Shocker: Rangers scratch Sean Avery for tonight's game

avery.jpgI never really understood why the New York Rangers picked up Sean
Avery last season. I understand the thought process and the reasons
behind it; Avery could be had for half of his salary and the team and
fans needed him at the time.

But in the time where it was known
that the Rangers eventually would nab Avery and the time they actually
did, there was a coaching change and John Tortorella took over behind
the bench for New York. How would such a no-nonsense coach put up with a
player like Avery? Perhaps he would be the one to finally harness his
ability and make him into more than just an annoying player who
sometimes scores.

That hasn’t been the case. In fact, Tortorella
has done everything he can this season to suppress Avery and his
shenanigans. Well, everything except scratch him.

Until now. Sean
Avery will be a healthy scratch tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers
another team that is in desperation mode as they both fight for a
playoff spot.

“We’ve asked him for a while now for
more engagement and honestly, we
just haven’t seen it,” Tortorella said following the morning skate in
preparation for tonight’s match here against the Thrashers. “[That’s in]
all facets.”

“Whenever I get my next opportunity that’s what I’m
going to have to
do,” said Avery, who when then asked what exactly he meant, responded,
“I’m going to keep that to myself.”

I’m of two sides
on this one. If the Rangers and John Tortorella never intended to
embrace Avery and everything he brings to the table then they never
should have picked him up. It’s been a battle every since and neither
side has seemed to be able to agree on exactly what approach they want
Avery to take.

However, Avery is a wildly inconsistent player and
that is maddening to a coach. He has all the ability to be a dangerous
player each night, yet is driven by emotion and self-motivation. Perhaps
the coach is doing everything he can to bring out that emotion each and
every game and he’s just not seeing as much as he would like. Whatever
the case, it’s an ugly situation that is playing itself out just as the
Rangers are fighting for a playoff spot.

Personally, I love seeing
Avery’s hand held to the fire like this. I know there are some who
think he’s being misused by the Rangers’ coach, but for a player who is
as self-serving as he is there has to be a reality check at some point.
It seems being released by the Stars last season helped a bit in
bringing him down to earth, but obviously the coach doesn’t feel it’s
been far enough.

Should make for an interested finish to the
season, at least.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.