by Mike Chen on 09/14/09 at 01:07 PM ET
In the aftermath of the ginormous Senators/Sharks trade, Andrew the SENSHobo and I asked each other what we thought of our now ex-players. I spoke rather glowingly of Jonathan Cheechoo and cautiously optimistic of Milan Michalek. What does a Senators fan think of Dany Heatley? Well, there’s a lot less vitriol than you’d think. Unfortunately for Sharks fans, the whole notion that Heatley doesn’t backcheck or hustle…well…this only adds more weight to that idea. And it’s probably the main reason why I’m not totally sold on this deal yet.
Meet Dany Heatley: he’s got a touch and sense that few can match; post-lockout, Heatley (180) has only been outscored by Kovalchuk (189) and Ovechkin (219). A great center can find the open man with the gaping net when it’s least expected; Heatley will find the tiniest holes in the most focused goaltenders. Give him space or a clear path to the net, and you’ll see the focus in his eyes, making any goalie question themselves as he sees the holes open up and close. He can find his way to the holes, the unwatched patches of ice, and one-time the puck when you’d least expect it, or even pull them out of nowhere himself, snaking from high up the boards with the puck right into the slot. He has it in him to pull it off no matter who’s feeding him (see a few years back when Ottawa’s top three centers in Spezza, Fisher, and Vermette were all injured and Kelly, 12-11—23 this season, was feeding him), but can certainly handle the likes of Thornton and Marleau.
But then there’s the other side of Heatley. When he’s desperate, you’ll see him, stick waiting to poke out an eye, completely covered. At 6’4, 221lbs, you’ll be lucky to get a hit a game out of him, and he’ll block a shot once in a blue moon, swearing it was an accident. He spoke of wanting to have a team depend more on him than Ottawa where the leadership, scoring, and extra-effort departments are filled adamantly by Alfredsson, Spezza, Fisher, Phillips, and Volchenkov, but what to think when his first choice wound up being a team with even more skill, character, and hard workers? He had problems with Clouston’s demands for extra effort even when he claimed a year ago that he wanted to be more than just a gun; McLellan’s Detroit-raised style doesn’t seem like the natural fit. Ovechkin, Kovalchuck, Nash; they are great wingers because they can do it all with the puck; pray that Thornton and Heatley don’t become attached at the hip as he and Spezza were, because for all the talent of Heatley, he can become a dependent counterpart, making the cord easy to pick apart. When he dominated his first All-Star game, “He is only going to good things for our league,” fellow all-star Jeremy Roenick marvelled on national television. “He’s a better person than he is hockey player.” With all his baggage and 180s, it’s high time he shows what he’s really got behind blue eyes.
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