As you've probably heard by now, the Avery verdict has arrived: $1.9m for the season. Now it's time for everyone to move on. The Rangers roster is set (for now) and the focus can officially shift to getting ready for a serious run. The business issues have been resolved, now it's about hockey.
The question of who was right and who was wrong in this little saga are no longer relevant. The only thing that matters now is winning. For the Rangers to have a real shot at winning, everyone has to give 110%. There can be no room here for anger, resentment or hurt feelings on either side. The team must be united, not polarized.
It looks like the Rangers understand that: They immediately accepted the arbitrators award. The immediacy of the team's acceptance speaks volumes. By not delaying at all in accepting the award, the Rangers have essentially said "we know you're worth it, Sean. We don't have to think about it or wonder, we know and we want you here". But implications and inferences aren't enough. Well, it looks like the Rangers understand that as well. Which is why the team, through Glenn Sather, issued the following statement upon immediately accepting the award: "We are pleased to have Sean under contract and are looking forward to him returning with the same passion and enthusiasm he brought to our team last year," stated Sather. "He is a terrific competitor, who we expect to play a significant role in a successful season." (Check out the entire release over here).
Now it's Avery's turn. It's time for him to prove that all the naysayers are wrong. It's time for him to prove that the arbitrator was wrong. Most importantly, it's time for him to prove that the Ranger's were wrong. He's been called a detriment. He's been called immature. People around the hockey world have said that he's selfish and puts his own needs ahead of the team.
What better way is there for Sean Avery to prove his worth than by moving forward in a mature and responsible manner. He has two choices here: he can bear a grudge and harbor a resentment or he can accept the award put the past behind him and come out with a statement saying that he's happy to be back and he's looking forward to helping the Rangers, his teammates and the fans compete for a Stanley Cup. The former would simply reinforce what his critics say: Sean Avery is a distraction and a detriment. What would the latter approach accomplish? Well, it would go a long way towards silencing his critics (myself included).
The Rangers are trying to move forward. It's time for Avery to do the same thing.
Check out a nice post on this topic from Stan Fischler over here.
UPDATE: I was hoping to hear some positive quotes for Avery in this morning's (August 2, 2007) papers. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. Avery's agent was, however, saying the right things. As for Avery himself, he declined to comment to the New York Post. You can check out Larry Brooks' article in the post here. Hopefully, Avery just needs a little time. Stay tuned!