Pride

Jonathan Willis
March 02 2009 09:41AM

avery

Sean Avery is on re-entry waivers. Lowetide (who I have tremendous respect for) has a post up this morning suggesting that the Oilers should make a claim for his services. It makes a ton of sense from an on-ice perspective, particularly with Ethan Moreau injured, but I think he’s wrong.

What It Isn’t About

I didn’t write Avery off because of his six-game suspension earlier in the year. His comments, while stupid, classless, and ill-advised are hardly grounds for the nonsense he’s had to go through since then. Even the six-game suspension was nonsense; consider that Chris Pronger gets one game for elbowing Dean McAmmond in the head, and Sean Avery gets six for making nasty comments about an ex-girlfriend.

It’s ludicrous. Remember the slew-foot that injured Denis Grebshkov not all that long ago? The NHL views that offense (3 game suspension) as being half as serious as saying bad things about a celebrity. It isn’t a defensible argument.

It isn’t about how Avery supposedly destroyed the Dallas Stars early in the year either. The blame for that falls almost entirely on Marty Turco and his .897 SV%. Over his first ten games, Turco had a .900 SV% or better in only two games. Over his last ten, he’s done it seven times. To scapegoat one player for the struggles of the team (as Ottawa did to Ray Emery a year ago) may be convenient for certain commentators, but I very much doubt that it’s accurate. Unless, of course, that one player is the only goalie the team is willing to play.

What It Is About

Sean Avery, over his 12 years in the OHL, AHL and NHL, has set a pattern. It’s a pattern of disrespect – disrespect for his teammates, the opposition, his coaches, and virtually everybody not named Sean Avery. The fact that people keep giving him chances is a tribute to his non-trivial on-ice skills – he was an incredibly useful player last season, and that shouldn’t be denied despite his defects of character.

Back in November, I wrote an article about Steve Tambellini’s decision to claim Jesse Boulerice; a decision I harshly criticized because I felt that Boulerice was an embarrassment to his jersey and hockey in general. I feel similarly (albeit not as strongly – classless words aren’t in the same category as crosschecking someone in the face) about Sean Avery.

I wasn’t convinced until I read this article by Chris Botta, a former media relations V.P. with the New York Islanders.

This is at least the second time Avery’s been accused of using racial taunts; Georges Laraque accused him of it while Laraque was playing for the Oilers and Avery for the Kings, and Laraque could have little reason for making that story up. That kind of behavior should not be condoned, and should not be welcomed on a team with any professional pride.

When a player dons a jersey, everything he does reflects on his organization. A team like the Edmonton Oilers would certainly benefit from Avery’s considerable on-ice talents, but it simply isn’t worth compromising the principles involved.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 TonyT
March 02 2009, 09:59AM
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While the risks and rewards of acquiring a "disrespectful" character like Avery are debateable. The Oilers are currently only a threat to disrespect themselves. They could use a guy that everybody loves to hate (at least for this season and less Tambellini plans to improve that area in two days). Avery isn't even playing and he's still in Phaneuf's head!

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#2 TonyT
March 02 2009, 10:00AM
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sorry "unless" not "and less"

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#3 King Mob
March 02 2009, 10:03AM
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meh, screw principles. I want playoffs.

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#4 Jonathan Willis
March 02 2009, 10:16AM
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TonyT wrote:

They could use a guy that everybody loves to hate...

No - they could use a guy with Avery's on-ice abilities. His ability to instigate is embarrassing to all parties involved.

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#5 Cam
March 02 2009, 10:17AM
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King Mob wrote:

meh, screw principles. I want playoffs.

We have a very young team. We don't need an influence like that on the people in our room. We have had enough stupidity around here with the Pronger, Comrie, Nylander issues. Why would we ask for more?

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#6 King Mob
March 02 2009, 10:30AM
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@ Cam: to make the playoffs.

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#7 Jono
March 02 2009, 10:39AM
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The man is poison. Thanks for the Chris Botta article, what a great insight.

Do you all remember earlier in the year? The much touted 'players only' meeting to heal the rift in the room prior to the all star game? Do you really think that Avery is the man to plunk into a split or recently healed dressing room?

Personally, I would be embarrassed to have Avery foul our beloved jersey.

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#8 Hoodlum
March 02 2009, 10:42AM
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I don't know about you guys, but I would love to see the boys pick up Avery and finish 6th in the conference to have a first round date with Calgary. I think that generate fireworks.

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#9 Tombo
March 02 2009, 10:49AM
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Please tell me they aren't even CONSIDERING this guy...

