DENVER - NOVEMBER 19: Sean Avery #16 of the New York Rangers is sent off the ice by linesman Jay Sharrers #57 as Avery and Cody McLeod #55 of the Colorado Avalanche received misconduct penalties late in the third period at the Pepsi Center on November 19 2010 in Denver Colorado. The Avalnche defeated the Rangers 5-1. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The name Sean Avery brought up much controversial debate among the fan base this past season, including the many arguments that we had right here on this blog. Avery is fancied by some, abhorred by others, and after yet another disappointing season for the pesky forward, his future as a New York Ranger is in definite question for 2011-12. He said last offseason that we would see the "old Sean Avery" back and better than ever, but that we did not. We once again saw the distracted Sean Avery; the Sean Avery that was being held back by the coaching staff for most of the season.
In 76 games played for the Rangers in 2010-11, Sean recorded three goals and 21 assists for 24 total points. Three goals in 76 games is not what the 31-year-old winger is being paid $1.9 million to produce, nor do I think it's something he is going to be satisfied with looking back on it. Roster spots on this Ranger team are harder to come by each year, especially with all of the young talent coming up through the system, and stats like the ones Avery posted this year are not going to be good enough to remain a Ranger when his spot is being contested by a younger, more talented player.
Back in March I wrote an article about Avery's future in New York, and at the time he just came off a mentally-poor performance against the New York Islanders. In just over seven minutes of ice time, Avery managed to take three penalties, two of which were in the offensive zone. One came late in the game when it was very clear the Rangers were going to win, but despite the score, Sean two-handed the back of John Tavares' legs and spent the remainder of the night on the bench.
It's games like those where I, myself, become annoyed and disgusted with the infamous agitator. Sometimes Avery forgets to think before he acts, and that is something head coach John Tortorella seems to never forget and it severely hurts Sean's role on the team because Torts simply doesn't trust him.
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But then there is the Avery that is very effective with what he does and also knows how to contribute in all areas of the ice. We saw that on December 10, also a game against the Islanders, when Avery skated on the first line with Marian Gaborik and finished the night with three assists. So now we have seen the high and low of Sean's game, but the problem is that there seems to be no middle ground. He does not know how to balance agitating and scoring, so basically they cancel each other out and he becomes completely ineffective.
I do not completely pin this on Avery himself, though. In probably the most debated article (unfortunately the comments are no longer there since we've since switched platforms) I have ever written over on my blog, I addressed the issue of the coaching staff mistreating Avery and not giving him the opportunity he deserves to succeed. This came after the 11-round shootout against the Tampa Bay Lightning on December 23, when Avery was snubbed of a chance to shoot in the shootout.
In that particular piece I wrote about a trend that was forming, and it mainly consisted of Avery being put on the first line to only later be dropped back to the bottom line despite skating well on that top trio. It was something I could not explain then, and to this day I still cannot explain it now.
What I can do is speculate and I think that Tortorella's moderate dislike of Avery sometimes gets in the way of his coaching. Often times I have called out Tortorella for putting himself ahead of the team, which should never be the case in professional sports, and I think this is certainly one of those times with the way he treats Avery.
Do not look at this as an excuse, however. Avery still needs to step it up himself and show that he belongs on this team and that he possibly could regain the trust of his coach. He didn't do that this season and if he is lucky enough to make it to the next, he better do something differently otherwise he will be as good as gone upon becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2012.