Sean Avery is quite possibly the biggest agitator in the game right now. The 27 year-old Ranger forward will do almost anything to get underneath the skin of opponents.
However, the undrafted Pickering Ontario native who's with his third organization in six seasons might just have pushed the envelope too far. The talkative pest has recently been involved in two incidents during pregame warmups.
The first came in his Nov. 3 return against New Jersey from a separated shoulder when he exchanged words with Devil netminder Martin Brodeur while the two stretched out along the ice in preparation for a game the Rangers won 2-1 in a shootout.
From our vantage point, it didn't look like anything too serious developed even if Devils' fourth liner David Clarkson took exception during the contest.
That Avery decided to go even further and make this a recurring theme by nearly inciting a fight involving Toronto's Darcy Tucker and Jason Blake who's battling Leukemia during warmups on what was a special Hockey Night In Canada honoring Monday's new HOF class featuring Mark Messier, Scott Stevens, Ron Francis, Al MacInnis and Jim Gregory was just assinine.
Talk about bad timing. Avery's antics can sometimes waver on absurd and while I am a supporter of him, he can even get on my last nerve. He used poor judgment Saturday which probably won't be the last time either.
With NHL executive VP of Operations Colin Campbell having to get involved and fine Avery $2,500, Tucker a grand and both organizations (Rangers- $25,000 Leafs- $10,000) substantial amounts embarrassing each in the process, one has to ask when is enough enough?
Clearly, Avery is on watch and must tone down his act. That he is an effective player who's valuable to his team should make him better understand why he's needed on the ice. When he's not mouthing off and ticking off opponents, the Ranger second liner who rides shotgun for the team's best playmaking pivot Scott Gomez is an outstanding skater with exceptional speed who brings many elements to the table such as going to the net with reckless abandon and getting dirty to make a play.
Quite honestly, Tom Renney's club is a better team with Avery on it. Despite his penchant for silly penalties, he'll also draw some as the result of his aggressive nature. That's the good coming with the bad. What also comes with it is a player who can play effectively at even strength, give a boost on the power play and kill penalties due to his speed and instincts. If he had better hands, he'd be scary. He certainly gets enough chances.
Last season, when Ranger President and GM Glen Sather went out and acquired him, it turned around their season. It's no coincidence that the Rangers became a much more difficult team to deal with after his acquisition. So when he's out of the lineup, the impact is felt.
Since returning five games ago, Avery has not only been a pest but he's been playing well scoring twice and setting up three other goals for all five of his points while having a couple of scraps which he fared well in sparking the club.
What gets lost in all the chaos is that the 5-9 195 pound nuisance can be a pretty darn good player when he wants to be. Sometimes though, it's our opinion that he'd rather be a clown and beat to his own drum than always do what's best for his team.
Maybe that explains why linemate Brendan Shanahan recently said that he doesn't need to talk so much and take it as far as he does sometimes crossing the line.
This is a very important year for the Rangers and they're going to need the good Avery to show up more than the one who acts like an idiot and sometimes is more a detriment. It's also a huge season for Avery who will be eligible for Group II free agency next July.
Ultimately, he has to decide if he wants to continue acting like a bozo annoying opponents who could even possibly be future suitors for his services next summer. By continuing this current path, it hurts his future more than helps.
If he keeps his head and just goes out and plays to capability, it will not only benefit the Rangers but Avery as well.
The choice is his.