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#10 max fisher
March 02 2009, 10:55AM
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Avery's ex agent is a good friend of mine, and through him i've hung out with Sean a couple of times. The most recent being when the oilers beat the rangers in a shootout last year. After the game Sean met us at the Suede lounge, had a couple of drinks and chewed fat for awhile. The first thing i noticed was how quiet and articulate he was. He has a lot of knowledge for the game, and his passion for it was obvious. The other thing that blew my mind was watching guy after guy walk up to say hello. I figured with his rep that we should be ready to throwdown at any minute, but that was not the case. He was patient with everybody always smiling, a genuine dude. I bring this all up because said agent has been in contact with him lately about where he will play and if edmonton is an option, he said at this point he has a lot to prove to the hockey world and oilers claimed him it would be just fine with him. As much of a buffoon as he's been in the past, the oilers need a guy like him. admit it, i'm right.

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#11 Rick
March 02 2009, 11:08AM
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max fisher wrote:

...and if edmonton is an option, he said at this point he has a lot to prove to the hockey world and oilers claimed him it would be just fine with him.

Taking your post a face value just for discussions sake, even if Avery supposedly does have his issues under control I would think the last place he should try to get his career back on track is in a Canadian market, or even some of the northern US markets for that matter including NY.

It would be like hiring a recovering drug addict to work in a meth lab, way too much temptation to expect him to keep it together.

The best thing for Avery is to toil in anonymity down in Florida or some place similar where he can remain unnoticed.

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#12 Ender the Dragon
March 02 2009, 11:36AM
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Sean Avery didn't get 6 games for maligning a celebrity; he got six games for continuing to be Sean Avery and putting his own selfish interests ahead of the team and the league. This was just the straw that broke the camel's back. If you have a day to kill (and most of us here on the Nation seem to have nothing but) just troll online and see how many separate articles about Sean Avery's off-ice antics you can dig up. The stuff you find is just outrageous, and the worst part is that most of it has been substantiated.

Jono wrote:

The man is poison

Really and truly. What he brings in terms of on-ice skill is more than lost in what he brings in off-ice tension and conflict. The pluses do not equal the minuses. No-brainer; Avery is a cancer, and you don't voluntarily ingest cancer. The Stars are paying millions of dollars for him not to play for them, just a few short months after signing him. What does that tell you?

Whoever signs Sean Avery (and someone will be that dumb) is going to find out that the league-mandated counselling was probably not nearly as effective as they might have hoped.

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#13 Ducey
March 02 2009, 12:08PM
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"The NHL views that offense (3 game suspension) as being half as serious as saying bad things about a celebrity. It isn’t a defensible argument."

Well, except that punishment usually includes some regard for past behaviour. If it was the third slewfoot the guy had used in the last few years, he would have got more than 3 games. Further, punishment also includes consideration for state of mind. Someone can make a split second poor decision in the middle of a game. Avery's comments were made after calling the media together - i.e. premeditated.

I think the Oilers should take a chance on Avery. He is a pickup that will cost no assets. (They always could pick him up and flip him to the Rangers too). I would think given his latest punishment, he is likely to have really learned his lesson. While he won't ever BE a good person, you can expect that he will act like one for the balance of the year.

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#14 TonyT
March 02 2009, 12:11PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: I'm not saying the guy is or isn't poison, but I'd be quite the hypocrite to extol my own personal virtues over some guy "notorious" for using "sloppy seconds", waving his stick in front of Brodeur (something no different than Smyth or Holmstrom only more obvious in intent), his use of racial slurs has never been confirmed. All that aside, all I'm saying is in a season for the Oilers are obviously missing something and have failed to address it, I (personally) would try anything, including picking up Avery (at least for the remainder of this season, as I previously stated). Katz has the money, he can afford a buyout, and quite frankly is going to need the practice.

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#15 TonyT
March 02 2009, 12:13PM
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Just to add, I would take Avery over the following Cooke, J. Ruutu, and Ott who all stir the pot and I have yet to see fight. At least I've seen Avery fight on a number of occasions to answer for his behaviour.

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#16 Jack "FMNF" Bauer
March 02 2009, 12:34PM
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To not blame the Stars early season struggles on Avery is mistaken. Turco, Modano, and Morrow having to stick up for this piece of trash takes its toll as a team. You have to defend him in the media and on the ice when people start to go after him. I dont think its a coincidence at all that after Avery left the team returned to playoff form.

Avery is trash. Like Boulerice, Matt Cooke, Chris Simon, Ryan Hollweg, Denis Gauthier, Todd Bertuzzi, Jarko Ruutu, Steve Ott, Avery should be rounded up in a bus with all these clowns and driven off a cliff in a non fatal but career ending way. Their scum and dont belong in this league when there are thousands of other guys in the north american system who can play tough but with respect for the game.

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#17 Jonathan Willis
March 02 2009, 01:03PM
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@ TonyT:

Ruutu fights fairly often.

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#18 Jonathan Willis
March 02 2009, 01:04PM
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Jack "FMNF" Bauer wrote:

To not blame the Stars early season struggles on Avery is mistaken. Turco, Modano, and Morrow having to stick up for this piece of trash takes its toll as a team.

To borrow from Mike Milbury: If Avery could singlehandedly take a team that was one of the best in the league last season and mire them in the basement, does that speak to the character of the players in Dallas?

