Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Rebranding of Sean Avery (3-15-09)

This is one in a series of "best of " posts that will run while I am in the hinterland of the American desert Southwest where Internet service is sporadic at best. Some are timely and some need to be taken in the context of the date of first publication. Enjoy and comment if you wish.

After being the object of scorn and ridicule earlier this season for tasteless comments made before a game in Calgary, Sean Avery has returned to New York City and was toasted as the first star of the game on national television Sunday Afternoon.

In six games with the New York Rangers, after his return from suspension and banishment to the minor leagues, Avery has four goals and an assist and has been the consummate team player. On Sunday his two goals led the Rangers to a 4-1 victory over Philadelphia in Madison Square Gardens to avenge the Rangers loss to the Flyers on Saturday.

Avery has not been just another player on the ice in the three games that I have seen him play, one in person in Nashville, and the other two on the tube. He has basically been the hardest working player on the team, hustling and being around the play on every shift.

Last Thursday in Nashville, Avery scored a goal and was in the blue paint causing trouble for Preds Goalie Dan Ellis on two other goals. During warm-ups, Avery showed no signs of the unfriendliness and aloofness attributed to him by his former Dallas team mates.

Avery’s suspension in early December, while playing for the Dallas Stars, was based on a league rule regarding “conduct unbecoming to the game”. As part of his “rehabilitation”, Avery received “treatment” for anger management and it appears so far, some type of sensitivity training on how to fit in with his team mates.

I asked Gary Bettman about Avery’s future last month when the commissioner was in Nashville. Bettman explained, “He’s welcome back from a league standpoint. He’s served his suspension and is under contract with the Dallas Stars. It will be a club decision (Dallas) as to what to do with him. He would have to clear waivers to return to the NHL with another team since Dallas has indicated they don’t want him”.

Bettman’s vision for Avery’s return played out just as it was stated. On March third, after playing eight fairly uneventful games for the AHL Hartford Wolfpack, Avery was placed on re-entry waivers and picked up by the New York Rangers.

There was speculation that the Rangers’ new coach, John Tortorella, was not fond of the pick up and had been openly critical of Avery’s actions this year and in season’s past. With Avery’s current good behavior and contributions on the ice, I’m sure “Torts” is feeling better about the situation (for now).

With six games under his belt as a key contributor and a model citizen, questions remain. Has Sean Avery been “cured” of the problems that have plagued his career both on and off the ice, or is he a ticking time bomb waiting to explode at an inopportune time? Only time will tell.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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