Tag:Glen Sather
Posted on: March 8, 2012 12:15 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 12:25 pm
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NHL Award Races: Breaking down coaches, GMs

Hitchcock has pointed St. Louis in the right direction at each and every turn. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Welcome to Award Races. For every week the remainder of the season, we will break down two of the awards races at a time and see how they are stacking up as the NHL season hits the home stretch.

When it comes to coaches, it feels like nearly half lost their jobs at some point this season. Truth is, it's actually one shy of a 1/3, which is still an astronomically high number.

The ones that have stuck around? It seems like they are all in the conversation for coach of the year.

However it's the guy who came in after the season started that is running away with the Jack Adams Award for the top coach. Like his style or not,

Ken Hitchcock has pretty much been a miracle worker since coming into St. Louis just 13 games through the season. What has he done since? Only put the Blues in the mix of about four teams vying for the Presidents' Trophy. As it stands on Thursday, the Blues are the West's top team and tied with the Rangers for the best point total in the league. Not too shabby.

While I see him as a clear front-runner, I'm not sure everybody feels the same. And that's where the Jack Adams conversation gets interesting. The list of coaches who could be considered is about 10 guys long. Paul MacLean will be on everybody's finalist list with what he has down in Ottawa. You can see the rest of my top 5 below. What you don't see is the guys who didn't make the cut and it's a hell of a group. Dan Byslma, Barry Trotz, Mike Babcock, Kevin Dineen and Dave Tippett deserve mentions too.

When looking at the general managers, the architects, I think we have a much more defined group we're looking at. The nature of an award like this is that it's sometimes tough to gauge. If I were to pick the best GM in the game I might go with Peter Chiarelli, Ray Shero or Mike Gillis. They have put together great teams over multiple years. But in just a one-year sense? It cuts it down.

So how do you not start with Dale Tallon in Florida? The Panthers have already eclipsed their point total from last season and they still have 17 games to go. While it's no guarantee yet, they do seem to be on their way to making the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.

And that's after going into the summer with hardly anybody on the roster. He went out and acquired nine players between the draft and the first few days of free agency. That's almost half the team! He continued by making a few trades including shipping David Booth to Vancouver. All the while he has done nothing to disrupt what looks to be a very promising future with a loaded farm system.

So here you go, this week's rankings. Remember, these are just one man's opinion and you can feel free to share yours below, I'm sure you will. As always, the rest of the races are below with a quick update.

Award watch
Jack Adams GM
Ken Hitchcock The Blues are 36-11-7 since he took over. All I have for that is Wow! He has helped make a borderline playoff team to a borderline Stanley Cup team. How can there really be any other choice? Dale Tallon Consider the monumental task it has proven to win in South Florida then consider that Tallon basically built a new team that is winning in one year. He was widely criticized for his team building this summer and while he did overpay for some players, it's tough to argue with the results so far.
Paul MacLean Bonus points for the mustache that makes Wilford Brimley blush. The majority of publications/panels had the Senators finishing dead last in the league this season. Oops. The difference between MacLean and Cory Clouston has been pretty clear and the players have responded, especially Erik Karlsson. David Poile Maybe this one is tough until the offseason when we find out the fates of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, but Poile has done all he could to show the Predators are in it to win it. The re-signing of Pekka Rinne, the acquisitions at the trade deadline all while on a low budget. He's usually in this conversation and he is again.
John Tortorella Yes, the Rangers are good and that's not a great surprise. This good, however? Yes, I think that's surprising. Players have really bought in to what Tortorella is doing. Perhaps the sign of a good coach is how much the team takes on the coach's personality/style. Nobody has done better at that than Torts and Hitchcock. Don Maloney This was another team left for dead before the season began but as I write this, the Coyotes are currently seventh in the West and two points out of the Pacific Division lead. He has had so many obstacles to go through but has continued to bring in good guys and build a winner on a budget.
Peter DeBoer I feel like the Devils first-year coach is under the radar in this conversation, but why should he be? The Devils floundered last season and without changing a whole lot have been significantly better this time around. DeBoer definitely deserves some credit for Ilya Kovalchuk's evolution to a complete player, too. Doug Armstrong Brian Elliott on a two-way contract? Replacing Davis Payne with Hitchcock before anybody else could? Sneaky additions of Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner? That's not a bad year, then add in that he's locked in many of his young core players. Hitchcock deserves a lot of attention for the Blues' success, but so does Armstrong.
Glen Gulutzan This was one hiring in the offseason that made people say "who?" but it has worked well. Despite the departure of Brad Richard and his offensive output, the Stars are in better position this season. In fact, they lead the Pacific Division. For a guy who is two seasons removed from coaching in the ECHL, that ain't bad. Glen Sather The headline grabber was obviously the addition of Richards this summer, but locking in his younger players might have been the better move. Plus, he has presided over a franchise that has stocked the shelves for the future, just look at the Columbus Blue Jackets' wish list for Rick Nash, a trade that didn't happen.

