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Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Why Avery's out, Christensen's in

By Mike Hume


Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Sean Avery was sent packing Tuesday.

As reported Tuesday morning, the New York Rangers intend to waive Sean Avery.

Avery has been locked in a battle with Erik Christensen for the Blueshirts' final forward spot, a battle it appears he has now lost. With Christensen apparently earning the nod, it's worth looking briefly at why the axe fell on the perennial pest.

Avery’s role on the ice was no secret. He was, is and always will be an agitator. While his playmaking skills may be a little underrated, his penchant for provocation was his best asset. But how effective was he? According to the fancy stats at BehindtheNet.ca, Avery drew 1.4 penalties per 60 minutes of ice time. That’s pretty darn good -- second on the team in fact to Ryan Callahan (1.7). The rate also ties him for 23rd in the NHL among players who appeared in 50 games or more last season.

The only problem, as you may have guessed, is that Avery hurt the Rangers nearly as much as he helped them, personally taking 1.3 penalties per 60 minutes of ice time. That nearly puts him in the league’s top 30 for that category as well. And it’s worth noting that ledger is filled largely with enforcers like Jody Shelley and Zenon Konopka.

When you take the bad with the good (and assuming I’ve done my math correctly) Avery only gave the Rangers about an extra power play and a half over the course of the season. Apparently the Rangers thought Christensen provided more than that.

Last season, Christensen outproduced Avery (27 points to 24) in 13 fewer games. But Christensen’s best value comes from the shootout, where he converted a team-high 62.5% of his attempts last season. He sports a 53.5% mark for his career, the best rate of any NHL shooter with 40 or more attempts. His 23 shootout goals are tied for the sixth most all-time.

You only need to look at 2010-11’s season-ending scrape into the playoffs to know how important those extra points in the standings can be. And, given the Rangers’ decision, the team certainly seems to think they look more valuable than a few extra minutes of power play time per season.