Thursday, July 9, 2009

$%@! The Worlds!

This has been making the rounds of the blogs but I thought I might jump on as well in case anyone missed it.

One of the most brilliant and hilarious You Tube videos I've ever seen, especially the bit about Spezza's bachelor party.

Thanks to Tweedy for pointing it out to me.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Messy Divorce In Bytown

Amidst all the screaming and self-righteous indignation, we finally get a reasoned and logical take on the Heatley situation from Ken Campbell at the Hockey News who has the balls to infer that maybe Murray could have handled this situation a little better than he did:

"Before any trade was made, Murray could have forced Heatley to waive his no-trade clause unconditionally.....

There would have been nothing preventing the Senators from telling Heatley to write a letter to Central Registry pre-approving a trade to any one of the other 29 teams. No letter to Central Registry, no trade. Simple as that."

He's got a point. Murray approached the trade with Edmonton from a position of weakness, probably just hoping that negative public opinion would force Heatley to accept.

Heatley was well within his rights to not only ask for a trade, but to use his no-movement clause as is spelled out clearly in his contract. It doesn't make him morally right, but it makes him technically right, if you know what I mean. When you take the emotion out of it, the argument doesn't seem as unbalanced as many make it out to be.

I took a lot of heat (pun definitely intended) for saying much the same thing, but as Campbell points out, the contract Heatley negotiated in "good faith" gives him all the power in this situation, like it or not.

"First, he asked for a trade. Well, anyone from a minimum-wage plug to a 50-goal scorer has the right to do that.

He invoked his no-trade clause when a deal he didn’t like became available. That’s another right he has, one to which he and the Senators agreed when they consummated a six-year, $45 million contract extension a couple of months after the Senators went to the Stanley Cup final in 2007. The ubiquitous “no movement” clause is a classic team-killer that will undoubtedly be a major element in the next round of CBA negotiations, but the fact remains it was negotiated in good faith by both sides.

So it’s a bit of a stretch for anyone to believe the Senators might have a basis for a grievance because Heatley put them in such an untenable situation. "

With all that being said, it looks like Heatley's reputation has hit the terminal point around the league. What looks legit in a contract doesn't always matter to a tempestous fan base and a traditional old boys network around league offices who aren't exactly sympathetic to anyone who carries an NHLPA membership card in their wallet.

Kovalev Shocker

This signing really caught me by surprise.

Of all the free agents this off-season, Alexei Kovalev would have been near the bottom of the list of players I expected to sign in Ottawa.

Yet, it's strangely brilliant.

As has been widely reported, fans of the Habs had just completed a "protest" outside the Bell Centre in Montreal to try and force Bob Gainey to resign the skilled Russian.

Now Murray has what will surely be a motivated player in the lineup to terrorize Carey Price and his band of merry midgets for at least 6 games in the regular season.

But what does it all mean?

Is this a sign that a Dany Heatley trade is imminent? Does this mean that Murray is going to take less for Heatley?

I'm not a capologist but this signing puts Ottawa over the 56.8 million cap.

Kovalev will eat up 5 million per year for the next two seasons in both actual paid salary and in cap space.

According to, the Senators cap number is now at roughly $57,545,833. To get that number I subtracted the listed salaries of Cody Bass, Ilya Zubov and James OBrien, three players who will have a hard time making this team.

But that also doesn't include Brian Elliott who needs a new contract and the possibility of Erik Karlsson making the team (in which event one of the 7 current defenseman would be out of a roster spot, eliminating their respective salary).

If Murray could somehow convince Heatley to reverse his trade request and make peace with Cory Clouston, Ottawa will have plenty of firepower to rack up huge offensive numbers.

Even without Heatley, you could probably pencil in Kovalev beside Jason Spezza and that would still be a formidable line on any team.

If you were to pick someone who has almost as good a shot as Heatley, you'd have to put Kovalev into the argument. While Heatley is all power, Kovalev is pure finesse and can put pucks into corners or through goalie's legs before they've even realized he's about to shoot.

But there's a downside too. Kovalev has an unfair reputation as a guy who is streaky and sometimes disinterested. People seem to think that because he has such great skill, he's not allowed to have off games like other players do.

And if there's anything we've learned about Ottawa fans, they are greatly distrusting of skilled, superstar players. They won't find much to like about Kovalev unless he and Spezza really find some chemistry right away. If not, both will have huge targets on their backs to join the likes of Chris Neil, Chris Kelly and whoever else the fans decide they've had enough of.

But this is a good day for Murray. No matter what happens with the Heatley saga, he has ensured that he is not wasting the supreme passing talents of Spezza.

To have a visionary on the ice like number 19 without someone to one-time his passes is like having a nice car with no wheels.

Heatley or no Heatley, Ottawa will still be able to score goals.

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…..

Neil and Murray Come To Their Senses

A Canada Day hangover prevents me from getting too deep into this, but...

Getting Chris Neil signed was the right move for Ottawa and at 2 million for 4 years, the contract is barely above the NHL average.

The fact that Toronto added the likes of Mike Komisarek, Colton Orr and Garnett Exelby made the re-signing of Neil a priority for Ottawa.

In fact, the Senators could still use some more muscle but Murray can't do much until he sorts out that Heatley thing....

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Heatley Does Ottawa A Favour By Rejecting Mediocre Oiler Deal

Perhaps, despite all the furor and moronic name-calling (by over reactive writers like Don Brennan), Dany Heatley has actually done Ottawa a favour here by rejecting this terrible trade with Edmonton.

Much like everyone is snickering over how Glen Sather fleeced Montreal's Bob Gainey by unloading the Gomez contract while getting the likes of Chris Higgins and Ryan McDonagh back in the deal, there would be a few hidden smirks with the idea of Murray getting Dustin Penner back from Edmonton.

Penner has been a colossal flop in the City Of Champions and is believed to be out of shape and mentally soft. His size is certainly appealing but Murray would be better off by signing Erik Cole on the market today without having to give up a 50 goal scorer for Penner. That's not to say the player that Murray drafted can't turn his career around, but do you really need to take that chance right now, with the franchise defining trade of Dany Heatley?

The other players in the deal are bonafide prospects, but no one is predicting them to be in the elite category. Cogliano could score 30 goals one day but he is small. Smid is an interesting player who will still get better but he would have already been on his third team if the deal had gone through. He's at best, a second pairing defensive defenseman.

I'm not saying it would have been the worst deal possible, but Murray should be getting something better than Penner in the Heatley deal, no matter the trying and exhausting circumstances.

The real tragedy of the day will be when Chris Neil signs in Toronto, paving the way for the Senators to become one of the softest teams in the league.

With the other bruisers that Burke is inevitably going to sign, Neil and company are going to come into Ottawa's rink and kick the living shit out of them 3 times a year, and do much the same in their own building.

To let a heart and soul player like Neil who actually wants to be in Ottawa, possibly go to your biggest rival down the highway simply because you're squabbling over a couple hundred thousand, is completely unforgivable in this humble scribe's opinion.

The descent into mediocrity continues in the nations capital......


Two separate pieces today by Don Brennan of the Sun and Hugh Adami of the Citizen are so over the top in their feigned outrage that they make fools of themselves, rather than make any reasoned arguments why we should be calling another human being "despicable".

Adami even goes the route of interviewing Dan Snyder's father, a crass and exploitative tactic which is simply a chicken shit way of invoking the tragic car accident as a viable tool for a personal attack on the 28 year old without doing it in a direct manner.

The Adami article makes me want to puke.

Small town, small-minded journalism at its worst.