by PuckStopsHere on 12/15/08 at 04:07 PM ET
The Dallas Stars are not having a good season. They are last in the West Conference with an 11-18 record (with four regulation tie points). They have had the worst goaltending in the NHL with a .878 saves percentage so far this season. Marty Turco has not played well (though his game is improving) and his backup Tobias Stephan does not appear to be an NHL calibre goalie. This leaves Dallas with the third worst goals against average in the league at 3.45. Their special teams have been bad. Their 13.0% efficiency on the power play is third worst in the league. Their penalty kill is also third worst in the NHL with a 76.9% success rate. Their offence has been a little bit better. It is ninth worst in the league with 2.66 goals scored per game. Their top scorer Mike Ribeiro is the second lowest scoring player who leads his team in scoring (only Jay Bouwmeester of Florida has fewer points). Their captain Brenden Morrow is injured and likely won’t play again this season. Who is at fault for this?
Obviously, it’s Sean Avery.
That seems to be the message Dallas Stars ownership is sending out. It is likely true that the dressing room in Dallas is not a happy place. It shouldn’t be a particularly happy place given the struggles the Stars have had this season. Sean Avery is possibly the least popular player in the league and he brought with him that baggage. Many Stars players were not Avery fans when he arrived in town. Avery plays a game as an agitator. He is very effective at throwing his opponents off their games and getting them to want to kill him instead of defeat his team. This game makes it hard for Avery to gain fans from his teammates and from the general fanbase of his club unless it can be demonstrated that the team is winning because of Avery’s efforts. Since Dallas isn’t winning he hasn’t gained any goodwill in Dallas. That is tough for the Stars who signed Avery to a four year $15.5 million contract last summer.
Avery has not played badly in Dallas. He is tied for eighth in team scoring with 10 points in 23 games. He is one of only four Stars (Stephane Robidas, Loui Eriksson and Toby Peterson are the others) who have more than 20 games played and a positive +/- rating. On the ice, it is clear that he is not the cause of the Dallas problems this season. Nevertheless, Dallas decided they didn’t want him anymore.
They used his suspension as a reason to do this. Avery was suspended for six games for making a pre-game trash talk comment to the media where he called his ex-girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert (was is dating Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames - the team he was to play that day) “his sloppy seconds”. A six game suspension for such a comment is excessive punishment. The Dallas Stars deciding he will no longer play for their club is a significant over-reaction.
Dallas has sent him home for now. They are paying Avery to not play for them. They are likely trying to trade Avery and failing that would likely waive him and send him to the minors. If Avery still is Dallas property this summer, they will likely buyout the remainder of his contract. This is looking like a costly decision for the Dallas Stars.
Avery has been sent to anger management classes by the NHL as part of his punishment. Avery certainly did not look angry when he made the comments in question. It seems like this punishment is a trendy solution to a problem that is imagined to exist (but may not in practise). Dallas is using this as an excuse to try to take the high-ground getting rid of Avery. They are claiming that in this pivotal moment in his life they are letting him get away from hockey to deal with his problems. Problems which may or may not exist, but because of Avery’s unpopularity with fans are widely accepted to exist. I would imagine that somebody who interns at Vogue Magazine and dates Hollywood starlets likely does not have significant problems in his life. His act as an agitator requires him to play on the edge and frequently “cross the line” of what is acceptable in the hockey culture but it is a calculated act to play the game that Avery excels at.
The worst part for Dallas is that getting rid of Sean Avery will not get them better goaltending. It will not get them better special teams. It will not get them better depth at forward or defence. It will not bring Brenden Morrow back from injury. It doesn’t solve any of their considerable on-ice problems. It merely makes their organization look very poorly run. Sean Avery is a scapegoat for a poor start to the season.
Sean Avery will be back in the NHL sometime. He will likely be a useful player, as he was in New York. If Dallas does not want a player like Avery then they shouldn’t have signed him. It should come as no shock to anybody that he would be an agitator in Dallas. He has been an agitator at every stop of his career. Signing him and deciding they need to get rid of him is an awful move.
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