Sunday, December 14, 2008

Avery out ... now what?

Sean Avery's brief time with the Dallas Stars is over.  Just 165 days after signing the outspoken winger to a 4-year deal, the Stars announced this morning that Avery will not be a part of the organization moving forward.  The left winger lasted 23 games before his comments in Calgary earned him a six-game suspension, opening the door for his teammates and the organization to reveal their true feelings.

(Read the Stars news release)

Any other player making those comments would most likely not have earned a six-game suspension from the league. Then again, any other player probably wouldn't have called the cameras over to make sure they were rolling before beginning that diatribe.

Sean Avery's sloppy seconds comments were the exclamation point on the grammatical blunder that was his signing. Heck, the Stars were trying to get rid of him even before he made his comments. No one wanted him then; anyone seriously interested now?

That's why the Stars are stuck footing the bill for this guy, at least through the end of the season, unless by some miracle Avery is claimed off of waivers during the season.

For the Stars organization, Avery serves as the perfect scapegoat. For now. Players can blame early season struggles - and there have been plenty of them - on Avery being a distraction within the locker room. He's clearly irked veterans Mike Modano and Marty Turco, and with Brenden Morrow out for the year, there isn't a constant presence of strong, unquestionable leadership to stand up to Avery. But with this problem now gone, this cancerous tumor now removed, how quickly can the Stars bounce back, if at all?

Have the Stars even improved since Avery's departure? They've played six games since his comments the morning of the Calgary game, and the Stars are 3-3-0. Playing .500 hockey, it's a lot better than the puppy-trying-to-walk-on-ice type of play we'd seen up to this point. At some point, it's no longer entertaining; it's just sad.

Avery's suspension initially looked like a catalyst to turn this team around. But the Stars have followed each win by promptly losing. The team earned an impressive 3-1 win over the defending champion Red Wings before being shut out 3-0 in Nashville the next night. I don't want to hear about how tough it is playing the second half of a back-to-back. For a team that has put together back-to-back wins (not on consecutive days, just ever) only once since February, clearly there are deeper problems than one outspoken left winger.

Divided locker rooms don't just heal when one troublemaking player leaves. Wounds linger.

Dallas has suffered injuries to so many key players, the goaltending has been inconsistent at best (and if we're being honest, ugly), and the youngsters that looked so good last year appear lost.

So where do the Stars go without Avery? With five of the next seven games in Dallas, winning always has been the true panacea in sports. But looking down the roster, I don't see anyone capable of fulfilling that prescription.


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