By: Gene Morris
The Sean Avery era is over on Broadway. For real this time. Avery was waved by the Rangers this week when the team decided that Erik Christensen would be a better fit as the 13th forward.
It was basically a foregone conclusion that Avery’s time with the team was done. Head Coach John Tortorella was an outspoken critic of Avery’s “style” before he stepped behind the Rangers bench.
For a guy that played just 249 games for the team over parts of five seasons, Avery sure had an impact. Other than Henrik Lundqvist it could be argued that Avery was the most well known player on the team during his tenure.
He may have only scored 42 goals and assisted on 77 while a Ranger but his impact was felt in other ways. He’s was the consumate guy that you loved on your team and detested when he was on the other side. His battles with Martin Brodeur became legendary.
I was in the building the night he made his debut with the Rangers, February 6, 2007. He picked up a goalie interference penalty that night and his next game against New Jersey was the infamous Brodeur flop in the crease when he was shoved by Avery.
His style was popular with the home crowd. Despite being branded as a guy who’s bark was worse than his bite, Avery consistently did what needed to be done in order to win hockey games. He went into the tough areas in the corners and in front of the net
and did it consistently despite opponents often taking advantage of him physically without repercussions because of his reputation.
He consistently provided a spark for a team that was good, but not great. And the guy could play. He did have skill that he showed on occasion and when he was properly motivated he was a legitimate top-6 forward for the Rangers.
Disregarding his off ice issues, Avery had become less and less effective as time moved on. A lot of it could be blamed on his inconsistent playing time and the lack of confidence he received from his coach.
I found myself becoming irritated with his play, starting with last year. For every time he would go in for a hard forecheck and recover a puck for his team he would make a cute, backwards pass in his own zone that resulted in a turnover.
Avery’s entire run on Broadway will be looked back at with mixed results but there is no doubt that he made a huge impact. He was one of the most interesting figures in the NHL over the last five years and it will be a shame to see him end his career in the AHL or in Europe.