And for a quick look at the rest of the races we'll be checking in on every week.

Hart: Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Lundqvist

Vezina: Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Brian Elliott

Norris: Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber, Nicklas Lidstrom

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Kesler, David Backes

Calder: Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Henrique, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: March 4, 2012 11:04 am
 

Video: Rangers GM Sather talks Chris Kreider

By Brian Stubits

Amid all the trade talks surrounding Rick Nash and the New York Rangers, there was a pretty lengthy list of untouchables as deemed by New York that the Blue Jackets really wanted/needed in a potential deal. Needless to say, it didn't happen.

One of the names on that list was Chris Kreider, the Rangers' first-round draft pick in 2009 who is currently starring at Boston College.

While Rangers fans might be familiar with him, a lot of the fans around the league probably don't. So consider this your introduction.

With BC hosting Vermont this weekend on CBS Sports Network, New York general manager phoned in and had a conversation about Kreider. It includes some pretty positive praise of not only Kreider, but another BC product with the Rangers, Brian Boyle.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: February 23, 2012 12:41 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 1:04 pm
 

NHL Award Races: Hart awfully tight, Vezina clear

Last year's winner Corey Perry poses with the Hart Trophy. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Welcome to Award Rankings. For every week the remainder of the season, we will break down two of the awards races at a time and see how they are stacking up as the NHL season hits the home stretch.

The Hart Trophy is the king of trophies, the biggest and best (outside of the Stanley Cup and playoff awards, of course) in the game. It goes to the league's most valuable player.

And here's the thing about it this season: It is going to be one heck of a race to the finish to determine it. The top of the points leaderboards are scrunched. So are the playoff pictures. That means the Hart race is in the same squished mode too.

The difference between a lot of guys right now in the Hart race is like differentiating between a Lamborghini or Ferrari, you really won't go wrong either way. Then you have Mercedes Benzs, Audis and Lexuses in the conversation too. So many great choices, so few winners. Just one, in fact. We aren't Jay Leno here and buying them all.

These rankings are reflective of where they stand now. They are certainly subject to change. For example, Steven Stamkos didn't crack the list here, but if the Lightning actually overcome their five-point hole and grab a playoff spot despite selling seemingly half their team, he'd have to be in consideration without a doubt.

Keep in mind the Hart race is incredibly tight with a ton of contenders at this point. There is an argument to be made for a lot of other players as well as for the order here to be changed. I'm sure you'll make those arguments below. This is just one man's opinion.

The Hart starts with a guy who hasn't won it yet despite some awesome seasons recently. But he was hindered by another spectacularly awesome teammate who hasn't been there much to help this season.

We also look at the Vezina, which isn't anywhere near as tight as the Hart race at the top but the fighting for the finalists is fierce.

