October 06, 2011
The big question these days is whether the 31-year-old New York Rangers training camp cut can actually be called an NHL player this season, or will be in subsequent seasons.
Rangers GM Glen Sather hopes Avery remains in the NHL; and despite the seeming finality of this week's roster move, Sather left the door open for Avery's return to the Rangers if he accepts a demotion to the AHL Connecticut Whale rather than leaving for Europe, and if conditions change for the Blueshirts.
Of course we could recall him if he's in Hartford and earns that," Sather said as the Rangers skated on an NHL-sized rink for the first time in nine days. "You never know; somebody could play his way off this team. I think Sean has been a good player for us, but you have to get the perspective from the coaches on that."
… "Personally, I like Sean. I like a lot of things about him. He thinks outside the box. From a management perspective, I'd like to see him in the league because he's colorful and adds excitement."
Yeah, about that coach's perspective ...
John Tortorella told the media after the Rangers cut Avery that "I do not wanna keep on shoveling dirt over Sean Avery, but we have better players than Sean Avery, right now on the hockey club."
But the money shot was: "I think our team has grown, and we've got to keep on moving and not standing still."
Avery predated Tortorella with the Rangers, but came back to the Rangers after crapping out with Dallas while Torts was coach. This came after Tortorella, while a talking head on Canadian television, said Avery "doesn't belong in the league" after the Sloppy Seconds Affair. Their relationship didn't exactly blossom in the following years.
If you needed a reminder of the GM/Coach philosophical split on Avery … well, there's your reminder. Sather's a rascal, and he appreciates a rascal. Tortorella's never been a fan, and finally had a reason to exile Avery.
The best take we've read on Avery comes courtesy of Steven Ovadia of Puck Update, who breaks down what Avery and Tortorella should have done to make this relationship work (besides, obviously, a fancy-free day of suit shopping in Manhattan). Sample prose:
Avery didn't have a lot of hockey abilities outside of upsetting opponents. But he could skate a bit and didn't have an awful shot. With proper coaching, Avery could have been an energy guy who could occasionally chip in goals. But it doesn't seem like Avery was ever given any help in terms of evolving his game. Avery was allowed to stagnate, when he might have had the tools to improve his game, given the right coaching.
Combine that with Tortorella's comments, and you arrive at Avery being a player that hasn't grown while his team had evolved; but that his coach might be responsible for that stagnation.