There is so much that goes along with the name Sean Avery, both on and off the ice. He may be more popular for his antics against rival goaltender Martin Brodeur, or for his "sloppy seconds" remark last season, but all of that aside, he is a solid hockey player that knows the sport well. However, something has changed this season that is holding back arguably the league’s biggest pest, and I have a feeling that has to do a lot with head coach John Tortorella.
When Tortorella was hired in 2009, a big question upon his arrival would be how he would work with Sean Avery after making a comment on television earlier that season, stating Avery does not deserve to be in the league. It took a while until the two ran into a conflict here in New York, which resulted in Avery sitting in the press box as a healthy scratch for game four of the Quarterfinal Series against the Washington Capitals.
After that occurrence, I think Tortorella then made the decision that he is going to keep a leash on Sean, and keep it very tight to boot. The fact that we no longer see Avery’s antics as often as we did while Renney was coach is a clear sign Avery has been warned about how far he is allowed to go, and that Tortorella has made sure it is known who is in control here.
If you think back to mid-January when the Blueshirts took on the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden, Avery was called for roughing as he cross-checked a player to the ice after the whistle for no apparent reason. Upon returning to the bench after serving the two minute minor, Avery quickly attempted to explain himself but was cut short by Torts, who sent him to the end of the bench where he would sit until the end of the period. Yes, it was an unnecessary penalty and yes, his benching was lifted later that night, but this once again was another example of how Tortorella means no bones about who is boss.
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Avery has an ego. Avery has an attitude. Avery has a hefty reputation. But while he may act like he does not give a rat’s tail as to what Tortorella says or thinks, he does, simply because Torts controlls his ice time, and essentially, his career. I have heard of past cases where Avery has told others that he is "not afraid" of Tortorella, which I don’t doubt, but the fact is that he respects him and will do as he says.
Unfortunately for Avery, by Tortorella not allowing him to be himself, I am not too sure the Ontario native is free to play his game. Avery is not just a pest, he is not just an agitator. He is a skilled hockey player that can make things happen on the ice, but Tortorella’s strict rulebook has deprived Avery, in my opinion, to freely play hockey.