Award watch
Hart Vezina
Evgeni Malkin The Penguins have had to deal with more injury loss this season than any other team, including two of their top three centers. The third is Malkin. He leads the league in points and is second in goals. He's been the best player in the league. But this race is very tight and has a long way to go. Henrik Lundqvist The Rangers are arguably the top team in the league and Lundqvist is a massive reason why. He is tops in the league in save percentage at a whopping .940 and has a goals against of 1.78. He's separated himself from the field ... and the Rangers from the East field as well.
Henrik Lundqvist Yes, I think he's been good enough to be seriously in this conversation. He's incredibly valuable to the Rangers, that's not a question for anybody. With scoring down so much in the NHL, this is a perfect year for a goaltender to win the Hart again. Jonathan Quick He means as much to the Kings as Lundqvist does to the Rangers and I'm not going to penalize a goaltender for his offense's lack of production. His 1.96 goals against and .931 save percentage are very good. He's the only reason Los Angeles is still fighting for a playoff berth.
Claude Giroux He was asked to carry a lot more of the load in Philadelphia this season and he has. Despite missing a few games with a concussion, the 24-year-old Giroux is set to pass his career highs very soon with 23 goals and 47 assists already despite playing just 55 games. He's had to with Philly's defense. Jimmy Howard Despite recently missing three weeks in February with a broken finger, Howard is still second in the league in wins with 32 (one behind Pekka Rinne). He is having a career season with a 2.03 goals against average and .924 save percentage and is a big reason why the Wings have returned to the top of the West.
Radim Vrbata Why not? He has 30 goals and counting on the season for the Coyotes, a team that otherwise relies on defense. That's 12 more than anybody else on the team. Aside from Ray Whitney, everybody on the team is at least 16 points behind Vrbata. For a team expected to be in the basement, he deserves a lot of credit. Brian Elliott The only thing keeping Elliott this far down the list is the fact that he splits almost 50/50 in St. Louis with Jaroslav Halak. But his 1.65 goals against average and .937 save percentage are obscene. However he'll be hurt by Halak's success as well as the Ken Hitchcock argument ... he makes all goalies look good.
Jason Spezza The assumption before the season was that the Senators were going to be in the running for the best lottery position, not the Northeast Division crown with the Bruins. But here they are and Spezza's 27 goals and 39 assists are a massive reason why. So is Erik Karlsson, but he'll show up elsewhere. Tim Thomas Last year's runaway with the Vezina, Thomas isn't having the season he did a year ago. But in his defense, nobody ever had before him either. He's still excellent with his .929 save percentage and 2.21 goals against. For now he barely beats out Mike Smith and Pekka Rinne in this race for me.

And for a quick look at the rest of the races we'll be checking in on every week.

Norris: Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber, Nicklas Lidstrom.

Calder: Adam Henrique, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Matt Read.

Jack Adams: Ken Hitchcock, Paul MacLean, John Tortorella.

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Toews

Top GM: Dale Tallon, Glen Sather, Don Maloney.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 21, 2012 5:46 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 8:54 am
 

Nash Dash: How would Nash fit with Rangers?

What Nash would look like in a Blueshirt.

By Brian Stubits

In the days leading up to the trade deadline (Monday, Feb. 27) we're going to keep tabs on the biggest name on the block, Columbus Blue Jackets star and captain Rick Nash.

The list of teams rumored to be in on Nash isn't incredibly long and it's the usual suspects that you'd expect to be in on a big-name, high-priced star like Nash. His wish list -- put into song so wonderfully -- was supposedly five teams long with possible Wild cards in the mix too.

We're going to take a look at each of the rumored wish-list teams and how Nash would fit, starting today with the New York Rangers.

From the moment the Jackets said they'd entertain offers for Nash, the Rangers jumped to the front of the pack as a favorite to land him. With a team on its way to its best season since winning the Cup almost two decades ago lacking just a little in the scoring department and a rich farm system, Broadway seems like an ideal situation.

But you're left wondering why. Why would the Rangers want to risk what they have going for them by bringing in Nash? They already have the best points percentage in the NHL, obviously they are doing something right.

It seems to me that you're flirting with disaster by mixing up the formula. That's especially the case if it requires losing some assets that are currently on the team, going beyond the prospects.

Usually this time of year everybody is enthralled with adding a star to their team, consequences be damned. The fans schmooze them on the Internet and in some cases Twitter, they serenade them with chants and creative signs when they visit. Then dismiss and even trash the player when they don't end up coming to their team. It's the way fandom goes these days.

NHL Trade Deadline
More NHL coverage

Not like this is the first time we've said this, but the Rangers fans are different. They had the chance to warm Nash to MSG this week. Instead of serenading him they pretty much insulted him, chanting "We don't want you!" throughout the game.

Now Rangers fans haven't always been the best at making personnel decisions for their team. They were advocating Sean Avery playing earlier this season. But in this case I think they're on to something.

Would the Rangers and their fans like to have Nash? Of course they would. But should they be willing to pay the price (both in terms of the trade return and the salary) to get Nash? The fans have made their side clear, the brass hasn't yet.

