Unfortunately it looks like a case of "the more things change, the more they stay the same" with Sean Avery. Prior to arriving in the Big Apple, the old Sean Avery managed to wear out his welcome everywhere he went. Inevitably, his on-ice contributions were outweighed by his selfish and uncontrollable need to act out. Sometimes he hurt his team by not knowing when to shut up. Other times he put his team down a man (or two) by taking foolish and unnecessary penalties. For Avery, it seemed as though the song always remained the same. At the end of the day, he was always deemed a detriment: more trouble then he was worth.
In New York, however, things seemed different. The new Sean Avery seemed to be making a real effort to focus and channel his "energy" into positive channels. Avery seemed to immediately recognize his value to the team. More importantly, he immediately embraced his role. Not surprisingly, New York fans immediately embraced him. That's what makes this most recent "controversy" all the more disappointing.
I'm willing to overlook Avery's childish comments before the Buffalo series (when Avery was quoted as saying he was going to "hurt" the Sabres).
I'm willing to forgive him for his total disappearing act in that series as well.
I'm even willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for his decision to file for salary arbitration even though better and more valuable players were willing to negotiate with the team in order to ensure cap compliance and an opportunity to make a serious run for the cup. Perhaps Sean didn't realize that an inflated arbitration award could disrupt the roster by forcing the Rangers to make a trade to accommodate his new salary. I'm even willing to ignore the irony in the fact that the two Rangers (Avery and Hossa) who filed for arbitration share three very unflattering qualities: (1) their characters have been questioned (for Hossa it's his overall commitment to excellence for Avery it his inability to control his self-centered childishness); (2) they both have unremarkable (to say the least!) track records (notwithstanding their late regular season production); and (3) they both have a heck of a lot to prove.
What I can't overlook, however, is Avery's decision to "rock the boat" by negotiating/posturing through the media. It creates a distraction. The last thing a contender needs is a distraction. Although it's still summer time, these things have a way of rippling into the season.
Maybe I should be blaming the Rangers. After all, they're the ones playing hard-ball. Somehow, however, I can't blame management. Arbitration is an adversarial proceeding. What did Avery expect? a hug?!? Avery chose to go this route. Avery chose to ask for $2.6m despite having a very troubled past and only 20 solid regular season games on his resume. Like it or not, everything the Rangers said about Avery is true.
Maybe Avery didn't mean to "rock the boat". Perhaps he's an emotional guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. Maybe he just reflexively shot from the hip because of his shock and disappointment. Well, if that were true it would just be more of the same from Avery. Speak now, think later. Unfortunately, however, I don't think that's true. I think Avery is intentionally using the sympathy card for his own benefit. He knows the fans love him. He knows Slats will come under fire from the faithful for playing it tough. Maybe management will fold and give him what he wants in order to avoid the negative publicity.
What makes me think that Avery was "acting" rather than "re-acting"? The Collective Bargaining Agreement, that's what. The CBA outlines the rules and regulations of everything in the NHL. Here's an interesting quote from Article 12 of the CBA which deals with salary arbitration proceedings:
The parties shall not publicize the substantive aspects
of any arbitration proceeding until the decision has been issued."
I'm not saying that Avery's comments to the New York Post violate the CBA. The definitions section of the CBA does not define the term "substantive" as quoted above (although the Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Edition defines it as follows, "An essential part or constituent or relating to what is essential." Did Avery leak an "essential part" of the Rangers argument? That's a tough one (tongue firmly implanted in cheek!!). What I am saying is that Avery knew or should have known about this rule. His representatives must have prepared him for the do's and dont's of arbitration well in advance. How else could he have made a well informed decision regarding whether or not to file for arbitration? Avery must have thought about his comments before he made them. He must have contemplated whether or not his comments would violate this provision of the CBA before he made them. In all likelihood he consulted (on at least some level) with his agent(s) before crying to Larry Brooks.
To me, this was not a case of an emotional guy reacting (without thought or premeditation) to the "shockingly" tough Ranger position. I see it as a calculated and premeditated move: Avery's trying to turn fan sympathy into dollars. Totally unnecessary. If the Rangers were willing to give Marcel Hossa a handsome raise they were certainly willing to do the same for Avery. Slats is a lot of things, stupid is not one of them.
In New York we want something new right now: success. Real Success. In New York we want the Cup. Right now the Rangers need the new Sean Avery, yet all we're getting at this point is the same old, same old from Mr. Avery.
For a great look at the Avery mess check out Dubi's article over at Blueshirt Bulletin.
Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank my loyal and anonymous reader for sending me an e-mail this morning regarding the CBA provision quoted in this post. Thanks for the angle!