The Curious (and Unfair) Case of Sean Avery

Jon Neely@@iamjonneelyAnalyst IMarch 3, 2009

He's back.

As widely speculated Sean Avery has been claimed by the New York Rangers off re-entry waivers today. This after a 23 game stint with the Dallas Stars that ended with the infamous "sloppy seconds" comment about former girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert, the current girlfriend of Flames defenseman Dion Phanuef.

He returns to the Rangers who he previously had spent two years with before the move to the Stars.

Many wonder whether his time away from the game and his short stay in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack will have done him any good. Will he come back as a new man able to steer clear of any controversy, or will he be the same old Sean Avery that we all love to hate.

Or, is that hate to love?

With Avery back in the NHL, expected to suit up against the Islanders on Thursday ready to resume his career, I just have two simple questions:

1.       Did he really deserve the punishment he received?

2.       Was the horrible treatment he received from the Dallas Stars a result of their poor play, using him as the scapegoat?

I'll deal with question one first.

Avery's reputation is not that of a saint by any means, but I really don't think the man deserved everything he was forced to go through.

"Sloppy seconds" is what did it. Those words, those two words, put together created a massive buzz league-wide and resulted in immediate suspension of Avery for an 'indefinite' period of time.

He was then verbally bashed by his teammates, the media, his coaching staff and GM. If that wasn't enough the Dallas Stars basically kicked him off their team, and then Gary Bettman decided the guy needed some anger management, so abruptly kicked him out of the league until further notice.

He quickly disappeared from the public eye, but the verbal bashing throughout the league continued. Having to prove his worth and that he was a changed man, he had to go through the minors and be placed on waivers before finally making it back to the NHL today.

Seems like an awful lot to go through for such a little thing.

Around the same time Tom Kostopoulos, defender for the Montreal Canadians, was suspended three games for hitting Leafs' Mike Van Ryn from behind into the boards face first.

Van Ryn had to leave the game on a stretcher, and was sidelined four weeks with a concussion, broken nose and finger, and stitches. Three games for physically injuring somebody seriously. Kicked out of the league for degrading your former girlfriend.

Something is seriously wrong with that.

Now to the second question, and this is what really gets me.

After the comment Avery made, he was immediately thrown under the bus by his team; the Dallas Stars, who were in last place at the time.

The team, coaches, and GM went straight to bashing Avery publically, saying he was the cause of much unrest in the dressing room, and it was expected for him do something like this. The team, who was playing horrible hockey, was last in the West, and essentially put the blame on Avery.

 Marty Turco spoke the loudest, a veteran goalie, coming out and speaking against Avery instead of supporting him. This was Marty Turco, a respected goaltender in the league, who was playing the worst hockey of his NHL career.

Sean Avery wasn't the one letting the pucks get passed him, Marty.

Avery was treated this way by his own teammates. Isn't there a rule somewhere that says you have to back your teammates no matter what?

Teams in other leagues seem to get it right:

Adam 'Pacman' Jones was getting his umpteenth chance with the Dallas Cowboys after frequently being in the news about his actions. This part-time football player, full-time strip club brawler had gotten fined, suspended, but continued to get in trouble with the law, and was still playing.

The man was more familiar with handcuffs then a football, and still received support. All this in the same city as Sean Avery. The fans and players of the Cowboys seemed to love the fact that they had landed Jones, no matter what he was doing off the field. The Cowboys supported Pacman Jones, but when it came to supporting Sean Avery.

Not the Dallas Stars.

Plaxico Burress of the New York Giants shot himself in the leg at a club. Not only is that incredibly embarrassing, but could end in him going to jail. His team and fans supported the guy, there were even reports that his teammates had lied to authorities to try and protect him.

Heck, he might even be back with the team next year. The New York Giants supported Plaxico Burress, even when the Mayor of New York demanded legal action be taken against him, but support Sean Avery?

Not the Dallas Stars.

Alex Rodriguez admitted to using steroids before his time with the New York Yankees, causing a massive media mess and leading to many questions about his career statistics and whether he could even be trusted now.

Teammates of his not only are supporting him during this mess, members of the team were sitting front row at his press conference where he formally admitted to using the drugs. The guy cheated, and his teammates are standing there with him. But stand beside Sean Avery?

Not the Dallas Stars.

The Stars should be ashamed of the way they treated Sean Avery. And now that the team is playing better and in a playoff spot without him, Sean looks even more like the bad guy. It doesn't matter what your teammate does, he's a member of your team and you support him through thick and thin.

Other teams in the league have no problem backing up a teammate when they're suspended for an illegal hit which causes injury. But Avery commenting on his former celebrity girlfriend deserves for the entire team to give up on him and throw him to the wolves? Not a chance.

A classless act by a classless organization.

Sean Avery is not the best teammate in the world, this is nothing new. His comments and actions have led to many a controversy forcing his teammates to have to deal with an endless array of questions.

The media frenzy that surrounds this guy on a daily basis discussing non-hockey related jibberish is an annoyance to them, but they still need to deal with it.

You don't have to like the guy, but when he makes a mistake don't use it as your excuse for why the team is not coming together and winning.

In my opinion, and its worth what it cost you, Sean Avery was treated unfairly by the NHL because of his reputation, and treated horribly by his own team who used him as their excuse for why their play was nowhere near expectation.

The NHL and Dallas Stars came out of it looking like the good guys, while Avery was forced to become the punching bag of the league. He certainly deserved punishment for his comments, a fine, maybe suspension, but nothing more.

I hope Sean Avery comes back and has a great conclusion to the year with the New York Rangers. I hope he's the same old Avery on the ice, getting under people's skin and driving coaches’ nuts.

And I hope people recognize that the NHL and the Dallas Stars were more disrespectful to Sean Avery then he was to those he intended to hurt with his comments.

It's great to see Sean back in the NHL, and here's one guy who wishes him the best of luck.

He's going to need it.