People will rip me for this article, but that’s fine.
It may or may not garner me votes for "Controversial NHL Article" awards down the road, but whatever, I’m cool with that.
Yes, I am comparing NHL players to baseball and football players, which is like comparing apples to oranges; yes I know, totally different things. But I’m going to do it anyway.
Nope. I am no Sean Avery fan; I have no rooting interest in whether or not he plays again in the NHL. I don’t really care much for Dallas Stars netminder Marty Turco either.
Turco has been called "the smartest goalie in the NHL" by Don Cherry before, so perhaps that’s gone to his head or something.
But anyway, the Avery suspension by the NHL for comments about opposing players and ex-girlfriends has been well documented.
Of course, Stars forward Mike Modano was publicly critical of Avery, saying the team had been "tarnished" by the comments, which were "unacceptable."
Fine, I can live with that. Modano, of course, was a former captain and a Cup winner with the team. In fact, Modano has been with the Stars organization his entire NHL career, so his opinions can be respected. After all, captain or not, he is one of the leaders of the Stars.
Goaltender Turco, however?
Sure, Turco has been a Star (a Dallas Star, that is, not a superstar) since the 2000-01 season, but can he really be looked upon as one of the "leaders" on the team?
After all, what exactly has Turco accomplished in the NHL? Okay, he got the Stars to the Conference Finals last season, but didn’t he choke down the stretch (going a woeful 2-7-2 in March), which cost the team a chance to finish with one of the top seeds (and home-ice advantage) in the Western Conference? Sure, in the Vancouver first-round series in the 2007 playoffs, Turco posted three shutouts and yet the Stars managed to lose the series. (Of course, Turco turned out to be the second-best goalie on the ice in Game Seven.)
Yes, despite a fine 2002-03 season, his first year as a No. 1 goalie in the NHL, he was totally outplayed by J.S. Giguerre and the underdog Anaheim Mighty Ducks vanquished his Stars easily in the second round. In the 2004 and 2006 seasons, the Stars were easily elimintaed in the first round when Turco posted lackluster .849 and .868 save percentages (with rather high GAAs of 3.32 and 3.38) and didn’t come up with big saves.
And this season, the Stars have spent time in last place in the entire conference, and at times Turco has been singled out for his poor play.
So, despite having a shaky NHL resume himself, what was Turco doing mouthing off about Avery?
Turco basically threw Avery under the bus in his comments to the media.
While in hockey, the goaltender is the most important position on the ice, Turco has been nothing like a shining star. His track record in the spring makes him the equivalent of an "idiot kicker", something NFL MVP Peyton Manning labeled his former placekicker, Mike Vanderjagt. (No, I don’t dislike Vanderjagt; in fact, I thought he was kind of screwed out of an NFL gig in both Indianapolis and Dallas, despite his status of being the most accurate field goal kicker in league history.)
No, I am not comparing Sean Avery, a marginal hockey player, to Peyton Manning, a perennial MVP candidate. However, if Vanderjagt’s accomplishments in the regular season can mean nothing, certainly Turco’s can be as well, especially since the NHL considers Stanley Cup winning goalies as part of the elite. And I’m well aware Turco had a 2.15 career GAA going into this season, but check out his 2008-09 stats as of today: a 3.28 GAA and .881 save percentage. Ugly. (In regards to my "Cup winning goalies being part of the elite" comment, if you look at the guys that have made it into the Hall of Fame, for example, Billy Smith and Grant Fuhr, just to name a couple, who had good playoff resumes but less-than-stellar regular seasons, you can understand that.)
And sure, Avery himself has been aloof and not a team player. But was there any reason to throw him under the bus? I thought hockey players stick together and don’t trash each other. This isn’t basketball or football, for crying out loud. Couldn't Turco have just said "no comment" or the common boring things other hockey players typically give? (I mean, if you've got nothing positive to say, then don't say it. Unless Turco thinks he's an NBA player or he's got two rings plugged in his ears a la Patrick Roy. Oh wait, Turco doesn't have that kind of jewelry now, does he?)
No, not basketball or football. And not baseball either, but I don’t see a lot of people criticizing Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. Again, not comparing the two players here, but Ripken was widely credited for "saving baseball" from the ugly 1994 players’ strike.
Yet, Ripken also didn’t stay with teammates in hotels and he was kind of on his own—something Avery has also been charged with in addition to his well-publicized comments. In fact, during the 1996 baseball season, Ripken reportedly didn’t talk to or acknowledge rookie shortstop Manny Alexander, whom manager Davey Johnson had inserted at short, a move that sent Ripken to third base. Didn’t show him the ropes, didn’t make a rookie feel welcome. (Nope, I didn’t make this up; this is in "Champions! The Saga of the 1996 New York Yankees." Go check it out yourself.)
Ripken, after all, had five seasons where he was a .250 hitter from 1987-1993, and of course he was allowed to play every day and eventually break Lou Gehrig’s consecutive-games streak in 1996. And he sulked when a rookie was replacing him at short (Ripken wasn’t even benched; he was being moved to third). But he’s a hero. Can you say ‘double standards’?
In fact, you can argue Avery was an impact player in the New York Rangers-New Jersey Devils opening-round series last spring, when he scored in each of the first three games as the Rangers won in five. He even got under Martin Brodeur’s skin by waving his hands and stick in front of the goaltender, and even had a new NHL rule created because of that.
But no, Sean Avery is no Cal Ripken Jr. He’s no Peyton Manning. He’s not an elite hockey player.
But was it okay for Marty Turco, a mediocre playoff goalie at best, shoot his mouth off like an "idiot kicker"?
I think not.
Turco may well win a Cup down the road (or he may not) and could eventually get over 300 wins in his career. For now though, he’s not at that level so we’ll call him for what he is.
This Turco-Avery, Vanderjagt-Manning, Ripken stuff though? Double standards indeed.