Friday, October 3, 2008
Hartsburg Chooses Heatley ... and Spezza
It might be possible that by giving Dany Heatley the “A” over Mike Fisher, coach Craig Hartsburg is trying to light a fire under both players.
Certainly, the easiest thing to do would have been to give Fisher the nod due to seniority, but Heatley publicly said he wanted to be a better leader this summer and Hartsburg is now giving him that chance.
Fisher has been a loyal player, albeit an often injured one, but there is no doubt that Heatley can have a bigger impact on the team now that he's been brought into the leadership circle. In a way, it legitimizes Heatley and his buddy Jason Spezza in a way that might be too complex to explain properly.
Fans love Daniel Alfredsson, but that's more the exception than the rule for a skilled player in Ottawa. Most fans view pure skill with distrust in this town, whether it be the letdowns of past players such as Alexei Yashin, Alexandre Daigle and Martin Havlat or just a clichéd hockey mentality that views “hard work” as the only ingredient needed for success. It’s the Don Cherry syndrome and Ottawa fans have it bad.
Alfredsson’s linemates in Spezza and Heatley are excoriated regularly for trying high-risk plays but are also loathed when they aren’t producing. It's pretty much a no-win situation. Fans will never be happy with Spezza until he skates in a straight groove over the blueline and dumps the puck in like a Darcy Loewen or a Mike Peluso.
Giving Heatley the “A” will bring Spezza into the leadership fold by default, if only in the fans eyes. No longer will Spezza and Heatley stand apart as offensive “specialists”. They’re now the core and heartbeat of this team, (along with Alfredsson) whether fans like it or not.
On the ice and in the room, perhaps Mike Fisher will have a burr under his saddle now that he’s been passed over. Like Jason York said today on the Team 1200, Fisher will always bring his lunchpail to the rink whether he has a letter on his chest or not. Therefore it might be prudent to bring someone else into the fold and broaden the burden a little.
Giving the “A” to Heatley adds another dimension to the leadership, unifies the team by erasing perceived divisions in the room and will prove to be a great decision by Craig Hartsburg.