Seventeen other NHL teams wanted no part of Sean Avery. Yet the Rangers couldn’t get him fast enough. So here we go with Avery II.
Rangers coach John Tortorella, who as a TSN analyst said earlier this season that Avery was a selfish player and embarrassment to the league, sure sounded different today:
“He was an effective player here. I didn’t see all the games, I wasn’t here for it, but I know he was an effective player and can be an effective player, so we’ll go to work and see if he can help the club to win. That’s what this is about, trying to make a team better and we’ll get him in here and see where he can go.”
On the TSN comments:
“I coach this situation just like (with) every other player. I believe in team concept. I believe in a team helping one another and not stepping out, hurting a team concept. To me, that’s the way I’m going to approach this situation. I know there’s going to be a lot of people want(ing) information and turn this into a bigger thing. Sean Avery is a player coming into the New York Rangers organization. We want him to fit in and play under a team concept. If he does that we feel he can be effective.
“He’s a player like any other player we might pick up in the next day or so. My role is to teach him. To me it’s easy because I’m doing the same thing with these guys. Sean’s just five or six days behind, as far as with me.”
Worried about two passionate people banging heads?
“No, no, no, no. Players bang heads all the time. I think players, when there’s conflict or personality … I believe in personality within the hockey club. I think that’s very important. When there’s conflict, I think that’s good, unless it isn’t done under a team concept. When you have conflict, then you must be hitting a problem head-on. You’re not hiding from it. Once you work through that conflict and you do it respectfully, I think you become tighter as a unit. Those types of situations, I think everybody’s afraid of that, and I’m not just talking about with Sean. I’m talking with all players. I had major conflicts with a lot of players in Tampa early. But now we respect one another, we understand why we went through it together.”
“We feel, especially in the division here, we feel we need a little bit more jam on our team, and hopefully he can kick in a couple of goals as we go along the way here. Again, I haven’t coached Sean. I want to see what he’s all about. I’ve seen him play, and when he’s under a team concept and concentrating and playing under a team concept, he’s an effective player. So that’s what we’re looking for.
“I know you guys all want to see how this is all going to go, but he has really tried to help himself. And as I’ve said, Glen (Sather) believes in second chances.”
Does Tortorella believe in second chances, too?
“Oh, sure. I’ve made major mistakes along the way, coaching. I look at Dmitry Afanasenkov, who was on the ice in the last minute of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals against Calgary, where we shipped him (to the minors) and I didn’t even want him anywhere near the team at the beginning of that year. And there’s been a number of other players along the way. I’ve learned also, that you don’t give up. You can’t give up on people. It still may not work out in certain situations, but I still think (until) players mature, we just don’t have a handle on that. If we knew when players were going to mature mentally, then it wouldn’t be any fun as we go through here because we’d have all the answers.”
Torts said he has no idea where Avery fits into the lineup, and won’t until he sees him practice tomorrow. Nor does he know if he’ll be able to play Thursday on Long Island, or what his conditioning level is.
I asked him if he expects the Rangers to look very different after the trade deadline:
“You’re asking the wrong guy. I coach the team. Glen and I have had talks with Schoeny and we’ve talked about our team as far as maybe adding a little size to it if possible, because of the division we play in. But you could look at all different aspects. I know Glen Sather wants to improve this hockey club and I think at trade deadlines that’s what every general manager wants to do. There’s not one specific thing. If there’s something that pops up and he thinks it will help the club, I’m sure he’s going to explore that. It’s all about trying to improve your hockey team.”
On the whirlwind first week as coach:
“What city am I in?
“I’m settling in here. I’m beginning to understand the players. I feel much better about where they fit in. We’ll bring Sean in and see where he fits in. But this is our team. This is our team. I don’t think there’s going to be any blockbusters going on as far as the New York Rangers, and I don’t want to speak out of turn. But I coach the hockey club, Glen manages the team. He’s been wide open with me. We’ve had great communication. Whatever happens here we’re going to try form it and try to make this the best team we possibly can down the stretch, because we’re fighting for our lives to get into the playoffs and that’s the most important thing.”
(SOME PLAYER REACTIONS TO FOLLOW).