Rhythm and Blueshirts: A Moving Target in N.Y.

Finally. Finally it is time to start talking New York Rangers hockey.

As far as sports go, it’s proven to be a long year for me, and surely for many of you out there as well. The Mets, while the future looks like it could be okay, still produced a painful season. The NBA is currently in lock-out mode and after this week’s Jets game, I just can’t.

And I don’t want to talk about Arsenal for a while. It’s somewhat like watching those wildlife specials on Animal Planet, where the baby animal is surrounded by a horde of predators waiting to eat it. It’s just like that, actually.

The Rangers, if all goes the way it should on paper (which it never does), will be my solace these long, cold winter months. I’m a huge prediction junkie, and usually I’d start something like this with my season predictions.  However, there are much more pressing issues that the Rangers face right now.

On Wednesday, Sean Avery clearedwaivers and was sent from Stockholm to New York. As of right now, Avery will play with the Connetticut Whale (which is easily the worst name for a team ever. I would honestly kill to know who thought calling them that was a good idea).  The news has left people in a bind; Does Avery deserve to stay and continue his career as a Ranger, or is it time to let him go?

Two years ago, I would have said there was no way the Rangers could let go of him.  Avery was, quite frankly, a one of a kind player. He wasn’t just an enforcerer, he was a full-blown bad guy on the ice. I mean, if the NHL made a superhero movie, Avery would have been a combination of the Joker, Lex Luthor, Red Skull and Two-Face. This is the guy who gave “sloppy seconds” a whole new meaning. Even players who are friends of his have admitted that he’s thrown out racial slurs during games (which doesn’t exuse the homophobic slurs thrown at him during the Rangers pre-season game against the Flyers.)

But he isn’t that guy anymore. You can tell he’s scaled back and mellowed out, but it hasn’t been enough for the likes of Torts and the rest of the coaching staff. And yet, there’s an even  bigger problem than that, and it’s the main reason why I think Avery needs to go.

I hate the fans who always scream that refs hate the Rangers and how the NHL is all just one big conspiracy against the Rangers. However, I really think Avery has a target on his back during games. To an extent, Avery is flat-out victimized by other teams because they know they can beat up on him and have a 95 percent chance of getting away with it. Tortorella has probably realized that, even if Avery were to change his ways, it will never be enough. He’s become too much of a liability out on the ice at this point.

When Tortorella first began his tenure as head coach, it seemed like he and Avery would get along fine, even though Torts had publically stated beforehand that he thought Avery was a disgrace to hockey. In the long-run though, I don’t think Avery has ever really taken to Sean. And I think, as an older player, Avery has never particularly taken to Tortorella either, which has probably helped  the organization to distance itself from Avery.

When the Rangers originally let Avery go, it was pretty clear that he was a big part of the New York persona, and most knew that, regardless of personal feelings, he would be back. But the Rangers have become a radically different team since that time. They’re progressively getting younger and more skilled. In the next couple of years, you can expect a very highly-capable, muti-skilled team that will not have a spot for someone like Sean Avery.

The Rangers are probably hoping that someone will want to take Avery off their hands during the course of the season, but the Rangers administration isn’t stupid. Sather has to know that no one is going to want to take Avery. He’s become a moving target for referees, and an easy punching bag for opponents. Avery’s agent said they’ve gotten some calls from European teams, which is where Avery will most likely end up come season’s end.

I love Avery and I always will. However, this season the Rangers really look like a team that could compete for a Stanley Cup in a couple of years, and when you look at these past few seasons, the NHL has made it blatantly obvious that Avery will never see his name on the cup.