There’s nothing wrong with the Rangers fifth place spot in the East right now. Many teams are able to advance in the playoffs from the middle of the pack.
It’s the brand of hockey the Blueshirts are performing that has raises the alarm. Right now, they are a pure vanilla team, which has trouble playing, as Tom Renney calls it, “the greasy type of game” which wins matches as the weather gets warm.
In short, this year’s Ranger team is missing Sean Avery.
Yet, that may be corrected in the near future. A report in The New York Post states that general manager Glen Sather is working on bringing ‘The Grate One’ back to Broadway. It will be a complicated deal where Avery will pass through waivers, but then will get recalled. If it works, the Rangers will be responsible for half of Avery’s remaining contact or about $1,935,500 a season, while the Dallas Stars will pick up the rest.
Now, this could backfire, if Avery is claimed by another team, but that probably is unlikely because the gritty forward turned himself into a pariah a few months ago after making disparaging remarks about his former girlfriend, Elisha Cuthbert and her relationship with Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
Avery was suspended for six games by Commissioner Gary Bettman and forced to undergo counseling under the NHL/NHLPA behavioral health program. The Post reports, Avery is about to be reinstated, but the Stars have said they don’t want the forward back.
So for Avery to play, he needs to find another team. Enter Sather.
Back in 2007, the Rangers were suffering from the same bland play. Sather made the trade Feb. 5 to bring Avery to Broadway. Almost immediately, the little forward made his presence felt by knocking opposing goalies out of the crease – mainly Martin Brodeur – while bringing that type of tough forward play not seen on 33rd Street since Adam Graves played on the Garden ice.
But Avery left last season as a free agent because neither side would budge on their number.
So if this deal works out, the Rangers will get Avery at their price, while the forward will come to the city he has grown to love. On the ice, he will bring the type of grittiness the team needs.
It could be argued that the two playoff series the Rangers have won in the last 12 years came about because of Avery. In 2007, he unnerved the Atlanta Thrashers in Game 2, which eventually resulted in a Rangers sweep. Then last season, he was in Brodeur’s face so much against the Devils, the NHL had to change the rules about screening the goalie.
And then there’s the record. With Avery in the lineup, the Rangers went 50-23-13, while held a 24-35-9 mark with the agitator on the bench.
If the trade does go through, there is some risk. Avery’s two biggest allies, Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan are playing elsewhere, so he may not mesh into this club’s fabric. Actually there have been rumors about some Rangers told Sather they didn’t want to come back if Avery returned. It only took the Stars 23 games to get tired of the forward, will the Ranger players be willing to take him back with open arms?
But something has to be done. After a three game stretch going 0-2-1, the Rangers need a desperate shot in the arm. They have little cap room, so something needs to be done on the cheap. Avery at less than $2 million could do it.
Lightning stuck right for the Rangers in 2007, now Sather hopes it will strike twice.