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Erin Nicks

Dany Heatley's Homecoming: What to expect from Ottawa and fans

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(Ed. Note: Erin Nicks blogs about the NHL and the Ottawa Senators on The Universal Cynic, and covered the Sens during Dany Heatley's(notes) time with the franchise.)

By Erin Nicks

What's left to be said about the Dany Heatley saga depends on whom you talk to.

Sure, we can discuss the "purple monkey dishwasher" rumour mill, as it typically churns its nasty ways in situations like these. However, Canada's capital could be described as a "big little town" -- large enough to sustain something resembling a downtown core and several suburbs, but small enough that all Ottawans seem to know everyone else and their business.

Everyone here likes to talk, up to and including Senators employees - those behind the scenes, even the ones who lace up the skates for game nights, regardless of insistence to the contrary by the club's front office.

(Aside: Ottawa Sun reporter Don Brennan asked an unnamed Sens player about the "real story" why Heatley left, and the player "[swore] that he doesn't know the reason." Colour me shocked. Teams are rarely fond of the media, but Brennan is hardly a "player's guy." Ask Sidney Crosby(notes) ... or Georges Laraque(notes) ... or Joe Corvo(notes)...do I need to go on?)

Personally, I couldn't give a damn about the reason. He's gone, and nothing is going to change that fact. However, that doesn't mean there isn't plenty left to talk about.

Dany Heatley may be an elite goal-scorer, but he's still a one-dimensional player.

If I were the Senators, I would have offered the corners of Scotiabank Place on a discount tonight, as a guaranteed "Heatley Free Zone." He still floats and gets the garbage goals on the PP while sitting in his typical spot -- down low and to the right of the net. Clutch shots? Don't count on it. But if you need a seventh goal during a blowout, he's your guy. Sure, you won't complain about it at the time, because these points will help your team make into the post-season.

And after that? Dany Heatley had 7 goals in 20 games during Ottawa's Stanley Cup run in 2006-07, and zero in the four game sweep against Pittsburgh in 2007-08. And don't think this was just a Senators thing -- No. 15 was AWOL in his first playoff jaunt as a San Jose Sharks winger, with only two goals in 14 games.

As if this weren't aggravating enough, keep in mind that Heatley has shown flashes in the past of being capable of so much more. In late 2006, Jason Spezza(notes) was sidelined with a knee injury for 14 games. No one knew how Dany Heatley would fair without the player he had been attached at the hip with for so long. Amazingly, a new side of Heatley emerged. He began to play the body, and shock of all shocks, showed some capability as a two-way player, all the while maintaining his offensive game.

The ability is there, but his unwillingness to use it is beyond frustrating. Ask Senators fans how much they miss this aspect of Dany Heatley's game.

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Some members of the Ottawa media will still find a way to bugger this up.

Check that - they've already started.

Ottawa Sun sports editor Tim Baines said on Tuesday:

"Heatley should be grateful the media never really put him under the microscope for the Dan Snyder incident. There are a lot of tough questions that were never asked."

Wow. "Aww, Dany Heatley won't answer our questions about his departure, so let's get to him this way! Be thankful, Heatley -- we could've been asking you hard-hitting questions about Dan Snyder instead of getting quotes regarding your latest hat trick! And we totally would've done it, too ... team PR be damned!"

I'm sorry, but this is classless behaviour, especially now. Get mad at the guy for leaving if you want, but don't resort to this kind of nonsense.

Finally, don't expect a ton of vitriol from the Ottawa Senators fans.

Sure, there will be booing at the game, and there's something called the "Heatley Hate Fest" taking place at a downtown pub this afternoon. But try as they might, Sens fans remain a largely placid bunch, even when they're ticked off about something.

Speaking from experience, I attended Alexei Yashin's(notes) first game back in the capital as an Islander, and while there was venom to be had, it was still tempered by Ottawans' typically quiet nature.

Recent history always rings louder, but over the course of the modern club's history, the Alexei Yashin drama does -- and always will -- trump anything involving Dany Heatley.

The local media, fans and the team will finally get their hands on Heatley today, but if anyone is expecting something substantial left in their grasp after 10 pm EST tonight - be it answers or a pound of flesh - they're going to be sorely disappointed.

History has shown that No. 15 always gets his way ... why should tonight be any different?

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