapped for each other earlier in the season, faced each other. Perhaps fittingly, they dueled to a 4-4 tie. “They didn’t beat me,” said Plasse. “I didn’t lose to them,” said Herron.

• The amount of coverage the Star gave to the team decreased noticeably over the end of the season.

• Great quote from a March 11th Times story by Greenberg: “(Coach) Bep (Guidolin) offered anxiety over the NHL trading one reason for the recent lethargy. ‘That’s all I’ve been hearing for the last two weeks,’ he said. ‘ ‘When’s the trading deadline?’...A player came up to me today and asked me when it was. I told him it was over. I told him we tried to trade him but nobody wanted him. That’ll shut him up.’ ”

• As late as March 11th, the Scouts trailed the North Stars in the standings by just six points, but finished the year 12 points behind them.

• Guy Lafleur scored his 50th goal of the year against the Scouts on March 29th in Montreal.

• Wilf Paiement achieved a more modest milestone the next night by potting his 25th. I say modest, but 25 is a nice mark for a rookie on a bad team. He finished the year with 26 goals, but only 13 assists.

• Jay Greenberg offered this season summary:

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