There have been times in the history of the NHL when a player has come along and sparked a team to succeed when they did not have such an effect on their previous squad.
In the case of the New York Rangers, Sean Avery has been that player since he originally came to the Rangers in February of 2007. Playing in New York has brought out the best in Avery in terms of offensive production and being a fan favorite.
Avery showed last year that New York is the only place he is effective. After signing a four year deal worth $4 million a year with the Dallas Stars, it was hoped that he would have the same effect. Dallas' management could not have been more wrong as Avery created a rift in the Dallas locker room to the point where the team would not let Avery dress in the dressing room.
The last straw fell when Avery took a shot at Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf and his girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert who had previously been Avery's, as he called Cuthbert his "sloppy seconds". Avery was suspended and sent through the disciplinary system of the NHL, including being subject to therapy.
Avery came back to New York as the Rangers picked him up off re-entry waivers from the Stars. After having just 10 points in 23 games with Dallas, Avery had 12 points in 18 games for the Rangers to help them get into the playoffs.
The Grate One showed a weakness during the postseason as his emotions got the best of him and he hurt the Ranger cause. After being benched for a game by head coach John Tortorella he came back without his edge and the Rangers fell out of the playoffs.
The question now is if Avery can get back his edge without crossing the line. His aggressive style will fit into the system of John Tortorella well but he needs to know when to stop. In the last game of the regular season, Avery played superbly getting under the skin of the Philadelphia Flyers and led the Rangers to a victory with a goal.
Despite the new found depth the Rangers have up front, Avery will have to continue to play his game, one that it seems is slowly disappearing from the NHL. His style of play is similar to that of older players who used to drive the old rivalries that has helped make hockey so popular. Just as there were villains in the old days, Avery has become a villain for most of the hockey world.
Except of course in New York where Sean Avery has won over the fans of the Rangers with his hard work and "in your face" attitude. It is this kind of personality that the NHL needs more of. Whether it is someone like Sean Avery willing to cross lines or someone like Jeremy Roenick who was never afraid of speaking out, the NHL needs more antagonistic personalities if it wants to keep interest.
The Grate One will need to continue to do what he is good at...being the villain for the rest of the NHL and a positive force for the New York Rangers. If he can do that while putting up 30 points or so, Ranger fans will be chanting Avery's name non-stop in Madison Square Garden.