September 14, 2009
One of the key quotes in the aftermath of the Dany Heatley(notes) trade to the San Jose Sharks this weekend was from Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to GM Bryan Murray: "If this is a deal you feel will make our team better or make the room better -- do it."
Michalek offers tantalizing hints of offensive dominance and frequent bouts of invisibility; in other words, he's a quintessential supporting player for Ottawa. Cheechoo's the one who will determine if the Senators are better on the ice, because there's a vocal minority that's convinced he can recapture the magic from 2005-07 with a change of scenery and/or linemates; that is, if he isn't the overpaid flash-in-the-pan many more consider he'll be for the duration of his NHL tenure.
Does trading Heatley to San Jose make Ottawa better "in the room?" There can be little question about that.
Bringing Heatley back would have meant mending more relationships than Dr. Phil; in essence, Heatley asked for a divorce and Ottawa could either grant it or attempt reconciliation. Either way, the barn's empty and the horse is on his way to California ... so let him go, right?
For San Jose, the success or failure of the Heatley trade is "in the room," too. On the ice, they add a 50-goal scorer without surrendering Patrick Marleau(notes), and Heatley can turn Joe Thornton(notes) back into a 100-point center. (We assume he'll play on the top line ... don't want Dany thinking his role's being diminished, do we?)
Off the ice, a team that's long struggled to find character in its locker room and fortitude from its players has acquired hockey's most notorious malcontent of the moment. Even those who defend him, like Ray Ferraro, do so from a hockey perspective rather than a character one, which tells you something.
Coming up, perspectives from all over the map on the Heatley trade, from overjoyed fans to pessimistic observers to anonymous snarking from ex-teammates.
The Senators are still fielding questions about Why Dany Wanted Out, as Heatley antagonist Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun writes:
"We didn't talk about not returning phone calls," Daniel Alfredsson(notes) said yesterday after his first practice of the 2009-10 season -- referring to the fact Heatley didn't get back to him when the captain tried to make contact during No. 15's Summer of Angst. "We asked him about what's bothering him. What can we do. We didn't get a full answer. He said it was a hockey decision that was the biggest thing, then there was other stuff. That is where he left it."
Chris Phillips(notes), who joined Alfredsson for a breakfast meeting with Heatley on Friday, said he doesn't feel he or the other Senators were owed an explanation for his friend's urgent desire to bolt.
"He said he was unhappy and we didn't push him on that," said Phillips. "That's how he felt. He wasn't happy. I don't think there was one thing or two things. There was a lot of factors that added to that, and at the end of the day, he wasn't happy and there wasn't any one thing we were going to be able to do to change that. I think it was in everyone's best interest that a deal did happen."
Christopher Botta of FanHouse, which has been using a tabloid's-worth of anonymous sources lately, offered some additional Senatorial pissings:
For the last week, FanHouse contacted insiders all over the Senators organization. While the usual hockey urban legends -- a girlfriend issue, a family member too involved -- are in play, everyone we spoke with said Heatley's list of excuses was a farce. "Any of the stuff you might hear or see on the internet is garbage," one of his ex-teammates told FanHouse last night. "The stuff with Cory and his decreased role? A joke. You think he was coming off the first line? Dany didn't have any real problems. He was our problem."
Sens Army is wondering what the hell happened to the 2007 Stanley Cup finalists from Ottawa. Underdog Obsession pops the champagne and offers a blistering Photoshop account of the trade. The 6th Sens thinks you'd have to "be Ray Charles" not to see Cheechoo's statistic decline and bemoans the team not getting a defenseman in return for Heatley. Erin Nicks of The Universal Cynic offers an anti-analysis of the trade, including this evaluation of GM Bryan Murray:
I don't see this move as being make-or-break for Bryan Murray. I wish I did, but the GM will likely skate again if the trade blows up in his face. Sens owner Eugene Melnyk thinks that Murray can do no wrong, and if the move goes sour, it will be blamed on Heatley's decision to force Murray's hand into a trade he wasn't completely satisfied with.
Exactly. His hand was forced, and he made the best trade he could with Heatley holding veto power.
As for the Sharks, it's interesting to look back at blogger Chuq Von Rospach's take from 2008 about dealing away Marleau or Cheechoo or Michalek to shake up the team. We imagine more than a few Sharks fans are feeling like PJ from Sharkspage about getting Heatley and keeping Marleau:
The fact that Ottawa accepted a deal without Marleau, and without a first round draft pick, means that possibly the last offer on the table was accepted one day before players report for on-ice sessions at training camp. Marleau has said he was never asked to waive his no-trade clause, and the Sharks were not forced to give up a 1st round draft pick for the third straight year.
Win-win Sharks is the final report card on the trade. Yet again they will enter the regular season as a prohibitive Stanley Cup favorite, yet one critics and skeptics will be wary of given their postseason track record. They have as good an opportunity as any to prove them all wrong.
Mike Chen offers some thoughts on Sharks line combinations; one of the underrated aspects of the Sharks' summer is the way they're turning the lower lines over to cheaper, hungrier players rather than the Roenicks and Lemieuxs of the world. Ray Ratto dances around the idea that the Heatley trade reestablishes the Sharks as a Cup contender. But Fear The Fin is wondering, amid all the excitement, where the apprehension is for San Jose Sharks fans:
I'm very surprised at the lack of concern concerning Dany Heatley both in a salary cap and character standpoint. There is no doubt in my mind the Sharks received a world class goal scorer that should make them much better on the offensive side of the ice, but where is the concern about his defensive play? His multiple trade requests over the last five years? A $7.5 M cap hit? The impending salary cap issues, issues that will likely crop up this season? The subsequent lack of roster depth? These were all relevant to the vast majority of readers during the last three months, and suddenly, in one fell Doug Wilson swoop, they dissipate? If anything it is closer to home now, sleeping in our living room. Just because he is a San Jose Shark does not mean they are going away.
True, but let's be serious here: The Sharks just added an elite sniper to a team that dominated the regular season last year while dropping the kind of dead weight their playoff flop necessitated. In that sense, it's an even better hockey move than the Chicago Blackhawks signing Marian Hossa(notes).
If you're one who believes the Sharks' playoff follies are born of a lack of character and chemistry, it's possible the Heatley trade isn't going to change that. If you're one who believes they fall short of the Cup because their players are in need of the Heimlich after one round, then they just added one of the best offensive players in hockey who has 35 points in 34 career playoff games.
In the room vs. on the ice. If that doesn't define Dany Heatley, we're not sure what does.