Much is being discussed about the vacant penthouse suite in the Rangers neighbourhood. Of course, the vacant suite under discussion is in fact the left wing spot alongside resident elite forwards Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. Many fans and even Rangers media (Stan Fischler for example) have touted Sean Avery as a good choice for the left wing spot. Is he a good choice?
Avery is entering into his final year as a Ranger and given the underwhelming recent performances (to put it mildly) from the ‘Grate one’ and his reputation as an ego driven, bottom six forward, many may not deem him suitable for such a sought after position as top line left wing. However, on closer inspection, maybe Avery is a legitimate candidate for a spot on the top line.
Avery’s game can make space for his line mates and he has certainly, repeatedly displayed his ability to command attention on the ice. Indeed, on the odd occasion (used very sparingly together), Marian Gaborik has previously benefitted from Avery’s presence on his line. Avery plays the corners, plays physical, and is good on the forecheck. He makes opposing defenseman want to knock his lights out. His style could lend itself to the Rangers top line. This is all without considering the chemistry Avery and his friend Brad Richards may have together. Don’t underestimate how a friendship could transfer to the ice.
There is also the issue of Avery being at the ‘last chance saloon’. There is a legitimate chance that if Avery cannot extend his stay in New York beyond this coming season then his NHL career could be over. His ‘stay’ in Dallas was a disaster, his stay in LA wasn’t a marriage made in heaven either, and he’s not well liked around the league – one hell of an understatement. If Avery gets released by the Rangers after this season he may not get another chance and if he did, the GM that takes him on will be staking his reputation on a very volatile personality.
Avery needs a productive year in New York this coming season if he wants to avoid applying for more Vogue internships sooner than intended. Avery needs to convince Coach Tortorella that he is worth more than 6, 7 minutes per game. Avery needs to find that infamous line again and play on the edge. Avery at his best can be a good fit on the top line, but will Tortorella give him the chance? It’s up to Avery to force him.
He doesn’t need to score 30 goals or 50+ points on the line to be successful there. He needs to contribute, but above all be a presence and provide Richards and Gaborik a platform to succeed. IF he gets a chance.
Avery has always had an affinity with New York and it seems like the only NHL location that can support everything Avery is, both on and off the ice. Avery needs to focus all his energy on his profession this summer. If he succeeds it would also be a win for the Rangers. An effective $1.9m (cap hit) top line winger? Every team would like such a bargain.
Avery panning out in the role also means the Rangers don’t have to look outside of the organisation thus saving them additional dollars and/or assets required to bring someone else in. Avery is most certainly in the last chance saloon and it’s in everyone’s interest that he finds his way out of there and back into hockey relevance.