The decision becomes a lot easier for GM Glen Sather and crew if the Jackets are insistent on getting Michael Del Zotto in a deal. In his third year in the league, Del Zotto is growing into one very good defenseman for the Blueshirts. With seven goals and 25 assists, he's 10 points clear of any other Rangers defenseman this season in scoring.

It's believed that any deal for Nash would cost the Rangers somebody like Del Zotto plus perhaps a Derek Stepan, elite prospect Chris Kreider and a draft pick. Brandon Dubinsky's name has also floated around.

In return they get an upgrade to their scoring this season, assuming he'd fit in well. As Brad Richards has shown, there's no guarantee they will get the same kind of production if he moves to the Rangers. Of course he could give better production too.

But with the asking price so high, the risk seems to outweigh the reward. Do people really feel that the Rangers as presently constructed couldn't compete for the Stanley Cup? I know I don't. The risk of bringing in Nash is to lose that contender status while the reward is that they're a Stanley Cup contender. Hmm.

If I'm Slatts, I think I'd pass. If it ain't broke ...

More from Eye on Hockey

Latest on Nash, other deadline rumors
Nash down to five teams?
Nash not untouchable for Columbus

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 18, 2012 12:27 pm
 

Rangers owner: I'm thinking we're pretty close

By Brian Stubits

The New York Rangers have had the look of a bonafide Stanley Cup contender all season and their owner James Dolan isn't afraid to say it.

Dolan, who also owns the New York Knicks, hasn't had much success to speak of with either of the teams he runs. So maybe you can forgive him if he is a little overzealous about the Rangers being the top team in the NHL standings thus far highlighted by a Winter Classic win over the Flyers and his team being featured on HBO's 24/7. It's been a good couple of months.

So good in fact that he's got his eyes on the prize for his franchise. Here's what he had to say about the season recently, via the New York Post:

“I’m very proud of the organization. I’m particularly proud of Mr. Sather,” Dolan said of the Rangers general manager following the victory that lifted the team to an NHL-best 29-11-4. “Because all the way back to 2004 when things weren’t going so well and we had a lot of free agents in here and we made the decision to basically redo the strategy, Glen and I actually had a pact. I actually gave him something that I won’t reveal what it is.

“I said, ‘You can’t give it back to me until we win the Stanley Cup.’ And I think I’m getting pretty close to getting that thing back.

“Of course, great coaching, but to me it’s all about the farm system, the scouting system, the development and going with the kids and sticking with that philosophy even when, at times, it didn’t look so good,” added Dolan, who has been willing to spend big to add free agents Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards.

What does John Tortorella think of his team's owner getting so confident? What do you think Torts is going to say?

“We’ve got to go about our business,” Tortorella said after Dolan relinquished the floor. “I’ve got an owner up here talking about a Stanley Cup. That’s a bunch of BS.

“We’ve got to take it one day at a time.”

Therein lies why I love Tortorella the talker. He doesn't have the best filter in the world, which makes for great sound bites. But then he remembered his coach speak and spat out the obligatory cliché of one day at a time.

In my mind's eye I imagine Tortorella than exiting stage left by kicking the door like President Obama in those YouTube videos.

I get where Tortorella is coming from on this. No. 1 he obviously doesn't want his players getting comfortable and happy with what they have done far. No. 2, the Rangers have been relatively under the radar (considering their home city, HBO appearance and record) and Torts likely enjoys that. His team for the most part is pretty quiet.

With all that said, of course Torts would love to help Dolan get that trinket back, whatever it might be.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 12, 2012 11:44 am
Edited on: January 12, 2012 11:45 am
 

Report: Interest in Avery goes up, but no waivers

By Brian Stubits

The twists and turns of a Sean Avery season. Aren't they fun?

Even when he's down in the AHL (where the orange juice refills might or might not be free), he's making noise. Well OK, he's not making the noise, but noise is being made about him. Or something like that.

Twice this season, the 29 teams not named the New York Rangers had a chance to claim Avery off of waivers and have him for their own but passed. Not even two weeks since his most recent demotion to the AHL Connecticut Whale, there is reportedly interest from at least one team to get Avery now.

