The New York Rangers play their 2nd preseason game this evening, playing the back end of a home-and-home with the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.
As I am writing this the Rangers have not yet released the list of the players who will be dressing for the game. One player that has to figure to get in on the action tonight is Sean Avery. Coming off a down year and with a glut of forwards still remaining in camp after yesterday’s cuts, there’s been some talk that he may be on the bubble when it comes to a roster spot.
As I disclosed in a post back in June, Avery is one of my favorite Rangers. I remember in 2007 being in my car when I heard they had acquired him, and my first thought was, “oh boy,” based on his reputation. When I heard what we had given up in the trade, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He came in and became, to paraphrase Reggie Jackson, the straw that stirs the drink, quickly becoming a fan favorite and infusing the Rangers with much-needed life as they scrambled to make the playoffs. They made it in and was a major factor in the 1st round sweep of the Thrashers, driving to distraction the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Again the Rangers scrambled in 2008 to make the playoffs and landed a 1st round matchup against the New Jersey Devils, leading to the infamous “faceguarding” of Martin Brodeur that led to the on-the-fly amending of Rule 57 and the refusal on Brodeur’s part to shake Avery’s hand at the end of the series. The Rangers went out against Pittsburgh in the next round, but in the final game, Avery played with what was diagnosed afterward as a spleen injury.
I was not sad or surprised when he left via free agency to Dallas. Given his relatively short shelf life with teams, I thought 4 years was way too long and around $4 million per was way too much money to commit to him. As we all know he had a really short shelf life in Dallas after the “sloppy seconds” incident in Calgary that led to suspension, League-mandated anger management, waivers and a return to the Rangers for half price.
All that being said, I really feel that the whole playoff benching and then trying to figure out how to play under John Tortorella really undermined his play last season. As a commentator, Tortorella was not-so-subtle in his dislike of Avery. Then there was the scratching him in the 2009 playoff series against Washington for undisciplined on-ice play (somewhat ironic when Tortorella himself was suspended one game for the water bottle incident with fans in that series too). Clearly I’m not in Avery’s head, but I find it hard to believe that trying to find what that fine line in Tortorella’s opinion between being grating and being undisciplined actually was didn’t have a major impact on him.
I feel that there is a place on this team for what Sean Avery brings to the table. I can’t foresee him being traded when the Rangers were the only team that wanted him off of waivers at half price 2 seasons ago. Sending him to Hartford is always an option, but he would have to have such a poor showing the rest of the preseason to justify being resigned to that fate. Even if you take away the over-the-top antics, such as the Brodeur faceguard, he can still be an effective player. Unlike Derek Boogaard, who was clearly brought in to be a fighter and a deterrent, he can actually skate and is able to put the puck in the net on occasion. It’s just a matter of the coach letting Avery be Avery.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports that Wade Redden will be placed on waivers at noon, the first step in assigning him to Hartford and getting his salary off the cap hit.
Lineup for tonight:
Forwards: Fedotenko, White, Callahan, Avery, Newbury, WIlliams, Kennedy, Weise, Boogaard , Byers, Anisimov, Grachev Defensemen: Del Zotto, Eminger, Semenov, Valentenko, Exelby, Gilroy
Lundqvist will start in goal
About the Author: Likes: Hockey, the New York Rangers, King Henrik, singing the Rangers goal song, "The Save", the sound skates make against ice, heckling Marty Brodeur. Dislikes: 3-point games, front-office mismanagement, Denis Potvin, overpriced arena beer. Interested? Follow me on Twitter: @CC_927