The thrill is gone; or maybe The Maven should say that the “chill” is gone.
Any way you look at it, the 2012-13 National Hockey League season won’t be the same without Sean Avery.
Call him Puck’s Bad Boy, call him The Great Gabbo; call him anything you want, but Avery appears to be sincere about retirement from The Game that has made him rich beyond reason and foes such as Martin Brodeur furious beyond all manner of stress tests.
Ah, but that means a void must be filled; The Avery Void.
Bettman, Inc. cannot function without ultimate bad guys. That’s why Ken Linseman was called “The Rat” and that’s why every Darius Kasparaitis hip check was called — by foes only — “an attempt to injure”.
What separated Avery from his Filthy McNasty colleagues was the indisputable fact that an addition to the NHL No-No Book was dubbed “The Avery Rule” and it followed Sean’s tete-a-tete during a playoff game against the New Jersey Devils.
Avery’s “Rain Dance” just outside Brodeur’s crease included some tomahawk-waving and a few other distractions that forever banned Sean from any invitations to Marty’s charity golf tournaments. Hence, “The Avery Rule.”
Can any other NHLer make a Sean Statement? Is there another Avery in the NHL?
Check out The Maven’s list and give me your feedback:
1. MATT COOKE: The league now has a rule against “blindside hits to the head.” Hence, The Matt Cooke Rule. Granted, he’ll never be another Avery since the Penguins marauder has no intentions of interning for Vogue Magazine, but there’s a lot of Sean in The Pain From Pittsburgh.
For one thing, his torpedoing of Marc Savard on March 7, 2010 not only concussed the Bruins’ ace right out of hockey, but simultaneously aroused the NHL militia into action. Remarkably, Cooke disdained the straight-and-narrow path and has five different suspensions on his resume to underline the point.
A hit from behind against Fedor Tyutin and a pile-driver elbow to Ryan McDonagh’s head eventually moved Cooke in the direction of reform. After some severe — as in “Cut That Out!” — counseling from the Penguins high command, Matty mellowed a bit in 2011-12. But, mind you, just a bit.
Can we expect Cooke to stay composed? Do leopards change their spots?
2. DANIEL CARCILLO: Who but this wild man from the Pampas deserves the handle “Dangerous” Dan? We know that mosquito-repellent works but, so far, NHL clubs have not devised an effective Carcillo-repellent. Now a veteran of no less than the Coyotes, Flyers and Blackhawks, Carcillo owns one of the best under-your-skin techniques and — like Avery — has a reasonable scoring touch.
This prototypical pest led the NHL in penalty minutes with 324 in 2008 and further emphasized why foes have to watch their back after he hit Tom Gilbert from behind in Jan. 2012 and was suitably suspended.
Teammates such as Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews are aware that off-the-wall characters like Carcillo also can be an effective distraction. That’s precisely why Tom Renney loved Avery when Sean played under the former Rangers coach in New York.
“Dan is physical,” says captain Toews deftly overlooking Carcillo’s less-bright side, “and creates energy for our team.”
In other words, there’s no Lady Byng Trophy in Dangerous Dan’s future; just a BANG — maybe in the head.
3. PATRICK KALETA: If anyone has proven that you can make mighty big bucks as a rambunctious, run-all-over-the-place kind of guy, this Buffalo boy has mastered the art. That explains why Sabres GM Darcy Regier “rewarded” Kaleta with a three-year deal and Buffalonians are waxing ecstatic that their boy still will be around — as he has been for six years.
Any doubts about Patrick’s sin-bin-ability are erased with the arithmetic. Over a span of 267 NHL games, he’s spent 434 minutes in hockey’s hoosegow. On top of that, he was suspended four games last season for head-butting Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek. Nether Zach Parise nor Tobias Enstrom are crazy about Kaleta either for similar bits of un-sociability.
The NHL’s warden, Brendan Shanahan, offered this appraisal of the occasionally sinister-Sabre: “This recent history of running his head into the face of opponents regardless of whether he is trying to free the puck leads us to believe that this act is intentional.”
Funny, a lot of others who play against Killer Kaleta second the motion. The Patrick, himself, reacts with the innocence of Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Newman’s deathless comment, “What? Me worry?”
On the other hand, the witness for the defense — Kaleta, himself — must be heard. “I try to play a clean, hard-nosed game. A lot of people don’t like that.”
Sean Avery couldn’t have said it better.
4. ZAC RINALDO: Were it possible for any team to replace Carcillo with an even bigger pain in the you-know-what, you could be sure that the Flyers would do so; and they did. Just a flashback to Zac Rinaldo’s pedigree in Major Junior Hockey says it all. As a matter of fact, it says too much.
During a four-season run — 185 games — in the Ontario Hockey League, Rinaldo totaled 649 penalty minutes. But that’s just the tip of the ice-brawler. Promoted to Adirondack of the AHL, Zac had more suspensions (4) than goals (3) which hardly perturbed the Flyers’ general staff.
The prototypical Broad Street Bully has played 73 games for Philly which has been good — or bad, if you will — for 15 fighting majors and 90 minutes in misconducts.
Not surprisingly, Rinaldo already has made an impression on Shanahan’s staff which had the Flyer down for a two-game suspension as a result of a February head hit against Jonathan Ericsson of Detroit. Clearly, the 22-year-old has a future in Philly.
5. JORDIN TOOTOO: After eight seasons of being Nashville’s human bazooka, Tootoo got himself a deal in Detroit when Red Wings major domo Ken Holland realized that his Winged Wheelers had become too nicey-nice in a not-so-nice NHL world. After signing Tootoo, Holland made it clear that discomfort is what he wants Joltin’ Jordin to bring to his club’s 29 enemies.
“We’re stepping out of our comfort zone,” says Holland, who is completely aware that his new menacing man has already acquired 725 penalty minutes over 486 big-league games.
But unlike most of the above; Tootoo brings a reasonably effective offense along with his anger-inspiring play. During last season, he reached the 30-point mark for the first time in his career.
Avery would like this guy as well.