Thursday, July 3, 2008
Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Sean Avery: Great Signing, or The Greatest Signing?
This week, our hockey scribe learns to forgive and forget the most hated player in the NHL.
Top of the morning, hockey fans! Last week we learned, we laughed, we loved, and we went over my glorious interview for the Nashville Predators' owner job. I was planning on replacing this week's column with my highly experimental one-man performance piece, titled "Untitled," in which I down four NyQuils in 40 seconds and drool all over my keyboard (a quick sample: hhhgmd....asjsss......sdowoo......sign brian campbell for $8 mil..... sneesus), but while I was lollygagging about yesterday, enjoying a massive and amazing burger at JG's, the unthinkable happened.
Yes, the Stars finally stepped into the big-league spotlight and signed B.J. Crombeen.
Crombeen, known as the "bad boy" of the NHL, is a walking contradiction in--oh, wait, I meant to say: the Stars signed Sean Avery. When I saw those words flash across the bottom of the wall-mounted HD screen, I nearly choked on my double-bacon-cheeseburger-with-hickory-sauce-on-the-side. Sean Avery? Seriously? The Sean Avery? Like perhaps 99% of Stars fans, I had the same basic question for Voltron GM Hulkson on the tip of my mind:
What the f&%king f$%k? F^$k me, f*&k me, what the f$#king f^$k f&^k?
And for four years? This signing was the equivalent of showing up to work on a Tuesday morning only to find out that your company now exclusively produces medieval torture devices. And where your cubicle once was just yesterday is now a snake-filled Pit of Woe. And, that your boss took your next two paychecks and spent them on expensive camera equipment for himself, two transvestite hookers and stirrups for your 60-year-old auntie.
But as the day wore on, and then the night, and then the day again, the signing seemed to make sense in a weird, Twilight Zone-type of way. Yes, the Stars just signed my least favorite player in the entire NHL. Yes, they signed a guy who redefined the term "punk", and not in a good way. And yes, they spent pretty much all their remaining $$$ doing so, and are now right up against the cap.
However!-- there is much to like about this signing. Sean Avery, as a player, is perhaps the most irritating NHLer on skates --especially when he scores major goals. Perhaps no other player infuriates hockey fans more with his antics and his clutch goal scoring. I barely follow the Eastern Conference as it is, but when I watch a Rangers game and he scores the game-winning goal over a hated division rival, I am automatically filled with barbaric rage at the Injustice visited upon my optic nerves. What!!? That punk-ass Avery just scored a beautiful one-timer into the corner with two minutes left in the third?!?? And this, after his obvious dive and that cheap shot on the goalie?!? There is no Hockey God!!!
However, with Avery a Star, that same feeling of helplessness and hatred will turn to boyish glee when, after drawing Marleau into the box on a diving call in the second, Avery takes a cross-crease pass from Brad Richards and converts over Nabokov's shoulder with 1:32 left in the third. As the day wore on, that image (along with several other images more related to Avery's Vogue internship than hockey)(and no, I'm not talking about his fey shirtless photo shoot in the closet) started to make the signing look better and better. And that's just the tip of the proverbial Iceberg of Irritation.
With Morrow, Ott, Fistric, Robidas, and now Avery, the 2008-09 Dallas Stars will be the least welcomed team in the entire NHL. No team will enjoy playing the Stars, and that spells A-W-E-S-O-M-E in my book. For years, this was a team of highly skilled but nonproductive forwards, with serious trouble getting anyone not named Morrow to crash the net. Now we've got a sizable stable of net-crashers --Avery and Ott are two of the best at going 'beyond the net'-- and that generally translates to greater offensive success.
Avery's track record in the playoffs is, now that I've been forced to look it up, pretty impressive: 12 points in 18 playoff games, including 7 in 7 games last season before a ruptured spleen took him out of the Penguins series. Those numbers are far, far better than, say, Hagman's playoff numbers, and bode well for the next half-decade of long playoff battles.
The free agent frenzy has already had its fair share of turkeys, but 4 years and $3.75 million for a guy like Avery is not a bad deal. Guys like Avery who can play any forward position, on the powerplay or the penalty kill, who fearlessly crash the net but also have blinding speed, and who's off-ice behavior transcends the sport do not grow on trees (unless you're talking about the mythical A-Hole Tree, rumored to exist only in New Jersey legend). Guys like Avery are much, much harder to find than your typical one-dimensional scorer or overpriced offensive d-man. Stars fans with short memories might want to look back to our Cup-winning roster ten years ago, and ask an old-timer about one or more of these names: Pat Verbeek. Mike Keane. Grant Marshall.
An added bonus: the off-ice stuff. I'm no fan of Vogue, but I am a fan of stuff like this. Although, to be fair, I wasn't a fan of it two days ago. But that's hockey: Sean Avery may be an annoying ho-tard, but for the next four years he's our annoying ho-tard.
When it all comes down to it, it's a good signing, and the only question is the length and ca$$h money involved. Here's the simple answer: that's Tom Hicks' problem, not yours. It's not your money, so don't get all bent out of shape. Additionally, a move like this pretty much pays for itself: players like Avery become fan favorites far more quickly than 30-goal snipers, and while he was a Ranger only Jagr beat him in popularity. Signing Avery to $3.75 million is pretty much a license to print at least that much in jersey-sale money, not to mention the increased national media attention this team is going to get just by having him on the roster. Financially, the signing is a great marketing move, and practically pays for itself.
Most importantly, however, will be how Avery plays out with the Stars fans. From his short time in NYC, it's likely he will win over fans in much the same fashion as T.O.: already the Rangers message boards are blowing up with angry NY fans demanding Glen Sather's head on a pike. The Rangers record with Avery in the lineup was startlingly better than when he was not present: he may be an attention-hogging dive artist, but he brings the Win. And with an established group of veterans on the Stars, Avery will feel free to do his thang all over the rink. Which will infuriate Sharks/Ducks/Wings fans/players/coaches/refs all the more.
It'll be months, perhaps years, before this signing can be accurately graded, but if next June we're seeing Gary Bettman rig the playoffs to create a Dallas Stars-New Jersey Devils Finals ][, Stars fans will look back on July 2nd and smile. The Stars were an attitude-adjustment away from defeating the Wings last year, and while they may have gotten Skill-ier with Hossa, the Stars got Just Plain Better. Spread Morrow, Ott and Avery over the top three lines, and you have 60 minutes of lines no one in the Western Conference looks forward to playing against.
That's it for this week's Cupcheck: tune in next week when Avery is seen making out with Jessica Simpson, then dumps her for a three-way with Mark Cuban and one of the Hunt family heiresses.
See more stories in:
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - The Five Biggest Turkeys in Dallas Stars History
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - The Five Worst Dallas Stars of All Time
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Know Your Free Agent
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Trade Deadline Buyer$ or Seller$?
- Thursday Morning Cupcheck - Grading the Trades, Gutless Punks Edition