|Sean Avery gets ready to clock Ladislav Smid after waving him off, leading to a melee during the Rangers' 8-2 win over the Oilers Sunday.|
They don't call him the Grate One for nothing. During yesterday's home blowout win over former bench boss Tom Renney's Oilers, Sean Avery was at it again. With the Rangers up three, the left wing caught Edmonton forward Colin Fraser with a clean shoulder hit into the boards. Simply put, there was nothing wrong with the takeout from the side that wasn't vicious. Had it been, perhaps Fraser would've responded.
Instead, Edmonton teammate Ladislav Smid went after Avery, challenging him immediately. There's nothing wrong with wanting to fight even if there was no reason for the Ranger pest to drop the gloves. Little could be gained from taking on the bigger Smid with Avery's team leading 5-2 halfway through the third. From that standpoint, it made sense when he waved off the towering 6-3, 226 pound defenseman. Had he just skated away, nothing probably happens. However, that's just not who he is. It came as no surprise that the 30 year-old antagonist acted like he wouldn't go before quickly throwing the gloves down and catching Smid with a right, taking him down- setting the wheels in motion for the fireworks that followed.
Nobody is defending Avery here. His initial play was fine but he broke The Code by tricking Smid into thinking nothing would happen. It was another classless move by a player who's very slick at hiding behind the rules. His games have turned favorite target David Clarkson into a raging maniac whenever the Devils and Rangers meet. The frustrating aspect for this loyal blue seat supporter is that Sean's capable of fighting but rarely ever obliges. It's always on his terms which drives opponents batty. He's not out to make friends nor should any opponent during a match.
Hockey is a physical game filled with battles all over the ice. As Avery's proven, it's also an emotional one. Give him credit for being an effective player who gets underneath foes' skin. By now, the book should be out on the Ranger bad boy. Ignore him. If only it were that simple as yesterday proved. There was no way the Oilers could stand there and not retaliate. So, it wasn't shocking that both Ryan Whitney and Theo Peckham went after Avery, who was escorted back to the locker room. The fun/chaos was just beginning on Kids' Day at The Garden. What should've been all about Marian Gaborik's 11th career hat trick along with linemates Alex Frolov and Erik Christensen, who dominated in the 8-2 thrashing became all about Avery, who predictably didn't speak to reporters.
“It’s a sucker punch, and I hope they look at it,” Whitney pointedly remarked. “Smid asked him to fight. (Avery) was saying wait. Then Laddie turned around and all of a sudden he gets suckered. I don’t know what the league can do with that, but it’s pretty obvious.”
“I thought it was pretty gutless,” Steve MacIntyre added after battling rival Derek Boogaard twice in the same period of a game that featured 124 penalty minutes, including 67 during the melee. “It just shows you what kind of guy he is. He’ll get his. Somebody who is bigger and tougher … he’ll get what’s coming.”
One day, it could happen. But while Avery was guilty of wrongdoing, it didn't explain Renney losing his bench. As many as three extra Oilers were out when it escalated, getting a rise out of an energized MSG. Former Alberta rivals Zach Stortini and Brandon Prust went at it at center ice while Brian Boyle made certain an enraged Peckham didn't get to Avery. Broadway's version of pandemonium included a wild sequence that saw Fraser trying to engage Brandon Dubinsky, who was seated on the Ranger bench with John Tortorella wisely pulling him back.
“I didn’t want anybody on our bench being involved on it,” the cooler than normal coach remarked while refusing to comment further. "It’s embarrassing out here,” assessed Whitney of a lost day that tarnished their coach's MSG return. “At least we’re sticking up for one another. I guess that’s the only thing you can take out of it.”
Funny but that's probably a good adjective to describe No.16, who can be an effective player. Early on without Gaborik, he produced while teamed with rookie Derek Stepan and Ruslan Fedotenko. In fact, seven of his nine points (1-8-9) came during the club's first eight games. Since, he's registered only two assists including one that helped set up Artem Anisimov's insurance marker in the second before the Rangers blitzed a disorganized Oiler club en route to seven unanswered goals. No wonder his role has decreased. What happens when Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal get back? That depends on Avery, who will always remain an enigma. Sometimes, he really stands out while others, you barely notice him.
Unfortunately for Edmonton, that wasn't the case Sunday. You can bet they'll have the next game against the Rangers circled on their calendar. Too bad it won't come later this season. You'll have to wait until Avery's final year of his contract in '11-12. If he's not careful, it could be his last in the NHL. Nobody would miss his circus act.