It isn’t shocking because Heatley’s actions and attitude this season belied assertions that he enjoyed the pressure that rained down from the 19,153 fans who normally fill Scotiabank Place to capacity and demand nothing but the best from their professional hockey representatives.
It’s a kind of pressure that that brings out greatness in some, and crushes others (re: Joe Corvo).
By mid-season, it was clear he was unhappy. By the end of the season, he was just plain belligerent.
The team placed an ‘A’ on his jersey in what was supposed to be a harbinger of the 28-year-old’s graduation from talented scorer to a two-way leader who could be tip of the spear in a club’s battle for the Stanley Cup.
He buckled. Hard. It all started out well and good. Heatley played the part early, acting as a spokesman for the squad as it hobbled out of the gate under new coach Craig Hartsburg. Then, as the season rolled on, he started rolling his eyes or making sounds of disgust at those who would dare ask what was wrong with the team or him specifically.
I’m going to get to the numbers in a moment, but as far as I can see, the evidence that Heatley buckled under the pressure of having an “A” is that he rolled his eyes or made sounds of disgust at those who asked what was wrong with him or the team. That behaviour might be accurately characterized as “behaving like a jackass”, but I’m hardpressed to conclude that the most likely reason for it is that he couldn’t handle the pressure. Maybe he just doesn’t like dealing with repetitive questions to which he doesn’t have an answer.
The bit that really got me though, was this:
…the word traveling along the grapevine today is that he was unhappy with the new system imposed mid-season by replacement coach Cory Clouston and his role within it. Maybe he didn’t like the reduction in ice time or demotion to the second power play unit.
If that’s the case, it doesn’t shine a very flattering light on the Senators’ sniper.
In fact, it’s downright audacious, because it unquestionably places the player above the team. The Ottawa Senators were a joke under Craig Hartsburg. They were winners under Cory Clouston. Any player, especially a supposed leader of a team, should be on board and ready to contribute in any way he can.
Without saying a word, Dany Heatley appears to be saying several things. First, he doesn’t like Clouston and he never will. Second, he doesn’t trust Bryan Murray or the direction the team is headed. Third, he doesn’t much care for his teammates either if he’s willing to jump ship so easily.
Say what you will about Dany Heatley, but I’d be hesitant to paint demoting him to the second unit on the PP as a stroke of tactical genius, regardless of the short term results that it produced. Here are his numbers for the past four years:
Those are virtually all great numbers. The PP goal scoring is particularly impressive – he’s basically a top 20 guy year after year, in a stat where the leaderboard shifts wildly from year to year because of puck luck. It’s hard to argue with the results that Clouston got in the short term, but I’m hard pressed to believe that the Sens PP without Heatley playing top five minutes is better than the Sens PP with him doing so in the long term.
A point on the ES stats too – he had a slight dip last year but, at least part of that can be explained by his teammates inability to score I think – when you factor Heatley’s shooting percentage out, you’re left with the Sens going 34/458 (7.4%) with him on the ice, which strikes me as low considering the offensive talent that they put out there.
It’s hard to blame a guy who has been an elite scorer on the PP for the past four years, who’s been good enough to play for Team Canada in the Olympics and play a first unit role on a team that was good enough to go to the Stanley Cup finals, if he bridles at the idea that he belongs on the second unit. As far as not trusting Bryan Murray or the direction that the team’s headed, given the past two years, it’s difficult to blame him for that either. With respect to his teammates, hockey’s a job. I assume that Gordon wouldn’t think twice about leaving his teammates at the Citizen behind if he perceived a better opportunity elsewhere,
As far as the Oilers getting him…we’ll have to see what the price is. If something like Cogliano and Gilbert plus a pick of some sort would get it done, I’d think awfully hard about doing it, provided that my scouts didn’t think that there was some reason for the ES numbers dropping other than an off-year.
Bryan Murray doesn’t seem to be following the Kevin Lowe playbook in which a star requests a trade and you immediately do whatever you can to accomodate him. Hopefully he ends up doing so this summer and follows it up next summer with Act II: The Disastrous Acquisition of Dustin Penner.