Rangers Analysis: Is Sean Avery being held back, or is it self imposed?

There have been a great many debates on a great many subjects that have taken place in the opening month of the Rangers regular season, and today we're going to throw a new one into the mix:

What's wrong with Sean Avery?

It's clear to everyone watching the team on a regular basis that this is not the Sean Avery that we've grown to love. We've seen only rare glimpses of the Avery of old, like the stick grabbing incident the other night against Vancouver.

But where's the old Avery? Where is the guy who gets in "Fatso's" face, waving his stick? Where is the Avery that always gets the last shot in after the whistle, or taps the goalie in the back of the head with his stick as he skates by? Our favorite metrosexual agitator seems to have lost his way in the early going.

Sean suffered a knee injury in training camp that kept him out the first few games of the season, and a flare up that caused him to miss a game last week, but I don't think that is to blame for the lack of agitation in his game.

We discussed this a little bit on Blueshirt Banter Radio last night, but I wanted to open it up for discussion with everyone. The way I see it, there are two possible reasons for the lack of "Sean Avery" in Sean Avery's game:

More after the jump.......

Tortorella has put the reigns on him:

When John Tortorella became the head coach of the Rangers on February 23rd, 2009, much was made about what the relationship would be between him and Avery. While working for TSN, Tortorella referred to Avery as a "selfish ass", and said he had no business being in the NHL. Upon taking the job with the Rangers, Torts backtracked on his earlier statement, and said he was willing to give Avery a second chance, and on March 3rd, Avery was claimed on waivers from the Dallas Stars.

Tortorella often talked last season about Avery "knowing where the line was, and knowing not to cross it." Avery seemed to understand that after a tumultuous stop in Dallas, he had been given a second chance in New York, and was making the most of it. However, after Games 3 and 4 of the playoffs against Washington, which saw Avery take 6 minor penalties and a ten minute misconduct, "The Grate One" was benched for Game 5, which turned out to be the worst game the Rangers played in that series, with the Rangers being shut out 4-0,  John Tortorella not knowing where the line was himself, crossing it, and getting suspended for Game 5 after throwing a water bottle at Caps fans.

Avery said after the playoffs ended that he supported the suspension, and that John Tortorella was the coach he wanted to play for. But did the benching leave Sean feeling like if he plays his style of game under Tortorella he will be punished for it? Avery has also seen his ice time diminish recently, only the fourth liners are getting less ice time than Sean.

Sean Avery has a bulls-eye on his back, and is gun-shy about it?

Let's face it, a guy who plays the game of hockey the way Sean Avery does is going to be preceded by his reputation. This would be true no matter where he plays, but even more so under the bright lights of New York.

We've all seen numerous penalties called on Sean that were simply called because of who he is. This is not to paint Sean with the brush of an angel, but I don't think I am divulging any state secrets by saying Sean Avery is a lightning rod on the ice, and rarely gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to extra-curricular activity. It's only human nature for that to affect a player, and have him pull in the reigns, and play a more conservative style of hockey that does not suit him best.

The problem is, when Avery isn't being Avery, he's really a pretty average winger. When he is being Avery, he can be a difference maker in a game; we've seen him do it. Whatever the reason is, the Rangers and Sean Avery can only hope to find a balance and get Avery back on track.