There was a time when Sean Avery was still welcome in Dallas. (Photo by Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
I believe I’ve found the winning formula for an all-star game worth watching: Team Superstars vs. Team Exile.
Team Superstars would be comprised of, well, superstars. The players could be picked by the fans, the media, coaches, other players, my cat. It doesn’t matter. I don’t really care who plays for them. I’m more interested in the other team’s make-up.
Team Exile would feature the ultimate bad boys of hockey, the dressing room “cancers,” whose evil powers run so deep they’ve been shunted and disposed of because they singlehandedly caused their NHL teams to lose. They’ve also been known to steal old ladies’ purses, spike baby formula with vodka and spray paint satanic verses on fuzzy white bunnies. And, of course, they’re responsible for the crash in the economy.
Everyone loves a hero-vs.-villain grudge match. It’s a critical driver in the entertainment industry.
Imagine Team Exile’s starting line-up:
In goal, No. 0-no, ‘Radioactive’ Ray Emery.
At center, No. 10 percent effort, Alexei ‘The Friendly Ghost’ Yashin.
At right wing, No. 25-game suspension, ‘Clobberin’ Chris Simon.
At right wing, No. 2nd, 3rd and 4th chance, Todd ‘The Terminator’ Bertuzzi.
At whatever position he damn-well feels like playing, No. 666, ‘Sloppy’ Sean Avery.
Heck, this team is so utterly sick and demented, it doesn’t need defensemen. It’s so arrogant, it doesn’t require a fifth skater.
The coach? Take your pick. ‘Terrible’ Ted Nolan? Or Barry ‘Buried’ Melrose?
I’d wager serious money on Team Exile kicking the headlights off Team Superstar, but on the off-chance it didn’t, who in the world would be blamed? Which one guy could we single out for the loss?
We all know each was solely responsible for their NHL teams spiralling into H-E-double-hockey-sticks. Just look at how the Sens have rebounded without Emery in net and how the Islanders have soared minus the contracts of Yashin and Nolan. Certainly, Tampa Bay has had an amazing reversal of fortune since Melrose left town.
The Dallas Stars, Western Conference finalists last year, went 4-3-0 in their first seven games without Avery, losing contests to Phoenix, Nashville and Edmonton – the very teams with which they’ll be grappling for playoff contention.
Yes, I have a point. One player can’t undermine a good team – at least, not one with solid leadership. And I’m not just referring to the captain. Leadership begins with management and permeates through an organization. It sets a tone of accountability in which each individual is responsible for his actions and performance.
Poor leadership, on the other hand, seeks blame instead of looking for ways to change.
That doesn’t mean Ottawa shouldn’t have parted company with Emery or the Stars shouldn’t sever ties with Avery. Those moves may be part of a solution. Scape-goating, on the other hand, is for losers.
Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every Friday.
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