TSN / ESPN hockey analyst and former NHL super-pest Matthew Barnaby joined the ‘Off the Record' panel Tuesday and was featured on ‘Next Question'. One topic of interest was Dallas Stars' agitator Sean Avery, who has taken on the role of the NHL's most hated player.
Avery, who in the past has sparred verbally with opponents, teammates and the media, has recently turned his attention to the Calgary Flames. Earlier in the season he called Flames' captain Jarome Iginla “boring”, but he saved his biggest verbal jabs for Calgary's All-Star defenceman Dion Phaneuf, fanning the flames of the rivalry even more.
On Tuesday, Avery made comments about Phaneuf's current girlfriend, actress Elisha Cuthbert, whom Avery dated earlier in his career.
“I just want to comment on how it's become like a common thing in NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds,” Avery said. “I don't know what that's about. Enjoy the game tonight.”
After hearing the comments the NHL's head office suspended Avery indefinitely, pending a hearing with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, in accordance with the provisions of NHL By-Law 17 and Article 6 of the NHL Constitution for conduct "detrimental to the League or game of hockey,"
Barnaby, the former enforcer who accumulated 2,562 penalty minutes in 834 career games, said he admires the way that Avery plays the game but is not impressed at how he has handled the situation.
“We all know a lot of stuff goes on on the ice. I've said a lot of nasty things and I've had a lot of nasty things said to me,” Barnaby said on OTR. “I've never had a problem with what anyone has said to me or that I've said but…keep it on the ice.”
Barnaby, who played for the Stars earlier in his career, said he does not believe the organization is regretting its decision to sign Avery to a four-year, $15.5 million contract prior to the season. But he says he does think Avery has become a distraction as he has alienated himself from some of his teammates.
“I've talked to some guys he's played with in the past, I've talked to some of the guys he plays with now,” said Barnaby. “And he's not the most popular guy.”
“What he does on the ice is special. He gets on teams' nerves, he gets under their skin, like he's doing with Calgary. He has to make himself a better team guy. You can't put yourself ahead of the team and that's what he does.”
Barnaby added that he is amazed the situation was allowed to escalate the way it has, considering the veteran locker room in Dallas.
“They have Marty Turco, they have Brenden Morrow, they have Mike Modano. I'm surprised that it's gotten to this point,” said Barnaby. “They love the way he plays on the ice, they love the determination that he has and what he does for the team. They've got to find a way to rein him in, and hopefully they will.”
Earlier in the year, Modano said he was embarrassed by Avery's actions during a loss to the Boston Bruins.
“Tonight it was idiotic and stupid," Modano told reporters after Avery and teammate Steve Ott argued with referees and fans. "It was one of the most embarrassing things I've seen. If that's what we're going for, then they need to find me an office job."
Barnaby said he had an idea how the issue could be resolved.
“If I was (Flames head coach Mike Keenan) I would start Jarome Iginla, get Avery out there, square off because you want to do it like men. And when (Iginla) does lay the beat down, then flex the muscles.”