Yesterday we began our latest series of articles, profiling the Rangers as they head into the preseason in just over two weeks time. We will continue the series through training camp up until the regular season opener on October 9th.
In this second installment we turn our focus to Sean Avery, a player who was not welcomed by John Tortorella at the beginning of his tenure, and continues to struggle to walk the fine line between effective and obnoxious.
When Sean Avery originally joined the Rangers back in February 2007, he made an immediate impact. The Rangers had been slumping, and Avery along with some stellar goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist helped turn the season around and propel the Rangers into the playoffs.
Going into that first Summer, Avery elected to go to salary arbitration and things haven’t really been the same since. Both sides used the media to further their objectives, with a good deal of acrimony woven in for good measure.
The end result was a one year $1.9M contract awarded to the player as he headed into unrestricted free agency. Avery managed just 57 games in that follow-up season, but did still manage to equal his career high of 15 goals, and helped the Rangers once again to the playoffs.
In the post season Avery was a key distraction in their first round match-up with the Devils, but largely went unnoticed in the second round loss to the Penguins, ultimately having his season ended with a ruptured spleen.
Thus ended the first chapter of his tenure with the Rangers…
In the offseason Avery elected to go to free agency, and Sather for his part appeared unwilling to go much further than the dollar amount that the arbitrator awarded the previous Summer.
Brett Hull, co-GM with the Dallas Stars had no such inhibitions, and promptly signed The Grate One to a four year contract for just under $4M per year. Neither the Stars nor Avery profited from the union, and when the infamous “sloppy seconds” line was uttered, the 28 year old forward’s season had hit rock bottom.
After a ban by the league, Glen Sather and the Stars began negotiations on bringing Avery back to New York. The deal ultimately consummated just days after John Tortorella took over the head coaching duties.
Tortorella had been an outspoken critic of Avery during a stint as a commentator on Canadian TV, and now found himself faced with the prospect of having to coach him.
To say the relationship hasn’t been a good one, would perhaps understate it a little. Avery’s tendency to get overly aggressive, has at times caused a rift between the two, resulting in the player being getting reduced ice time, or even scratched.
For his part, Avery hasn’t worked out how to handle the relationship either and appears to be at a loss as to how best contribute to the team’s success.
Going into training camp, Avery faces the real possibility that he won’t be in the starting line up. Perhaps his best opportunity may come as a result of Tortorella electing not to use the newly acquired Derek Boorgaard as an every game player, or perhaps an injury will open the door once more.
Primarily Avery will have to contend with Todd White for a spot, and a poor showing in camp could see him relegated to the press box.
As it stands right now, it looks as if Avery will indeed begin the year as a spare forward, and if the Rangers get off to a strong start, then he may find his season a long one.
The addition of Brandon Prust late last year has also replaced some of the feistiness that he provided, while his offense has never really lived up to the potential.
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Stats: 11 goals, 20 assists and 160 penalty minutes in 69 games
Team: New York Rangers
Stats: 8 goals, 12 assists