The Sean Avery Solution: A Rangers Fan's Fantasy
And we thought the NHL went berserk with the silly six-game suspension and an "anger management" requirement placed on hockey's black sheep, Sean Avery. However, the Dallas Stars have really topped the NHL in terms of absurdity.
Unless Avery's locker room and off-ice antics (which as yet, remain publicly unspoken) approach the level of "real life" felonies, the Stars' latest move is absolutely absurd.
Not the least of the absurdity is the role of Brett Hull in the tumult. Yes, that Brett Hull, re-incarnated as a co-GM with Dallas, but formerly with a reputation as rotten as any NHL-er.
Recall that Hull legendarily came to the NHL via a very unusual route. His own lack of work ethic as a youth led him to obscurity in a "beer league" as his undeniable talent (as one of the premier finishers and greatest shots in league history) was cloaked in a veil of laziness. Plus, "Hully" was about as eager to carve an opponent's face with his stick during heated moments on the ice as he was to bury pucks in the opposing goal.
To be clear, much of the description of Brett Hull above (not to mention his legendary candor with reporters in the locker room, bucking the NHL standards on numerous occasions himself) is precisely what many fans came to love about him. Hull was never a mouthpiece for the commissioner.
So the turnaround is curious, and one has to wonder what's been going on behind the scenes for Hull to agree to the severity of Dallas' Avery decision. Even still, we have an idea for the resolution of this silliness, before it becomes a real tarnish on the league for the ridiculous hypocrisy that it is (Anyone remember Dale Hunter? Marty McSorely? Bobby Clark? More recently, Todd Bertuzzi?).
Let's resolve this Avery mess the only way it should be resolved: Bring him home to New York!
Crazy idea, huh? Well, here's our take: Avery is universally despised throughout hockey, with the exception of one group of supporters. The only great love for Avery comes from the blue sections at MSG.
Rangers fans were quite puzzled with Rangers GM Glenn Sather when Avery was not kept on by the Rangers after last season's playoffs. Why do Rangers fans love Avery so much? Simple math.
The Rangers' win/loss record improved dramatically from the first game Avery played in New York. Also, his presence in the lineup coincided with the Rangers' record until the day he was ushered off to the big D.
The difference in the team was stark, as the wins came much more frequently with Avery on the ice. A dramatic increase also came in the dread of opposing teams, whose hatred of the man often boiled over before the first puck was ever dropped.
This created a very real psychological advantage for New York. New York fans, as much as any in the league, love their agitators (Esa Tikkanen is a beloved fan favorite some 12 years on).
Now, while it is true that the Rangers are in third place in the East this season, and much could be debated about the idea of "upsetting the apple cart," past performance dictates that the Rangers' record would only improve upon Avery's return to the Garden.
The fact is that, aside from a terrible powerplay and some under-performing defense, one area the Rangers do not particularly excel in right now is toughness. With the exception of Colton Orr (who must be exhausted from carrying the burden by his lonesome), the Rangers are far from tough.
So what is so crazy about the idea of an Avery encore in Manhattan? It has been our opinion from the day Avery left that Glenn Sather must have personally despised the man, as much, if not more than the rest of the league.
What off-ice shenanigans could have brought about the animosity is anyone's guess. But for Sather to let go of a statistical certainty (e.g. Avery in the lineup=points), something dreadful must have been going on.
Could Avery's locker room stench have been the cause of a reported outburst over this past summer when Avery reportedly ran into Scott Gomez and a handful of other Rangers in a New York nightclub and threatened their lives when next they met on the ice?
It is quite an enticing mystery. The bad blood, let alone the money (Dallas is on the hook for $15 million over the next four years), may make the possibility of this a Rangers fan's fantasy of an Avery return next to zero, but we might as well make an appeal for it.
Let Avery come home to the only ice surface on the planet, where he is more than welcome. That's Madison Square Garden. Come on, hasn't anyone seen Slap Shot?!
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