Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sean Avery Needs To Be Unleashed

Chris McGrath/Getty Images
So far this season John Tortorella has pushed a lot of the right buttons this season and is certainly up there for coach of the year with the job he has done with this New York Rangers club.  One button he refuses to seem to consistently push however is the one player on the Rangers team that can push the other team’s buttons; Sean Avery.  While the Rangers were getting Avery’d by Subban there was Avery playing his three minutes per period as if the world would crumble if he got more time.  With each shift that Avery had even when the team was asleep at the wheel he made an impact and yet he still ended the night with a measly 9:46 of ice time.  Only Kris Newbury less ice than Avery last night and he was far from the second worst forward the Rangers had in the game for that to be warranted.  Subban said before yesterday's game when asked if he was an agitator, "I'm not Sean Avery."  Whether he is or he is not the Rangers need more of Sean Avery.

I understand that with every shift you send Avery on the ice there is the risk he could explode and hurt the team with a bad penalty, but there were plenty of those going around last night and Avery was one of the few who were helping when he was out there.  To continually short change Avery for fear of what he might do or to rein him in to prevent those things is counterproductive to the larger picture of what Avery can bring to this club.  If Avery goes out and does something wrong, then by all means punish him to the fullest extent that you can, but Avery has done nothing to hurt this team this season.

The reality is that Avery has been a great soldier for the team in not making noise with his consistent demotions, especially the one this week when he was demoted by the trade for Wojtek Wolski.  Avery had just played three excellent games with Gaborik and Anisimov and yet without a second thought he was immediately back on the fourth line toiling away with Drury.  The skill of Wolski and Gaborik together is an intriguing proposition, but what we have seen this season is that Gaborik is at his best when he has grit to play with him because he does not want to play the hard game.  A line of Wolski, Stepan, Gaborik has plenty of skill, but does not mesh with this team’s identity and breaks the rhythm of the way the other lines at least attempt to play. 

There will obviously be new lines today because of the performance last night and they might be the same as the ones we saw in the third period last night where the Rangers attempted their comeback.  If so that would see Avery with Boyle and Prust and he can certainly fit right in with those two in the role that Fedotenko has played this season.  What I would rather see is Drury removed from the kids and let Avery play with the skill of Stepan and Zuccarello so they have some toughness and protection on their line

I have never been one of Avery’s biggest supporters because of the antics that he seems to get caught up in more than the hockey side, but for the majority of the year he has been a focused hockey player and has shown his hockey skill and intelligence when given the opportunities to do so.  There is bound to be that moment where he loses focus, but until that happens let him play and stop treating him as if he is guilty until proven innocent.  Avery has produced as he is 10th on the team in points (16) despite being 14th on the team among forwards in average ice time.  It is time that Tortorella puts aside whatever his deal is with Avery and just sends him out there go play as he knows how because like it or not Torts saw firsthand last night what happens when a team gets Avery’d.