December 14, 2008
Falling on his sword in front of his teammates and attempting to convince them that, like Michael Richards and Mel Gibson before him, the issues that motivated his detrimental behavior had been medicinally addressed.
The problem, however, was that the Stars made it publically and perfectly clear they weren't going to listen. Mike Modano, who is the Dallas Stars, said Avery had tarnished the franchise. Coach Dave Tippett, whom Avery directly insulted by calling his "sloppy seconds" press conference, told the media that "I find it hard to believe that Sean could come back in that dressing room and we could find that continuity again."
The bridges still smoldering, Dallas management made it official today that Avery would not return to the team; although they'll still pay him and continue to support his therapy.
From the Associated Press, here's the reaction from Hull:
I honestly believe the issues that Sean had really kind of festered when he came to Dallas and things didn't work out for him as he had planned, as we had planned," Hull said. "But I think a lot of those things were brought on by himself. It's a two-way street. You have to be accepted, but you have to do everything you can to be accepted. It was just a bad situation."
Hull was surprised that Avery didn't know better. "I don't know how many times you can go through the league office before you realize you can't do this any more," he said.
Because the Avery signing backfired so quickly, questions have been raised about Hull's ability as a talent evaluator. He said Sunday this was just a learning experience, noting that "there's a lot of teams that have made mistakes."
"Disappointed? Yeah. Frustrated? Yeah. You can pick (an emotion), they've probably been there over the last few weeks," he said.
Coming up, the official statement from the Stars and a note about Avery's future.
The Dallas Stars today announced that Sean Avery will not return to the NHL team. Representatives for both Avery and the Stars said they would continue to work together in support of Avery during "this critical time" for the player. All parties said there is a clear understanding that a return to the Stars is not in the best interest of either the hockey club or Avery.
"Sean needs to focus on his own well-being while the Stars hockey team must focus on playing hockey and competing for a playoff spot," said Stars Co-General Manager Brett Hull. "Everyone understands that Sean will not return to the Dallas Stars. We all need to move forward."
Stars management also said the team would not seek to challenge Avery's contract under the conduct clause included in the Standard Player's Contract. The agreement's Paragraph 2 (e) directs all NHL players "to refrain from conduct detrimental to the best interest of the Club, the League or professional hockey generally." Avery was suspended by the NHL last week for comments he made prior to a game with Calgary.
"The message here is: no distractions. Sean can focus on resolving his personal issues," said Hull, "and the Stars will have closure on this episode. The team needs to put its energies into winning."
The Stars said the team will continue to honor Avery's contract while exploring all options for his hockey future consistent with the terms of his counseling.
"We do care about Sean and want what is best for him," said Hull. "We've agreed to do what we can to help find him a place to play hockey once he addresses his personal issues."
Back to Avery: His NHL career is far from over, despite all of this.
His contract status is going to be a tough puzzle to solve, because that's a lot of years and a mighty cap hit for a wild card. But by next summer, he'll be able to claim a substantial amount of therapy and rehabilitation in seeking another team. And completely lost in this situation is that Avery had been playing good hockey since Brenden Morrow's injury, and earning more ice time because of it.
Plus, in a League where specialized skills are always at a premium, Avery's on-ice abilities as an energy player and professional agitator can't be underestimated; Claude Lemieux is playing in the minors based on that reputation alone. On the right team, Avery's abilities could be downright essential, if he keeps his nose clean off the ice.
To anyone who thinks a player whose actions were damaging to his team, insulting to the League and a potential career-killer can't return to the NHL -- obviously, you haven't noticed who's wearing No. 7 for the Calgary Flames this season.
Still ... not a good day for Avery. Not a good day for the Dallas Stars. And in nearly every facet of this situation, not a good time for the National Hockey League, which managing to look hypercritical, petty and misguided by making this a League issue rather than a team issue. Lessons all around, but has anyone learned them?