With Dallas in town, there’s a lot of attention on Sean Avery tonight. So here are some comments from John Tortorella’s pregame press conference, regarding Avery:
On whether tonight’s opponent could affect Avery’s play:
“That’s so far gone, and it should be gone. I think Sean’s done so much due diligence in this league to gain some respect back. I think that’s so far in the past. This is about playing another game, with Sean playing on the edge, because that’s how he is an effective player, is playing on the edge. I don’t think he’s done that consistently. So it doesn’t matter if it’s Dallas or whoever it may be. We need to get him there.”
“We certainly haven’t gotten enough out of Sean … he’s certainly been inconsistent with that for the past two or three weeks. We’re trying to help him through it. But, again, for him to be an effective player and be an effective player for this team, he needs to get there, or get there closer than he’s been.”
I asked Tortorella if he knows why Avery’s stuck in the middle.
“No, no. I’ve had many discussions on what we expect out of him. He seems—and this has gone on for two months in our direction as far as how we want him to play—I just don’t think he’s gotten there consistently. I know there’s a lot of speculation—he’s confused, he’s this, he’s that. There should be no confusion because the meetings two months ago, up until (another meeting) prior to our last game, it’s been very specific how we want him to play. I think Sean’s trying to get there. I just don’t think he’s been that effective doing it.”
So I asked, how do you want him to play?
“On the edge,” Tortorella said. “Straight ahead. I think with Sean we’ve seen a little bit where it’s a lot of circling back from the end zone, in the neutral zone, circling back. We want him to be a North-South player. We want him to finish his checks. We want him to be the agitator that he is, that he is as an effective player. And the goals will come. I think Sean wants to help the team. This isn’t a matter of not wanting to do it. He wants desperately to help this team. The most important thing is, don’t worry about the numbers, the results as far as goals. It’s A before B. It’s playing the way he needs to play, and I think the goals will come in behind that. So the best definition I can give you is: North-South, finish your checks, and be in the areas where you’re effective, and that’s in front of the net, in the corners and forechecking.”
Finally, I asked, if Avery is going to play that way and be an agitator, he’s going to take penalties, so is some of that acceptable?
“There’s a perception out there that we’re holding him back. That’s the furthest thing (from what) we’re doing. I think that’s speculation and perception, but we have asked him to get to the edge. I’ll put it to you this way. The deal Sean and I have is, you get to that edge and if I feel you’re going over that edge, I’ll bring you back. And this is how we talked about during the playoffs. He hasn’t come close enough to getting to where we need him to be for me to even thinking about talking to him about coming back. So I know there’s a perception out there that the leashes are on him. That’s the furthest thing from the truth.”