Before Sean Avery became a free agent and signed with the Dallas Stars, many Rangers fans were confident that Glen Sather would be willing to give out the money that Avery wanted in order to stay with the Rangers.
The main reason fans believed that Sather would give Avery the money wasn't because of Avery's grit, toughness, or agitating ways, but because of the Rangers' success with him in the lineup.
Since Avery was acquired by the Rangers from the Los Angeles Kings on February 5, 2007, the Rangers had a 51-23-16 record with him in the lineup—as opposed to an 8-10-3 record when he wasn't. But the million dollar question—or, for Sather, the 15.5 million dollar question—did the numbers lie?
Obviously, Sather felt the numbers lie, and while time will prove whether he was right or not, I can't disagree with letting Avery walk.
Here is the argument for why the numbers for the Rangers' record with Avery in the lineup lie:
1. Henrik Lundqvist
While Avery was running his mouth at everybody in the league, Lundqvist's goaltending, especially in 2007, was Vezina-caliber, and allowed the Rangers to secure playoff spots. At the end of the day, Lundqvist's goaltending won more games than Avery's antics.
2. The Rangers' sluggish start in 2007-2008
If the Rangers could have managed to get consistent lines at the start of the 2008 season, and didn't have as much trouble as they did finding the back of the net, then their record without Avery would have been much better.
After the second game of the season, when Avery was injured, Jaromir Jagr couldn't mesh with either of the Rangers' free-agent prizes—Scott Gomez and Chris Drury.
3. Sean Avery doesn't make a team go 51-23-16
Goaltending wins games. Defense wins games. Offense wins games. As good as Avery is at his craft, what he does may influence a couple of outcomes. However, his attributes don't make a team go 28 games over .500 over a period of a year and a half.
And while Avery was an important part of the Rangers' success over the last two years, by no means is he irreplaceable. While few can give to a team what he gives, he is not—and never will be—the most important part of a championship team.