---The injury to Sean Avery leaves a couple of questions unanswered. When did he get hurt and how did it happen? More importantly what does this bode for the future of "The Detriment" with the Rangers? Avery has been a lightning rod since joining the Rangers in the middle of last season, 2006-07. He has agitated goalies, defensemen and GM's, one in particular. There is a strong possibility that Avery was hurt in the first game of this series, when he scored a goal.
By the nature of the injury it almost has to be inflicted by a stick and the way Avery plays there are always confrontations with other players and sticks especially from goalies and defensemen. While one could make the case that even with Avery in the lineup the Rangers haven't been able to beat the Pens there is no doubting the value a healthy Avery brings to the Rangers. This past year with Avery in the lineup the Rangers were 33-14-10, seventy-six points out of a possible 114 points or a .667 winning percentage. Without him the Rangers were 9-13-3, twenty-one points out of a possible 50 points for a .420 winning percentage. Upon joining the Rangers last year he led the Rangers to a 17-6-6 run which got them into the playoffs. That's 40 points out of a possible 58 or a .689 winning percentage. His one and a half year stint with the Rangers shows a record of 50-20-16. That's a total of 116 points out of a possible 172 points, or a .674 winning percentage. Basically, the Rangers win two out of every three games when Sean Avery is in the lineup. This guy is no detriment.
Lately, there have been some complaints about Avery's performance against the Penguins. Blogs and fans ask questions like: "Is Avery playing? Is he in the game?" Even the Maven, Stan Fischler, has repeatedly complained that Avery has to get in front of the net especially on the power play. Except for game three and on the five on three Avery has had no power play time in this playoff series. He is only averaging around twelve minutes a game, the least of the top six forwards. Whether by design or by ignorance, Avery does not get the ice time that is needed for him to be more effective. Is coach clueless strengthening the Stealth GM's case against signing Avery? I wouldn't doubt it. Coach clueless has been nothing more than a stooge for the Stealth GM.
Sean Avery is the spine of the Rangers. He will be sorely missed if he does not return to the Rangers next year. However, looking at some of the moves that the Stealth GM has made with players like Sjostrom and Backman I would not be surprised that Sean Avery will be playing somewhere else next year. If he is not here, the Rangers will not only miss one hell of a hockey player but they will also be missing a A-one character type player. They probably also will be missing the playoffs. Let's keep the guy. Let's resign the spine of the Rangers.
Larry Brooks, the NY Post Rangers beat writer, made these points about the NY Rangers today in a 15 minute interview with Michael Kay of ESPN radio. [Not in order and paraphrased.]
Question: Why have the Rangers tanked in this series with Pittsburgh?Lynn Zinser at Slap Shot nicely covers Jagr's Last Stand:
Larry Brooks: The Pens have been able to exploit the weaknesses that the Rangers have had all season. Namely, virtually no power play and a shaky defense. The Pens have shown they are a formidable and dangerous team, now among the league elite.
Question: What happened Tuesday night?
LB: The Rangers threw everything they had against the Pens and their young goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury. The Pens withstood the pressure cooker of a packed, loud MSG and took the Rangers' best shots and came on to win the game.
Q: Do the Rangers have a chance?
LB: No one outside the Rangers locker room thinks they have a chance.
Q: What's the problem on the power play?
LB: The Rangers do not have a quarterback or anyone at the point who can run the PP. NHL teams have gotten very good at defending the PP and positioning two men between the puck and the net. You need a special player to run the PP.
Q: Is Tom Renney the right guy?
LB: Yes, because he's very good with younger players. He is very patient with younger players. He's almost too patient with them. And the team will definitely be much younger next year after they shed some of the older players.
The problem for the Rangers is that it has been easy to go from a bad team to a good team over the last three years. The problem now is going from a good team to an elite team. The Pens look like they have made the jump to elite status.
Q: What do the Rangers need?
They most need a "sniper" forward from the right-side, a quarterback for the power play, and more size overall.
They need that sniper on the right-side to fit in with Gomez. There is no way that Gomez and Jagr can play together.
Q: Will Jaromir Jagr be back next year as a Ranger?
LB: Jagr is a riddle. If the Rangers can get this playoff version of Jagr back, yes they'll probably want him back. But only if they can work out the right deal.
If they only get a 75% Jagr back next year then a lot of variables have to be considered. They will not want to build their team around an aging superstar.
Some of the variables in re-signing Jagr are: Will he take a reduced contract for one year with incentives that bring him up to his current level? Does he want a two-year deal?
Jagr was making the case today at practice that he played very well for a 36-year old. Sure, he's not as good as he once was, but he's still a valuable player.
Q: Who will not be re-signed by the Rangers next season?
LB: The Rangers will probably not re-sign: Brendan Shanahan, Martin Straka, Marek Malik, Mara, and Michal Rozsival . It is also questionable if they'll re-sign Sean Avery.
Removing all those older players, plus having the younger players such as Staal, Dubinsky, and Callahan with lower salaries will give the Rangers lots of room to maneuver. The salary cap should also go up by $4-6 million.
He sat at his locker after practice on Wednesday, still wearing his skates and all his equipment and held forth on everything from his future, or what he will say about it, the Rangers’ chances of coming back and handling the job of being Jaromir Jagr.
I will quote him at length so you get a better idea of his thoughts:
“I’m talking about the series not my hockey career. I’m 36 and feel like 25. I don’t think age is important if you work hard. If you do a lot for the game, it doesn’t matter how old you are. The hard work always overcomes everything. Maybe not the injuries, but everything else.”
“I’m going to play tomorrow to try to win the series back, not thinking about myself. It’s going to take care of itself. I’m going to try to play to win the hockey game, to have a chance to play the next game. That is my goal.” ...