Stars need to admit mistake and move on ... without Sean Avery

December, 3, 2008
12/03/08
11:53
AM ET
There might be a place in the NHL for Sean Avery. But this much is clear: That place isn't Dallas.

He just doesn't fit there. And really, that's not his fault. After all, Avery didn't go to Big D and force the club to sign him to a four-year, $15.5 million contract this past summer. Stars management made that decision.

Now, after Avery's latest stunt and subsequent league suspension, club management has another decision to make, and it's an important one about the Stars' future.

They have to send Avery home. They have to get him out of their locker room. They have to see whether they can trade him (highly unlikely) or bite the bullet on him until they can buy out his contract in the offseason.

Right now, as long as Avery remains in Dallas, the team has an excuse for its dreadful play, which has been a result of terrible goaltending and surprisingly bad defensive-zone coverage.

The Dallas Stars organization has never been an overly flamboyant group. It's not who they are or what they want to be. That's why Avery is a bad fit. They really should have known that before pulling the trigger on such a substantial contract.

Now, simply and decisively, it's time to admit that mistake and move on … without Avery.

Another bad decision
The Stars weren't the only team to make a bad free-agent signing.

In Tampa, the fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants ownership group has made a bunch of boneheaded moves. For example, the summertime decision to sign winger Radim Vrbata to a three-year, $9 million deal left me scratching my head.

The Bolts already had some pretty darn good, high-priced forwards. They didn't need Vrbata, who always has struck me as a guy who is a good player on bad teams. By that, I mean he'll put up some numbers, but he won't or can't do the things it takes to win. The Lightning didn't really need oldsters Gary Roberts ($1.25 million) or Mark Recchi ($1.5 million), either. Tampa Bay would have been much wiser to spend that money on defense. Heck, it could have put that cash toward keeping defenseman Dan Boyle.

On Tuesday night, Vrbata was a healthy scratch for the second time this season (by my count). Earlier in the season, Barry Melrose sent him to the press box. Now, Melrose's replacement, Rick Tocchet, has done the same. In 17 games, Vrbata has three goals and three assists, and to his credit, he's an even player. I hope the Bolts believe they're getting their money's worth. I have a feeling they don't.

A good decision
It was great to see the Flyers wearing the old-school orange sweaters Tuesday. In a league that has become much too black and white, it's nice to see some vivid color. Growing up, the NHL seemed a much more colorful place. There was green in Minnesota, purple and gold in Los Angeles and baby blue in Quebec. And, of course, there was orange in Philadelphia. I'm glad to see it back. It just seems right.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.

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