When Sean Avery returns to the lineup tonight, it will be with very high expectations from the fans. Chants of “We Want Avery” rang down from the blue seats from the moment the Rangers touched home ice last week, and have continued in spurts throughout this homestand. When the Rangers play well, the chants are quiet, and sometimes met with harsh criticism from fans. But when the Rangers are losing, the chants get loud. It seems that fans think that Avery is the answer to all that troubles this team.
Whether the above assumption is true or not, it has the appearance of truth, which is all it really needs. From 2007-2008, Sean Avery was a force to be reckoned with on the Rangers. He was incredibly effective, and instantly became a fan favorite. His skills, and most importantly his ability to draw penalties, diminished drastically during Avery’s second run on Broadway, and it ended up with him in the AHL. It seems that fans only remember the 2007-2008 version of Avery.
For Avery to succeed, he needs to be that 2007-2008 Sean Avery. He needs to get under the skin of opponents. He needs to stay onsides. He needs to stay out of the box. He needs to grind along the walls. He needs to do this every single night. The fans have a taste for life without Sean Avery, and it has been pretty decent hockey, all things considered. The Rangers have found ways to beat playoff teams, but have yet to play a full 60 minutes for several straight games (they have two in a row against San Jose and Anaheim though).
But what happens if the 2009-2011 version of Sean Avery shows up? The version that couldn’t do anything above things on a consistent basis? Sure, Avery showed up for a few games against rivals and the Dallas Stars, but other than that he was quite invisible. Will the fans, who love him dearly, turn on him because they realize that this isn’t the Avery they remember? Ranger fans have a history of incredibly lofty expectations that are impossible to meet (see: Drury, Chris circa 2009).
Is it possible that one of the most beloved members of the current Rangers organization can be turned on if he fails to deliver? Avery is not a goal scoring threat, he does not have the offensive talent that many think he does. He is a grinder, and he creates chances with speed, tenacity, and relentless work ethic –when he wants to.
Avery is a smart man. He realizes this is his final shot at sticking with an NHL club, and it may be his final year in the NHL. All signs point to the Rangers cutting him loose after this season, and no team picked him up on re-entry waivers for less than $1 million. Simply put, other than the Rangers, no one wants him. He knows this. The question is: does he play like it?