Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bad Soap Opera

First came the over-the-top poor, poor pitiful Heatley drivel from Tom Molloy, hockey coach and former neighbour to the Heatley's in Wayne Scanlan's column in the Citizen the other day in which Molloy all but said Heatley playing for Team Canada was essentially charity work. Then came the asinine comments by Heatley's agent about being "blindsided" by the deal Bryan Murray had worked out with the Oilers. If trying to get the best deal possible for a disgruntled player is "blindsiding," then what do we call said player's trade request through the media in the first place? Pot, meet kettle.

The Ottawa Senators have over the years been the focal point of many changes in the NHL, perhaps the earliest and most well-remembered example being the Alex Daigle contract that led to the creation of a rookie salary cap. With any luck, the next round of CBA talks will see the installation of the Heatley rule: when a player who has a long-term contract with a no-trade clause asks for a trade, it is to be considered an automatic waiving of the no-trade clause, and the player will have to accept any destination their club can find for them. In other words: no vetoing specific teams. At this point this is the issue that I think is sticking in most people's craws - the fact that Dany Heatley can have his cake and eat it too. It's one thing to demand a trade the way he did, significantly weakening his current team's bargaining position. But to reject what was undoubtedly the best deal the Senators could have gotten for him for apparently no particularly good reason is quite another thing. This is the enraging part for fans.

So where do we go from here? With nobody other than the Oilers showing much interest, it would appear that Heatley will have to prepare for Senators' training camp. I know, I know. It seems unimaginable to me too that he would start the season in a Sens uniform after what has gone down in the last couple of weeks, but there is a silver lining in all of this courtesy of Steve Yzerman.

Team Canada's GM said today that although Heatley is invited to Team Canada's camp this August, he's not a slam-dunk to make the team. Yzerman said that those who are playing well from October through December will get a shot at making Team Canada.

So if Heatley really does want to play for Olympic gold in Vancouver in 2010, he can't be sitting out while the Sens work out a deal. He has to prepare to play and play well. In fact, given his so-called "friend" Molloy's comments, Heatley had better be ripping it up in order to really stand a chance. I do not think the Team Canada brain trust took too kindly to the insinuation that Heatley's past participation for the team was some kind of charity work. There are a lot of highly skilled younger guys who would gladly take his place given the chance.

So Sens fans may have to endure him for a little while yet, as awkward as it will feel. And if Heatley does go on a tear this fall in a bid to make Team Canada, then the chances of getting a better deal for him will rise as his on-ice performance may yet eclipse the off-ice drama. He may start the season in a Sens uni, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll finish it in one.

But there is also the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Heatley rescinds his demands for a trade if he gets sufficient ice time and starts racking up crazy points. He may come to realize there are worse places to play than on the wing with Spezza with Alfie on the opposite side of the ice. The Clouston-Heatley relationship in such a scenario might even be resuscitated, and a new golden age dawns on the Senators... But that really does sound like bad soap opera.
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