Monday, November 16, 2009

The Mystery of Sean Avery. . .

First of all I feel pretty badly that I've been so busy trying to watch all the
Rangers and Coyotes games, in addition to my real job and trying to have a life - an other than hockey life ;) - that the blog is much darker than it was to start last season or that I'd like it to be.

Perhaps part of that is how much more there was to talk about
last year - with the record sertting start, to the dismal decline, to the
boring play, to the lack of personality of the players.

Actually, now that I'm listing things, this is sounding a lot like last year on the surface.

Well, with personality that is.

Anyway if you read this blog you know I don't do the Xs and Os thing. There are so many more bloggers that do this and do this well. So instead what you get from me is creative rambling.

Why you haven't gotten that thus far is because - ignoring time constraints that is - I honestly have no more answers than the rest of you.

Which brings us to a topic I can ramble readily about -

Reader Luke mentioned it in the comments here on NHTP. Carp on Rangers Report mentioned it after the Vancouver game two weeks ago. It was a Milbury, McLean, Hrudey conversation on HNIC two Saturday's ago . And Larry Brooks finally out right wrote about it in today's NY Post.

The topic at hand, you ask.

Just what the heck is up with Sean Avery?

First let's break down all the possible things that can be causing Sean Avery to be the anti-Sean Avery.

- He's still playing hurt and either playing through it or not being honest about it.

- He is playing timid because Tortorella has pressured him to do that.

- He is playing timid because he is afraid he can't be the real Sean Avery without punishment from referees.

- He has something personal going on and doesn't have his head in the game.


Now, let's analyze:

Option ONE -

None of us can speak to. I have no more information than you. I
would only hope that if he were injured he'd man up, say so, and take the time to get healthy.

Option TWO -

Tortorella seemed to deny this by his CBC comments and in the Brooks'
article today.

Tortorella got on HNIC when the Rangers were up in Toronto and said that he and Avery had a good relationship and were on the same page.

In Brook's article Tortorella is quoted:

"It's very important for the club for Sean to show his personality," Tortorella told The Post. "I think there are a lot of people around the club and who follow the club who think that the coaching staff is holding Sean back from being who he is.

"That is not the case. I want and we want Sean to be who he is. And he knows that, I guarantee you that he knows that. We've talked to Sean. It's not only the coaches. Everyone in the organization has told Sean that he needs to show his personality out there."

So it would seem, and we would hope, that this is the case.

Option THREE -

When Sean came back last March and started his second stint with the Rangers few could deny he got some unfair treatment by the referees. Things that were very marginal got called because they were committed by #16 in blue, not because they were actually cut and dry penalties.

That isn't to say that Sean didn't earn any of his own penalties or that he was always a target, but it's hard to say he wasn't treated differently. Whether you agree or disagree that he did (or that he deserved it) will probably tell which side of the Sean Avery line you fall on.

The culmination of this "situation" happened in the Rangers first round playoff series versus the Capitals. After a game of four penalties, two of them marginal, in game 3, and 2 penalties in the closing minutes of game 4, Tortorella did the thing everyone wondered if he'd do - he benched Sean Avery for game 5. The Rangers slept through most of Avery's suspended game, and Sean returned a quiet man in Game 6. Sean's best game of the playoffs, and perhaps his renewed Ranger career, came in Game 7, where he skated on the Rangers best line and looked fantastic.

But since the season started and Sean returned from injury (he missed the Rangers first four games of the season), he has not looked at all like the Sean we've known. He had six points in his first 7 games (4 wins and 3 losses in that order), and has had no points in his last 8.

As for penalties, he was called for none in his first 4 games back. He's taken 19 penalty minutes in his 15 games, but that included a five minute fighting major versus NJ on October 22nd.

Surely doesn't appear that he's been getting called as much as he was - although one boarding call was pretty absurd - but that doesn't mean he still isn't playing scared. The league has painted him as a villian. Chances are he still remembers that.

Option FOUR -

- Is Sean distracted? As much as he loved playing in New York, is he over it? Is he over hockey? Is his mind on something else?

Again, only he can answer this but this is the one option I'll be very disappointed in knowing is the right one. Not everyone gets second chances, in the city and for the team they love. Sean is not evil and he doesn't deserve all the crap he endures - at least I don't believe he does - but he owes it to me, and all the others who support him, to be trying with all he has, every single night.



Now, we may never be able to truly answer the question and pick an option, but I can say this much.

For Sean to be effective he needs to be aggressive. Smart but aggressive. I haven't
seen that yet from him this year. He's played too safe, definitely too safe. And when he's trying to please other people, rather than be himself, he is just not right.

So, if I had to take a guess, I'd say it's option number three we are looking at. For some reason Sean is playing scared, and not being who he can be, who he needs to be. Now, perhaps he is scared Tortorella will not support him if he goes too far in the other direction, afraid he'll be called for too many penalties (a very real risk), and he just doesn't know how to balance that fear.

Sean also, it seems, hasn't had the opportunity to work through it all that much. In the loss in Montreal, he'd have his season high ice time of 18:45. His season low - a mere 5:56 in Edmonton on November 5th. The less effective he is, the less he'll play, as per Tortorella.

However, this was a guy that "potentially" was coming into the season to play with Gaborik and Dubinsky. That may have been tried in the ever-changing switcharoos, but it didn't last.

Sean, when he's been in NY, has played best when he's playing first or second line minutes, with guys of speed and/or talent.

Sean's greatest assets are his skating, his ability to get the puck to where it needs to be, and his work around the back of the net as a setup guy. I haven't seen these things in enough abundancy this year. I fear in addition to whatever fear it is he has, that his lack of production may also be a result of who he is playing with.

I felt, I think rightly so, that Sean could get 15-20 goals this year. But if and only IF he is playing with the right players. But it seems no one on New York that isn't Gaborik, Prospal or Kotalik is the right players - for scoring that is. Not sure where that leaves Sean.


The bottom line is that Sean needs to be the player he can be. He really does. One, for himself, two, for the team, and three, to prove some of his critics wrong. He can't fix everything that's happened. No one expects him to. But if Sean is every able to make the best of his second chance, it's by being a good teammate, and an effective teammate.

It was pointed out, by Milbury in fact, that Sean looked disinterested. Well a disinterested Sean is essentially a useless Sean. He needs to be involved. The Rangers need him to be involved.

Larry Brook's in today's article said,

"This Avery might even get Gary Bettman's seal of approval."

If that doesn't tell you just how far off the right path Sean is, I don't know what will.

What I want, what the team NEEDS, is to have the REAL Sean Avery here, in New York playing for the Rangers. What I want, what the team NEEDS, is to see Sean Avery smiling again.

Even though you never know exactly what he's smiling about, Sean Avery is just so much more likeable when he's smiling, no?

1 comment:

Luke said...

Excellent post Kels!

I spent most of it reading and nodding my head. I think, when you break it down the way you did, option three is the most likely. You are spot on about how hen NEEDS to be, "for Avery to be effective, he needs to be aggressive." He needs to take a penalty and not think he will be benched for taking it. Our PK is still fairly good: Let Avery be Avery.

I hope it happens sooner rather than later. We need a spark, he's been one before, I know he can be one again.