Thursday, July 2, 2009
Heatley Still Salvageable
Now we have to answer the once unthinkable question:
Is it possible for Dany Heatley to play for the Senators again?
And the answer is, of course, yes.
If Alexei Yashin could do it, Heatley can definitely do it.
While I still think there's a deal out there for Murray to make at some point, it's now a real possiblility Heatley will still be in the red and black.
Many comparisons have been made between the Yashin and Heatley situations, and those comparisons are valid, but is Heatley’s demand worse than what Yashin did to the team earlier in the decade?
No. Yashin’s was worse. Much worse.
For one, Heatley is a popular player among his teammates. Even Chris Neil, who was the most vocal in his disappointment, said Heatley was well liked. Yashin clearly was an outsider in the dressing room during his final year with the team.
Two, Yashin refused to honour his contract. There are no indications from his agents or from the player himself that Heatley will go as far as that. Anything beyond that is pure speculation.
Three, Yashin was a repeat sinner. When he held out in 99-00, he had already put the organization through the ringer a few times with contract holdouts.
Heatley did request a trade from Atlanta but that was, as universally agreed, an understandable and probably necessary request due to the tragic car accident Heatley was involved in. That request had nothing to do with hockey but with trying to get on with his young life. I don’t think bringing up that tragedy is fair game in this context. Others will disagree, such as Citizen writer Hugh Adami, who currently exploited that situation to a sickening degree, but I still think it’s in bad taste.
And as anyone who even remotely follows the NHL knows, players demand trades all the time due to both hockey and personal reasons.
Chris Campoli is one such player on the Senators roster who demanded a trade due to hockey reasons. Yet Ottawa fans aren’t calling him a “despicable” person.
Heatley is also not the only high-profile player to request a trade.
Chris Pronger did it in Edmonton.
Mark Messier did it in Edmonton.
Patrick Roy did it in Montreal.
Eric Lindros did it in Quebec City.
Pavel Bure did it in Vancouver.
Jaromir Jagr did it in Pittsburgh.
And now Heatley has done it in Ottawa. And his reasons aren’t any more shocking than the others before him. To call him a “despicable” person for doing so is completely out of line.
Yes, you should be angry with him and you should let your voice be heard, but don’t act like Heatley is doing something no one has done before.
Bryan Murray and Eugene Melnyk gave him the no-movement clause in good faith and Heatley simply exercised his contractual right to refuse a trade to Edmonton. Guaranteed contracts, the likes of which Heatley and every NHL player have were fought for by generations of players who formed the NHLPA to protect themselves against owners like James Norris and corrupt agents like Alan Eagleson (who was also, unfortunately for many, the head of the PA as well).
Heatley’s contract is valid and so is his no-movement clause. If he doesn’t want to go to Edmonton, he doesn’t have to. If you don’t like it, blame Bryan Murray and Eugene Melnyk for giving him that option.
I realize my position on this will not be very popular but those are the simple facts. Burning a player in effigy, literally or figuratively is just not relevant to the situation.
If Dany Heatley has to eat crow and come crawling back to the Senators, he will still be able to play at a high level and eventually the fans will put aside past problems and get behind the team.
They did it when Yashin came back in 2000 after they got their boos out of the way the first few games.
And despite everyone going completely apoplectic over this thing, there is a chance Heatley could once again pot 50 goals for the Senators.
It would take a massive P.R. campaign by Cyril Leeder and Bryan Murray (and even spurned rookie coach Cory Clouston) to rehabilitate Heatley’s image, and at least a sincere apology from the player himself, but it can be done.
If it could be done for Yashin, who was a much worse problem, then it can be done for Heatley if need be.
Now bring on the hate mail…..