Winner of Heatley trade still unclear

If history holds true, news should break during the Stanley Cup final that Dany Heatley wants a trade out of San Jose.

If history holds true, news should break during the Stanley Cup final that Dany Heatley wants a trade out of San Jose.

Heatley, of course, stomped out of Ottawa a couple years ago after what he perceived was misuse of his skill and ability. Examples cited were a minuscule drop in ice time and a demotion to the second power play unit. He also clearly had a problem with his young coach (then-bench boss Cory Clouston) calling him out in the press, even though the criticism wasn’t exactly harsh (“Dany needs to move his feet more”).

Well, Heatley wasn’t moving his feet in San Jose’s five-game conference final ouster at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, and he wasn’t scoring much either. One point in the series, and three goals in 18 playoff games overall.

Heatley, who seems allergic to criticism of any kind, is getting plenty of it now. Here’s San Jose coach Todd McLellan prior to the deciding Game 5 in the series:

“Dany Heatley, like a lot of our players, we expect a little bit more from him. I think he has to find a way to put himself in better position on the ice to score. We’ll get that from him in Game 5.”

Once handled with kid gloves by the San Jose press, Heatley has also found his way onto the pages of the local papers (and not in a good way). As Mark Emmons wrote in the San Jose Mercury News this week: “Dany Heatley is the Sharks’ $8 million man. And when San Jose acquired the high-scoring forward before last season, they had hoped he would be the missing ingredient for a Stanley Cup. Right now, Heatley is just plain missing.”

Heatley even had to suffer the ignominy of playing on the third (!) line at one point in this series. That makes the second power play unit look like the boardroom, as seen from the mail room.

It was hard to figure out who won the Dany Heatley trade when it was consummated, bringing Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo to the capital. As the first season wore on, however,  it looked like Grand Theft Sniper on the part of Sharks GM Doug Wilson. Michalek, who brings much more to the table defensively and has some offensive upside, started strong, but has struggled though injuries since his arrival. When the wheels are going, however, he can be quite dangerous.

Cheechoo was a washout, of course, finishing his one and only season with the organization in the minors (side note: Cheechoo did okay in the AHL this season, scoring 47 points in 55 games with the Worcester Sharks). The Senators bought out the final year of his contract.

Meanwhile, Heatley kept rolling in his first season by the Bay, scoring 39 goals and 82 points.

This year has been a different story. Heatley’s struggles didn’t start in the playoffs — he only scored 26 goals during the regular season, his lowest total since the 2003-2004 season (he only played 31 games that year, which followed the infamous Atlanta car accident).

Could we be seeing the beginning of Heatley’s decline? He’s only 30 years old, but it’ll only get more difficult to stay at the top of what is increasingly a young man’s game. Heatley hasn’t shown a willingness to do the hard work, either, relying more on pure skill than effort. That’s not just me speaking…his last two coaches have now called him out over consistency issues.

Perhaps this season was just an anomaly, and Heatley will bounce back stronger than ever.

If not, a $7.5 million cap hit for the next three years is a lot to swallow for a one-dimensional 25-goal scorer.

Maybe this trade wasn’t the clear San Jose victory we once thought it was.

What do you think? Leave a comment