According to the New York Post, the Rangers have been asked to place Avery on re-entry waivers again so that he can be claimed and wear another team's sweater in the NHL. It's obvious Rangers coach John Tortorella doesn't have any room for Avery on his bench, so why not acquiesce and let Avery go on his merry way? Two words: cap space.

Sources have told The Post general manager Glen Sather rejected that request, instead offering to trade Avery in a minor-league deal under which the Rangers would take back additional dollars but the responsibility for placing Avery on re-entry would then pass to the acquiring club that would then bear the burden of carrying dead salary-cap space upon a claim.

...

Avery’s full cap hit for the remainder of the season is just a tick over $890,000 as of tomorrow. Therefore, the Rangers would be hit with approximately $445,000 of dead cap space upon a re-entry claim.

The NHL has calculated that scenario would theoretically cost the Rangers $2 million in available space at the Feb. 27 trade deadline: $1 million of accrued space for which the club would be charged plus $1 million it therefore would not save.

That's a pretty penny to spend just to let a player loose. Now we'll find out how interested this mystery suitor/suitors is/are by the willingness to give up something in return to the Rangers.

Trying to think of who could be interested in signing Avery, I would take a Wild guess and say we could exclude the Toronto Maple Leafs after Brian Burke's recent "anti-rat" rant.

I'm not a Rangers fan, about the only people who seem to still love Avery, but for some reason that I still cannot pinpoint, I've come to like Avery a little bit. Maybe it's just that I'm a devil's advocate. I'm not sure. But I'd be interested in seeing him get a fresh start somewhere else. When he was playing, Avery was in good behavior this season for the Rangers. There might still be a fourth-line spot for Avery somewhere in the league.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 1, 2012 3:05 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2012 5:45 pm
 

Winter Classic preview: What to look for

By Brian Stubits

It's hard to remember the Winter Classic is just another game on the schedule. In reality it is just that. The winner of this game gets nothing more than two points in the standings.

But in practical purposes, the Winter Classic is anything but normal. It is annually the most-watched game of the season and it's not even close. It's commonplace for players and even coaches on occasion to do some chirping before games. But general managers throwing down the gauntlet like the Rangers' Glen Sather did a couple months ago? Yea, that's no ordinary game.

Plus, you know, they play it outside and all.

Without further ado, let's look ahead to the NHL's annual "celebration of hockey" on Tuesday in Philadelphia between the Flyers and the Rangers.

The weather

It goes without saying this is the only game of the season when this matters now that the NHL has stopped the Heritage Classic in Canada.

The initial game-day in the extended forecast called for rain and warm temperatures. That has been altered, for the good. Now the game-time temp is supposed to be 41 degrees and the only element to deal with will be the wind, where it is expected to blow in excess of 20 MPH.

So the ice itself should be alright for the game. As for the wind? It might have an impact, but we're not talking football here where the ball will be affected by strong gusts on field-goal attempts or deep passes. It sure beats precipitation fogging up visors.

Home-field advantage

Not in this game. There is virtually zero home-ice advantage of which to speak in the Winter Classic. Both teams are equally inexperienced with the sheet of ice in Philadelphia. Despite two times the amount of fans in the building, the noise level doesn't factor in. As a matter of fact, it's diminished with fans so far from the ice and no roof.

"I think you go back to our building over there when it matters and when it counts to have our fans behind us, I think it's really important," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said on Sunday. "We are looking forward to getting here and on this ice out here in front of that many people and having a great game."

But the points stands, don't expect the Flyers to have a big advantage just because they're the home team and the Citizen's Bank Park seats will be full of folks garbed in black and orange. Of the five Winter Classic games played to date, only one of them has seen the home team come away victorious and it took the Bruins an overtime period to beat the Flyers in 2010.

One advantage that I suppose you can credit to the Flyers is the fact that they have multiple players who have experienced Winter Classics before thanks to that game at Fenway Park two years ago. I put little stock into that, however. Once the game begins, experience means squat. Rangers coach John Tortorella agrees that won't mean much.

"We have kept our schedule, our whole way we have gone about our business has stayed the same and it will say the same tomorrow," Tortorella said. "We go day-to-day as far as how we prepare and that's what we have  done  right  on through this, we'll be doing the same thing as we get ready to play tomorrow."

