Often when a player asks to be traded, we hear them explain that they "just needed a fresh start."
It's usually code for "I'm sick of the coach," or "my wife really doesn't like living in Edmonton," but there is a decent amount of value behind the cliché. A fresh start can reinvigorate your game by giving you the kick in the ass you often need.
Who knows what exactly spurred on the Dany-Heatley-for-Martin-Havlat trade, but regardless, the fresh start factor could prove it to be beneficial for both sides.
Starting over with a new club takes you out of your comfort zone, which is a place few players operate well. There aren't many employees on this planet that do their best work without a little pressure, and when you're with the same company for a lot of years, it can get easy to settle and stop pushing yourself.
When Heatley heads into his gym this summer, there's a motivating factor he hasn't dealt with in a while: uncertainty. While the team will surely know his resume, he's still walking into training camp on that first day having to make a first impression on a new coach, a new group of guys, a new front office, and new team staffers. And later, of course, new fans.
The start you get off to with a new team means everything in sports. If you show up in bad shape and gets yourself in the doghouse early, it's nearly impossible to get out and back in your coach's good graces. And worse, being put in the doghouse works like getting concussions — after it happens once, it becomes more likely to happen again.
With that knowledge in mind (and it will be in his mind — as hockey players, we've all had to make our share of first impressions) he'll be sure get his game in top form before that first day.
I doubt he'd be just as motivated if he were returning to the Sharks.
When it happens to be good players getting the fresh start as it is in this case, it's a kick in the butt for the other players too. Beyond the whole, "Hey crap, if that guy can get dealt anyone can, I better not slack off" factor, there's the "that guy could pad my stats a little, I'd love to get chucked on a line with him" motivation.
Every pro hockey player brings their own unique qualities to the table — in Heatley's case, he has a ridiculous shot, so a set-up guy will be working his bag off to make sure he can end up on his line.
More guys working hard?
That's a coach's dream come true.
When Havlat gets to San Jose, he knows there's a plethora of great players there that he'll have the chance to work with (I'd be salivating at the linemate potential if I were him). He knows they've been deep in the playoffs in recent years. Those things are exciting.
Rec league players know how being excited to play can affect your on-ice mojo — if you're headed to your game at a late hour to play for a team that loses two thirds of its games, it's a little hard to self-motivate ("Hmm, I should probably backcheck here oh god they scored.").
When the puck drops at a reasonable time and you're on a damn-near unbeatable team, you get excited to play, and that sharpens your focus ("I'm gonna drive the net cause I know that dude can make a pass").
That's essentially what Havlat's walking into.
Every player walking into a new dressing room this year will get to shed the baggage that builds up over the years on a team and go into a season with a clear mind. Being a member of a team works something like personal relationships — sometimes the amount of things that have gone wrong over the years can make things a daily struggle, and it's just better to cut ties and start fresh.
You're not a different player, but with the new surroundings, you have the chance to write a different, hopefully better, story. And that's exciting.