Friday, 21 August 2009

Do I Care? No, Not Really

Remember this guy? I do. He was a dynamic hockey player in the prime of his career. He scored goals at will, and had the look of a game-breaker every time he touched the puck. Paired with a talented Russian in Ilya Kovalchuk, he lit the league up in 2002-03 to the tune of 41 goals and 89 points after winning the Calder Trophy the year before. It seemed as though Dany Heatley was on top of the world. He was an invincible force on the ice, and he seemed to be a pretty good guy off the ice. Then came the night of September 29, 2003 when some poor decisions led to tragic results. Suddenly, the prolific scorer wasn't smiling as often as he used to.

As a result of the auto accident that killed teammate Dan Snyder, Dany Heatley requested a trade out of Atlanta for personal reasons. Understandably. Heatley was dealt to the Ottawa Senators for Marian Hossa and Greg de Vries on August 23, 2005. In Ottawa, he was matched with Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza on the top line, and lit the scoreboard up. He was the first Ottawa Senators player to score 50 goals and top 100 points in a season when he scored 50 goals and 103 points in 2005-06. Heatley's mojo was back, it appeared.

The following season saw him rack up 50 goals and 105 points. The Senators marched through the Eastern Conference in the 2007 NHL Playoffs to the Stanley Cup Final where they eventually lost to the Anaheim Ducks. Things looked good in the Canadian capitol as the Senators took advantage of Heatley and his chemistry with Alfredsson and Spezza.

However, a shoulder injury slowed him down to 41 goals and 82 assists the following season, and the Senators ran into the second-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins. With the number of injuries that the Senators were facing, the Penguins dispatched the Senators easily, and Heatley was nearly invisible during the four games. There was immense internal turmoil in the Senators' dressing room all season long as well, and key players were jettisoned due to their attitudes - possibly affecting the Senators' overall standing.

After a few coaching changes, the Senators finished in 11th-place last season, well short of their goal. Head coach Cory Clouston had "demoted" Heatley to the second powerplay unit, and this didn't sit well with the superstar. Clouston, a former AHL coach, demanded hard work and effort over pure talent, and challenged all the players to work harder. The result? The Senators went 19-11-4 in their final 34 games, a marked improvement from their effort before Clouston arrived.

However, Heatley was unhappy with his "diminished role" on the team, feeling that his talents were being wasted as he sat on the bench while other players played. On June 9, 2009, TSN reported that Heatley had asked the Senators to trade him - a move that sent shockwaves through the hockey world and sparked outrage with Ottawa fans. Today, Dany Heatley spoke about the trade request, along with all the other details since June 9 that have been swirling around this story.

To be honest? He didn't clear anything up. Instead, the perceived notion from Ottawa fans is that he actually made his situation worse. According James Gordon's live blog, 92% of people think his teleconference today made him out worse.

Personally? There are a few things that I'd like to clear up for people who may have missed this whole ordeal. Here's the full transcript, and my ideas follow.

  1. There aren't many teams that are considered "elite" that can absorb a $7.5 million cap hit per season for the next four years. If Heatley is waiting for GM Bryan Murray to find one of those teams, he'll spend the next season in Ottawa without doubt. And maybe longer.
  2. The trade that would have worked - sending him to Edmonton - was vetoed by Heatley because he "wanted more options", and is now dead. The one team willing to take on his massive contract was told "thanks, but no thanks", and now Heatley is stuck in a city that doesn't want him in a situation he doesn't want to be in. Oh, and he's still waiting for other options. Because a lot of teams are willing to trade for a guy who throws a hissy-fit over being moved to the second powerplay unit.
  3. He claims to be a "team guy", citing that everyone who has played with him would back that claim up. Except that "team guy" wouldn't be complaining about his "diminished role" on his team, especially when he logged the second-most ice-time for his team. Perhaps it's time to look in the mirror and practice the line "it's not you, it's me"? You routinely hear team guys complaining about their role on the team. They rarely step up and do something about it. Excuse my sarcasm.
  4. He states that he knows that there are other teams out there interested in his services. Look, that's fine and dandy. There are probably at least 50 NHL and minor-pro teams interested in his services. The problem is that he signed a massive deal long-term with a no-movement clause, and none of those "other teams" are offering anything significant in terms of fair market value back to the Senators. The purpose of a trade is to make your team better, not to make someone else's team better. Bryan Murray knows this. Just because you want a trade, Dany, doesn't mean you're going to get one if the offer for you makes the Senators worse. Does that make sense?
  5. Handcuffing two teams - Ottawa and Edmonton - only proves this was about you, Dany. It had everything to do with you, and nothing to do with being a "team guy". If you really wanted out, you would have gone. But you just want to go to a winner. You never wanted to be "an integral part" of the Senators. If you did, you would have gone through the lows that accompany the highs. For examples, see players like Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman, and Mario Lemieux on how to grow with and lead a team.
Be prepared, Senators fans. Dany Heatley will be playing for your team this season. He may not be happy about his role, but he will be required to play hard if he wants to play in Vancouver in February. So you'll probably see some of this, you'll get a healthy dose of this, and you might be lucky enough to see this, but chances are that you'll routinely see this. And that's not a look that fans want to see.

Kinda makes you want to wash that bad taste out of your mouth, doesn't it? All I know is that the fire under this story was re-ignited with Heatley's teleconference today, and I was all prepared to write it off completely.

Why? Because I really couldn't care less about Dany Heatley at this point. Or his image. He's a great hockey player, but he's selfish. And that's not the kind of teammate I'd want in the dressing room.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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