Goals not galore

More on Winter Classic

Just continuing to look at the trends of past games, don't expect to see a lot of scoring. Only the game at Wrigley Field between the Red Wings and Blackhawks showed off much in the way of offense as the teams combined for 10 goals. The other three games combined have only seen nine goals (the Penguins won in a shootout).

That could just be as simple as a coincidence, there certainly is not a big sample size we're talking about here. Or it might be a real trend. I'd like to think that some of the uncontrolled elements play a role the lack of scoring in games, particularly factors such as glare, discomfort and surroundings.

I'll take my chances and say don't expect a lot of scoring on Monday. That's a bit easier to say knowing Henrik Lundqvist will be manning one crease.

Fighting chance

Half of the Winter Classics thus far have seen a fight. Each of the last two renditions featured impromptu boxing matches. So it's not like the players are going to shy away just because of the spotlight.

In the case of these two foes, there is a lot of dislike to put it mildly. Only the Blackhawks-Wings tilt compares favorably to this year's matchup in terms of a true rivalry. So it's likely some bad blood will spill over.

That seems especially plausible when you realize that last year's fight between the Penguins and Capitals featured Mike Rupp facing John Erskine. You'll recall that Rupp signed with the Rangers in the offseason so he'll be on the ice on Monday.

Players to watch

First for the Rangers, keep tabs on Brandon Dubinsky. The young Rangers forward was off to a very tough start this season, it had to be frustrating. It wasn't until Dec. 22 that he scored his second goal of the season. For a guy that had 24 goals last season, that's quite a drop.

However he is starting to return to the mean. What, you thought that only worked in the regression sense? Not exactly. Dubinsky enters the Winter Classic having scored a goal in each of his last two games and three of the past five.

For the Flyers, I'd love to say Ilya Bryzgalov but he's just going to be sitting on the bench, enjoying his tea in a thermos. Now if NBC can just get him mic'd up for the game, they'd have the best on-ice commentator in the sport for the broadcast, with all due respect to Darren Pang.

However it does mean that the actual Flyers starter, Sergei Bobrovsky, will be worth keeping an eye on. He's been playing very well lately for the Flyers and with Bryzgalov's struggles, this could be an opportunity for Bobrovsky to stake a big claim that he should continue to get a lot more playing time. Remember, it was just a season ago that he was their starter and came to the NHL with a lot of promise.

Prediction

I'm a sucker for trends, so I'm going to stick with them in this game. I've got the visiting Rangers winning a low-scoring affair. Plus, in a situation like that I'll take Lundqvist over Bobrovsky. I'll put my name down for a 3-1 prediction in favor of New York.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:15 pm
 

Rangers recall Avery after he clears waivers

By Brian Stubits

The loud and boisterous New York Rangers fans got their wish on Tuesday. Sean Avery cleared re-entry waivers and was immediately recalled by New York.

Now the fun begins.

Avery was reassigned to the AHL just before the Rangers opened the season in Sweden. At the time, coach John Tortorella didn't want to "jam" Avery up, saying he believed there were better players on the roster. It was a hockey decision, not a personal one.

For his part, Avery said he didn't believe he ever had a fair chance to make the roster and that he didn't expect to return to the NHL this season.

Most say Avery was recalled to give the Rangers some energy and a spark. Until Monday night's 5-2 thumping of the Sharks, they had been rather flat. Avery's game is anything but flat. Ironically, though, the game de-emphasized the need for Avery after the process to recall him had already begun. Still, the Sharks' Joe Thornton thinks the Rangers could use a little more grit still.

But Tortorella, who has a frosty relationship with Avery, said the move was done in lieu of Mike Rupp's knee injury. Again, it's a hockey move.

"This is the right decision," Tortorella said Monday. "It's the right hockey decision now and it was the right hockey decision when we sent Sean down. That's where it's at."

At least he's sticking to his guns.

We'll still have to wait and see if Tortorella will play Avery. The decision to recall him might have come from GM Glen Sather, but Tortorella still puts the players on the ice. Our first chance to see how the Torts-Avery reunion is going will be on Thursday when the Rangers host the Anaheim Ducks.

"I'm not force-feeding anything," Tortorella said after Monday's game. "If I look at the tape and think guys have done their job, you stay with your team. I just don't know what the lineup's going to be our next game. We'll see how it all works out." 

As I said, this is going to be fun.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com