From the desk of: RAISE GRESCH WITH THE GREATS
NEW YORK RANGERS: The Blueshirts Seize a Share of First Place. Their Methodical Climb Through the Standings Validates Three Years of Building.
Make that five consecutive games and counting in which Coach Torts banished Sean Avery to the Island of healthy yet Misfit Scratches. It's a shame too. The maligned forward has been as composed, and has played as effectively in his minimal ice-time this season, than he has in all his time here.
I still believe there is a role for this player and that he can serve a team well if he comports himself. And this year, he has. But I now know that role will never be with the Rangers; not anymore. It's clear there is no role for him here. After spending much time defending and championing Sean Avery's plight, I now understand he never stands a chance of playing meaningful minutes for the New York Rangers ever again, only unless some most unfortunate calamity should befall the Rangers. And even then, there's a question as to whether Coach Torts would turn to him..
The list of players Sean Avery must now climb over in order to receive any meaningful ice-time is starting to cast a rather lengthy shadow on his Ranger career...again. The first time was because he was still largely out of control and seething with internal anger. He proved too damaging to the team building concept. Most of all, he never stood a chance under Coach Torts. So, he was shipped off to Dallas. Glen Sather brought him back for a second run of the off-Broadway drama after another disappointingly meek exit from the playoffs and because Avery came at a cheaper price this time. Then just before this season got started, Coach blind-sided Avery with a demotion to Connecticut. Coach Torts flatly stated at the time, the organization simply had better players than Sean Avery. That rang very hollow with Ranger Fans.
Sometime before 10:00 p.m. on the evening of December 23, 2011, the Head Coach of the New York Rangers stood triumphantly on the bench behind his team fully justified in his stance, and totally correct in his conviction. Alas, the Coach has been proven right and that should be duly noted.
The mountain Avery must climb for ice-time features the most obvious forwards; Richards; Callahan; Dubinsky; Boyle; Gaborik; Fedotenko; Prust; and Rupp. Young players like Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov have already skated light years ahead of Avery on the pecking order. And here's where the Rangers' reconstruction effort has made Sean Avery a relic in the new Madison Square Garden - the Rangers' pipeline from Connecticut is flowing at full force now. It just pumped out another player like Carl Hagelin. And another pick-up like John Mitchell stepped in and played tough, smart, disciplined, complimentary hockey of late. They come to play without the reputation which precedes a guy like Avery, and they arrive without all the baggage as well. And we won't even speak of the need to maintain another defenseman because of the rash of injuries taking a heavy toll on the Rangers' back line.
For Sean Avery, anger management and a re-commitment to being an effective hockey player while dressed in a Blueshirt came too late in the Rangers' and John Tortorella's grand scheme of things. Mood management might have served him more wisely a few years ago. A Sean Avery with a clearer mind back then could have made the whole difference in his career as a Ranger. There still might be a team he can play very well for. But due the Rangers' rebuilding effort, and the surging quality of hockey being played by too many young hungry and moldable players make it virtually impossible to throw Sean Avery valuable minutes out of compassion now. I am an unabashed soldier in the Avery Army. But the new young Rangers have passed him by. Like Coach Torts said back in October, this team has better players than Sean Avery.
The teaching; the drilling; and the patience by the organization are all starting to pay off. The methodical rise of the New York Rangers started with the nurturing of Ryan Callahan, Brian Dubinsky, Marc Staal; and Henrik Lundqvist. Those are the four men Coach Torts defined as his Core.
Artem Anisimov and the second wave of Derek Stepan, Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonagh, and Michael Sauer; are all coming together around that core. Guys like Stu Bickel, Tim Erixon, and Anton Stralman, being led by Dan Girardi who is the grizzled young vet now, are making life without Marc Staal, Michael Sauer, and Steve Eminger possible.
On Christmas Eve, the New Young Rangers woke up tied for first place in the Atlantic Division. They achieved that by resoundingly defeating the first place Philadelphia Flyers. They scored first on a brilliant deflection by Derek Stepan and never looked back. Then Ruslan Fedotenko scored again and the place roared with appreciation over what was transpiring on the ice. Our boys were growing into men before our eyes.
Then the star showed up. Marian Gaborik nailed his twenty first goal of the season. A New York Ranger forward is leading the League in goals? Yes. How apropos is it that he should score his league topping goal on a night the Rangers secured a share of first place against a long standing rival, whom for many decades remained a more physical team than the Rangers.
The Rangers' ascension to the top of the Atlantic Division started three years ago with a grass roots; down-home; honest, True Blue effort and a player named Ryan Callahan. He himself is still a young player. But as such, Coach Torts named him Captain this season of a very young team. In the third period of Friday evening's game, the Rangers' Captain was set-up in front, right where he should have been. He nailed home the Rangers fourth goal of the night, and put an exclamation point on a message received loud and clear by the Flyers.
Led by their Captain, the New Young Rangers treated the crowd to a throwback classic night at the Garden. They showed the Broad Street Bullies that whether by skills or fists, the new group playing the Garden these days isn't inclined to put up with any of their crap. And for that, the Garden roared with appreciation like it did in the old days.
So no, ultimately, Sean Avery will be hard pressed to bring his old act to the newest off-Broadway hit. That curtain has fallen. Look no further than Friday night as to the reason why.