The relationship between Sean Avery and the New York Rangers is best described as a bad soap opera. It had it all. Ups, downs, drama, an arrest and scandals. John Tortorella and the Rangers organization made it clear that Avery's time with the club is done. But did the Rangers make the right move?
Sean Avery made an appearance on Bravo Television where he announced his retirement. "I officially retired. I threw my skates in the Hudson," Avery told Nicole Richie when interviewed. If Avery were to have filed retirement papers with the NHL or the players' association, he would have to forfeit any salary owed to him. Seeing how the Hudson couldn't sink an airplane, Avery's skates are probably still resting atop the murky water of the Hudson should the Rangers choose to rekindle a relationship.
Sean Avery came over in the 2006-2007 season via trade with the Los Angeles Kings. Avery immediately made an impact on Broadway. In 29 games, Avery posted 20 points. He scored eight goals, assisted on 12, and was a plus-11. That season, Avery saw 10 postseason games and registered one goal and four assists.
Avery spent the following season with the club, seeing the ice in 57 games. That season he scored 33 points, with 15 of them being goals. Once again, Avery played solidly in the postseason. In eight games, he walked away with seven points.
After that season Avery decided to test the free-agency market. The Dallas Stars saw some potential with this super-pest. His time is Dallas was cut short due to a suspension brought on for his unprofessional comments during an interview. His "sloppy seconds" remarks earned him a John Tortorella public slaying (from the Huffington Post). While a commentator for TSN, Tortorella made it publicly clear he was not a fan of Sean Avery.
Tortorella was quoted:
He's embarrassed himself, he's embarrassed the organization, he's embarrassed the league and he's embarrassed his teammates, who have to look out for him. Sent him home. He doesn't belong in the league.
Of course, Tortorella chose a few coarse words in his description of Sean Avery.
The Rangers weren't playing well at this point and decided to claim Sean Avery off waivers for a discounted price, thus beginning the on-again, off-again relationship we have grown to love. This time he was playing for John Tortorella, not Tom Renney. Cue drama.
It is evident that neither Tortorella, nor Avery ever warmed up to one another. Even with the dysfunctional player-coach relationship, Avery saw time on the top line with Gaborik. That year in the playoffs, the Avery/Boyle/Prust line was not only one of the most energetic lines, they were one of the most efficient ones.
Avery's style of play didn't change during his tenure with Tortorella, but it was clear that he wasn't the same player he was when Tom Renney was behind the bench. Avery seemed like he was playing not to disappoint Tortorella, causing a drop in his effectiveness.
So, could Sean Avery have helped the Rangers this postseason?
John Tortorella has put together a blue collar team. He has a team that prides themselves in blocking shots, chipping the puck out of their zone, getting the puck deep and winning the down low battles. Torts wants his team to play an up-tempo game, finishing checks and forechecking furiously.
Avery fits this mold perfectly. Other than his pest-like antics and leadership qualities, his game could be very comparable to that of Rangers captain, Ryan Callahan. Sean Avery is a lunch pail, blue collar player. He worked hard on the ice. He would do little things so the superstars, like Gaborik and Richards, wouldn't have to. And even more valuable, his presences would detour the opposing players from taking runs at the Rangers' top guys.
Avery also had a way of taking the opposing guys off their game. His antics would cause the other players to focus on him and not on the game at hand.
I think he wants to win. Sometimes he looks like an idiot and it may look bad, but it's probably effective. The kid is a competitor. He has a difficult job, but he's trying to win night in and night out and that's what is the most important thing.
Many would argue that Sean Avery takes bad penalties. That the officials wouldn't give him the borderline calls, instead making questionable calls against the agitator. In some extent this is true, but Avery managed to draw more calls then he took. Tortorella also doesn't help this situation by publicly criticizing officials' decisions in his postgame interviews.
What is unknown is Avery off the ice and in the locker room, but that is one reason the Rangers brought in Brad Richards and paid him a huge contract. For leadership. Let him and the captain deal with Avery.
The Rangers could have used his services this year. Personally, he would have been a better option then John Mitchell, Michael Rupp and possibly Stu Bickel. Avery already was familiar with Gaborik and had success on a line paired with Boyle and Prust.
Some players have the ability to spark energy in the crowd. This year, rookie Chris Kreider did that for the Rangers. Even with his clutch plays, he too found himself under the gun from coach John Tortorella. Torts admitted that the puck seemed to find Kreider (per ESPN), but that couldn't keep Chris from flirting with a trip to Tortorella's doghouse.
Guys like this become X-factors in the playoffs and Avery, at times, fit this mold.
Why wouldn't you want multiple impact players on the ice?