‘Symmetry is dull!” an old professor of mine used to bark, at the University of Western Ontario.
Symmetry, tranquility, predictability, lump them in a pot, bring to a boil and it pretty much turns into one dull stew.
And you know what? After the 2009 Summer of Hell, the Ottawa Senators don’t mind dull.
A year ago at this time, Dany Heatley had the nerve (courage? intent to avoid suspension?) to show his face at the Senators’ training camp after demanding a trade outta here (but not just anywhere).
What a difference between Ottawa and Edmonton, where the Oilers told Sheldon Souray not to come to camp because they consider him a bad influence on a young, developing team.
The Sens opted to throw Heatley to the lions, or at least to look deep into his eyes and see if there was any chance of reconciliation.
You don’t want to be dealt to Edmonton? Fine. Show up in Ottawa and face the angry mob. Maybe you’ll even change your mind when you walk back into the dressing room with players you accompanied to a Stanley Cup final in 2007.
One look at Heatley and general manager Bryan Murray knew it would be poison if he stayed. Within hours, Heatley was dealt to the San Jose Sharks for forwards Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a swap of draft picks.
Just like that, the Heatley saga ended and the trade analysis began. Continues to this day.
After Year 1, advantage Heatley, although Murray didn’t do that badly considering his limited options. Cheechoo was a bust, but everyone knew he was trending that way, and that his contract was likely one to eat, even if it meant a hard swallow.
Though clearly not a sniper like Heatley, Michalek showed flashes of streaky scoring ability, along with extended dry spells, and wrecked a knee just before the playoffs.
The jury is out on his ability to become a 30-goal man, but he’s an honest player, working hard enough to occasionally hurt himself.
So what are the big issues as a quieter Senators’ camp gets rolling? Well, there are the medical rebounds: Michalek, Alex Kovalev (knee), Daniel Alfredsson (hernia). There is centre Jason Spezza’s bounce back from a tough season and a rough home crowd. As always, there is an eye to the future, with a good crop of young talent in camp.
Realistically, though, most are destined for the AHL farm in Binghamton, New York, or back to junior hockey or college.
As much as defencemen Eric Gryba, Patrick Wiercioch and Jared Cowen may have impressed at the rookie tournament, along with forwards Bobby Butler and Mike Hoffman, this is hardly the camp where opportunity knocks.
Knock somebody’s socks off with your play, and we can talk about it. Maybe.
Here’s as hopeful as coach Cory Clouston could be, speaking on the eve of training camp: “I think there’s a couple of guys in the back end and one or two guys at forward position that, given the right opportunity, and having a real strong camp, could make a real tough argument for themselves. We’ll wait and see how that goes.” “That” includes salary cap considerations and the number of one-way contracts in camp. With a two-way, it’s not enough to be good. Play great, and even then the rewards could be deferred.
Veteran defenceman Chris Phillips tossed some good fatherly advice in the general direction of Ottawa’s younger players, trying to break through.
“We’re going to have injuries,” Phillips said. “Guys could be (called) up for half a season just because of injuries, so now is the time to leave that mark and make people remember their name.
“Whether they’re here this year or not, the future looks bright for this team.” It wouldn’t be Ottawa without a goaltending situation. When last we looked, Pascal Leclaire had the ball, but in his what-have-you-done-lately position, all bets are off. Clouston will only say that Leclaire and Brian Elliott will decide from their play in camp, and especially, in preseason, who starts the season.
Back and forth it may go, with one of them likely getting at least 50 games. Peering over their shoulders is one Robin Lehner, the Senators’ goalie of the future, though he won’t be rushed.
Mostly, meat-and-potatoes camp issues. Nothing like the first days of last year when Heatley arrived, which meant the circus was in town.
“It’s boring, huh?” Phillips joked the other day. “What do you guys have to write about? I should have thought of a good story before I came, but I’ve got nothing.” It’s early. We’ll think of something.
Phillips, a member of the organization since 1997, is of one several Senators on the last year of a contract. Does it weigh on the mind? “I think it’s something that’s there, but doesn’t affect your game,” Phillips said. “Obviously, if it wasn’t there, it’s a distraction you wouldn’t have. At the same time, I don’t think you can use that as an excuse or anything like that. It’s just something that at some point has to be dealt with. “