In case you were living under a rock from just before noon Tuesday until now, you know that Sean Avery is back with the New York Rangers and will join the team for practice tomorrow. Those who wanted Avery back have gotten at least part of what they wanted and those unhappy about the return need to get over it and cheer for him when he puts on that Rangers sweater and steps on the ice. Beyond that comes the question of when Avery will play. Coach John Tortorella hinted during last night’s postgame that Avery might not suit up Thursday because of how the team played Monday night.
"I'm not force-feeding anything," Tortorella said after the game. "If I look at the tape and think guys have done their job, you stay with your team. I just don't know what the lineup's going to be our next game. We'll see how it all works out."
While some might view that as Tortorella laying the ground work to leave Avery out for personal reasons, that is the right approach as the coach of the team. The Rangers had a complete team effort Monday and no one played to a level worthy of being benched, so sticking with what they have would be the right call. Sean Avery will play for the Rangers and soon, but he should be scratched Thursday, even if it will make the Garden explode with anticipation.
For the first nine games of the season the Rangers struggled to do anything consistently. The forecheck never seemed to get going. The lines needed to be shuffled virtually every other shift. Secondary scoring was virtually non-existent. Worst of all the level of energy in the Rangers play simply was not there. The team failed to put one 60 minute performance on the books in those first nine games. If that had happened again last night against the Sharks I would suit Avery up to give them the a spark Thursday, but the Rangers came alive for at least one night and that lineup deserves the opportunity to do it again next game.
The idea of sitting Avery will not make his supporters happy, but at the same time I would point out how many of them complained about the amount of changes Tortorella has made in his lines thus far this season. Last night each different line did their job, and maybe for some of the players it was a fluke, but if you cry about consistency, then be consistent and want it left alone when it works. Calling for changes to get any individual player in the lineup regardless of how the team did in their previous game puts that player above the team. That’s wrong.
Have no fear Avery supporters, Erik Christensen will likely go back to being invisible after his two assist effort against the Sharks and then the calls for him to be benched for Avery will be absolutely legit. The obvious move for coach John Tortorella to make if Avery is going into the lineup would be to take out Andre Deveaux, but Deveaux was very effective in limited action against San Jose. Deveaux skated well, took the body and made no glaring mistakes, which is exactly what you want out of a fourth line player. Wojtek Wolski is probably the player who was the worst on Monday night, but removing him from the lineup would likely throw multiple lines back into the blender, thus starting over on chemistry.
Avery will get his chance in short order, but for Thursday against the Ducks, the right call is the unpopular one for coach John Tortorella to make. Stick with the team that finally put a full game of effort together and see if they can repeat that deed. Avery will be a tremendous spark when he first steps on the ice for New York this year, but there is no reason to set fire to a lineup that did everything Rangers’ fans had been waiting for all season to do.