With reports surfacing in the past week that the Rangers are possibly looking to bring Avery back, there are mixed emotions by all. The Dallas Stars are happy they won't have to deal with Avery and his antics anymore. Gary Bettman is fearing the day Avery makes it back on NHL ice and Martin Brodeur is shaking in his leg pads.
In the 2005-2006 season, the New Jersey Devils won their last 11 games, took the Atlantic division on the last day of the season and then swept the Rangers in the first round. However, the next time they met in the playoffs in the 2007-2008 season, the Rangers took the series 4-1, much of it from Avery getting into Brodeur's head.
Avery distracted Brodeur in front of the net by facing him and getting his stick and hands just inches from Brodeur's face, blocking the goalie's view of the game. Players, fans, coaches and announcers knew Avery was the league's poster boy for being a pain, but this move instantly put Avery on another level. The only thing that made this even worse? Avery scored later on the same shift.
The next day, the league adopted the “Avery Rule” so the antics could not continue. As a Rangers fan, I was simply amazed at what he was doing. Admittedly, if I had been a fan of any other team in the NHL I would want the Devils to knock him out of the game and/or series.
I'm not saying everyone on the Rangers loved what he did. All I'm saying is you cannot deny Avery's positive presence on the Rangers that season. They were under .500 when they acquired Avery in February 2007. The Rangers went 17-4-6 the rest of the way with him. His play was not the reason for the turnaround, but his acquisition seemed to breathe life into the team—a breath the 2008-2009 Rangers desperately need.
The Rangers started this season 5-0-0 and 10-2-1, but started falling around the All-Star break and suddenly looked lost. The Rangers have established that they are a low scoring team with a strong defense. They have enjoyed being the definition of blue collar hockey. However, when the Rangers are losing 1-0 games and are hoping for goals rather than expecting them, changes need to be made.
New York City just fits for Avery. It's a city big enough to fill his need for the limelight and there are enough fashion shows to keep him out of trouble off the ice. As much as the Rangers need Avery for emergency help, New York is the only city that could accept Avery.
New York is used to extreme personalities on its teams and historically has rallied behind them. For the most part, Rangers fans appreciate the hard work Avery puts into the game. They realize that though he loves playing the villain, he's not half bad at producing goals either.
At just 5'10", he can be compared to David Eckstein in terms of getting a lot done with not much to work with. Having a positive fan base and a team that believes in him, Avery will also work harder for the Rangers than he would for other teams.
Now with Avery clearing waivers, the Rangers can pick him up for half price, with the Dallas Stars paying the other half of his salary. At a discount like this, it's an opportunity the Rangers should not let slip away. Avery is a scrappy player with a lot of heart, and that is what the Rangers need to make something out of a season that had so much promise just five months ago.