I think so.

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#19 Deans
March 02 2009, 01:18PM
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From an entertainment perspective I would love to see Avery suit up for the Oilers. Hockey doesnt have enough interesting personalities who understand that saying "110 %" ect in every interview is stock and boring. Now dont get me wrong, Avery is a clown and a terrible team player, but the way the media and the NHL treats players who dont follow the "code" is infuriating. Unfortunatly, hockey has a tradition of ostracizing players who go against what is deemed as acceptable behaviour for "good Canadian Boys". Look at what Ovechkin is going through right now. The guy plays with an intensity that is infectious for not only his teamates but also the fans. Have you ever seen Ovechkin half ass it? Instead of applauding Ovechkin's much needed contributions to the NHL, hockey analysts like Kyprios and Don "I define the hockey code" Cherry label him a hotdogger, a showboater and classless. I'm sorry but this is absolutely ubsurd. How is celebrating a goal deemed deviant yet elbowing players in the head is acceptable b/c retribution is a part of the game?

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#20 Robin B
March 02 2009, 01:51PM
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"I wasn’t convinced until I read this article by Chris Botta, a former media relations V.P. with the New York Islanders."

You weren't convinced when I wrote about Avery?

Anybody who think Avery would be a good pick-up doesn't realize what a piece of trash he is. And the logic that he might not be a good person, but . . . " is so far off it's laughable.

I was in the parking garage at the Staples Center after the on-ice incident with Laraque -- while the other newspaper referred to it, I was the only media member actually there. When MacTavish, Oiler players and Georges approached Avery, who had George Parros with him, he didn't try to diffuse the situation, he tried to ignite it. He kept saying, "What are you going to do about it, Georges? What are you going to do about it?" He never once said, "I didn't call you anything, Georges, you're a liar," he just kept trying to escalate things. I knew something wasn't right with this guy. I've rarely seen that much hate in somebody's eyes.

I've heard so much about Avery since then -- and from people with no axe to grind with him, like teammates etc -- it's obvious to me he's poison beyond words. He's insulted French players, people of colour and he, obviously, doesn't think much of women, either. There have been other incidents involving female fans, not just the reference to sloppy seconds.

Edge I like. A guy who marches to his own drummer? Fine, to a point. But Avery is beyond that. Way beyond that. Avery is destined to be a tragic headline one day. Take my word for it.

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#21 Jonathan Willis
March 02 2009, 02:41PM
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Robin B wrote:

You weren’t convinced when I wrote about Avery?

I was, because I read the Chris Botta piece first ;)

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#22 Jonathan Willis
March 02 2009, 02:43PM
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Robin B wrote:

I was in the parking garage at the Staples Center after the on-ice incident with Laraque — while the other newspaper referred to it, I was the only media member actually there. When MacTavish, Oiler players and Georges approached Avery, who had George Parros with him, he didn’t try to diffuse the situation, he tried to ignite it. He kept saying, “What are you going to do about it, Georges? What are you going to do about it?” He never once said, “I didn’t call you anything, Georges, you’re a liar,” he just kept trying to escalate things. I knew something wasn’t right with this guy. I’ve rarely seen that much hate in somebody’s eyes.

Wow, I don't remember reading it exactly like that. That's the thing with Avery though, judging by what you, Botta and countless others have said - he isn't putting on a carzy act. He is actually crazy.

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#23 Dennis
March 02 2009, 02:46PM
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RB: you're on fire lately with all the inside stuff. Good job!:)

If you talk got him and you're convinced that he's changed, then it's a no-brainer that you'd take a shot on him.

That contract could be a huge bargain if he's still the outscorer that that he was in NYR and even when he was in LA he was keeping his head close to the even-line while playing tough min for a terrible team.

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#24 Ducey
March 02 2009, 02:48PM
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Wow, Browlee now you are a psychologist too.

Maybe Avery really doesn't like Georges because he just elbowed him, maybe he has a personality that doesn't back down, maybe he felt like fighting that night. None of those things means he said what was alleged.

He is no doubt a screwed up guy. I am not saying otherwise. He plays just about the hardest role in hockey and the NHL has a long history of tough guys/ agitators who are not shining lights off the ice - who drank, fought, took steroids drugs etc. Look at Kyprios on the 5th Estate the other day crying about the possibility of his son as a fighter - it is a very hard life.

But Avery brings to the table what the Oilers need. Grit, intensity, fire, speed. For 20 games I say give him a try. If he messes up, is a bad teammate, or fails to pass one of your on the spot Psych tests, they can let him go. It will cost them, what, $200 K?

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#25 Robin B
March 02 2009, 02:54PM
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@ Ducey: On the spot psych tests? I know A kook when I see one. Doesn't mean I think I'm a shrink.

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#26 oilfan4life
March 02 2009, 05:58PM
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To pick him up means were on the hook for 2 million of his contract for the next 3 years.

Hes trash, he doesnt belong playing hockey let alone for our team.

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