Avery channelling his anger

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

Forget about greenies, human growth hormone or steroids. The next performance enhancing fad in sports: anger management counselling.

Because if it can do what it's done for Sean Avery, imagine the benefits awaiting a slumping goal scorer.

Some three months ago, Avery was a liability employed by the Dallas Stars, who wanted no part of him after his crude remarks about ex-girlfriends, not to mention the fact he was a complete a-hole in the dressing room and put himself above the team on a regular basis.

You know, like he's done most everywhere he's been.

His three goals and seven assists in 23 games -- mere crumbs when set alongside his four-year, $15.5-million contract -- didn't help his cause, either.

Banished indefinitely and ordered to take anger management counselling by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (a development mocked in this space), Avery found himself with just one taker, the New York Rangers, upon his return two weeks ago.

After a brief stint in the minors, the super-pest has five points in six games, and has scored four times during a current three-game goal streak.

Apparently, channelling one's anger can not only prevent unwanted outbursts, but also give a player with decent hands a Gretzkian scoring touch.

Two power play goals in a 4-1 Rangers win over Philadelphia Sunday was just the icing on the cake: Avery was busy stirring things up the whole game, as he is wont to do.

And the Flyers were caught with their hands in the mixing bowl.

"His probation period is over and now he's back to his old antics and we got sucked in," is how Flyers coach John Stevens described it to reporters after the game. "He obviously had a game plan. Give him credit. That's what he does best."

Sure, but it's Avery's goal scoring that should be getting the attention of opposing coaches.

Maybe it's time for anger management counseling for Alexei Kovalev in Montreal (16 goals), San Jose's Jonathan Cheechoo (nine goals), Winnipeg's Tyler Arnason (five goals) in Colorado or any of the NHL's other underachievers.

Maybe anger management could help Dallas goalie Marty Turco (2.81 GAA) or J.S. Giguere in Anaheim (3.12) get their games back.

Based on Avery's rejuvenation, it's a cure-all, apparently.

He's even impressing Rangers boss John Tortorella, and that's not an easy thing to do.

"Sean is showing what he can do as a player," Tortorella said. "If he just keeps that concentration and continues to just worry about playing and not the other stuff... we don't want any cracks."

Thing is, with Avery there's always a crack, eventually. To the point where even his own teammates want to crack him over the head.

So we'll see if anger management has any staying power, or whether it's just another quick fix.

The early returns, though, are remarkable.

Avery's teammates in Dallas despised him like a bad case of jock itch. The Stars are paying half his salary for him to play in New York.

Yet, the Rangers don't have anything bad to say.

"Ever since he got here, we've only had good things," New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "When he focuses on the game, he's a really good hockey player."

And we had the audacity to think anger management counseling be reserved for players who try to injure opponents by kicking them with their skates, or going after their heads with an elbow.

Who knew it could help discover a lost scoring touch and enable a personality makeover?

Or could it be that Avery's about-face is more practical, that he finally came face to face with an opponent he couldn't simply dismiss with an insult?

An opponent that shut him up when nobody else could.

His last chance.


Videos

Photos