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…..


Anonymous said...

Superb post!

Everything you've written is truthful. Some people may not like the facts, but they are true.

Players have wanted out before, it just hasn't happened in a while. If Heatley comes back, all will be forgotten after he scores a few goals. That's what happened with Yashin. That's what happens with all players.

He may still get dealt, but I see an upside to him coming back. The core of this team lacks the moxy to standup to management. There is a very good reason for that. They have never had to because the organization was well run.

But, lately the organization has been a circus. Heatley's the first player who has pushed back. I hope his defiance rubs off on Alfie and Fisher. They are two guys who could bring down Murray, if they spoke up. They are long tenured Sens, and have strong fan support.

Can you imagine what Messier would have done he he was on this team. GM's were afraid of Messier. People talk about coach killers, well, he was a GM killer, and a President killer (just ask Pat Quinn).

No massive PR campaign is needed to rehabilitate Heatley, just a few goals.

Anonymous said...

No hate mail from me, only praise: You have great points and I agree 100%. In fact I want to keep Heater, badly. I agree with your last blog - the Edmonton trade would have been terrible for the sens and if thats the best we could get then we'll see Mr Heatley in training camp.

What I really suggest is someone, above Murray, talk to Heater to find out what his issues are. I suspect Heatley is not impressed with Brian Murray - and it may only cost Melnyk a $4 million bonus (to Heatley) to figure this out.

hambown said...

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.

A pretty weak comparison, for the following reasons:

Campoli did not leak his request in public. Campoli's trade request benefited his team as well as his own desire to play a different style.
Campoli's trade request did not impede his team's ability improve it's roster through free agency.

I agree with you that the vitriolic response by many bloggers, posters and fans is WAY over the top. Such is life in the Ottawa Senators Ongoing Soap Opera. Gerald Norton in particular might just explode. I freaking swear there are more over-sensitive emo men in the Ottawa valley than anywhere I know (Heatley doesn't like us, waaah! Heatley is SELFISH, GRRRR!!).

Each player in this confrontation will come out with a tarnished reputation. And each could have mitigated the effects through better communication. Melnyk, Murray, Heatley all seem to react with shock at every new event. A trade request? The Sens are SHOCKED, they knew nothing about this! The Senators want to get a deal done by July 1st? Heatley is SHOCKED, things are moving too fast! A deal is presented to go to the Oilers? Heatley is SHOCKED!

Do any of these bozos ever talk to each other. Have they never heard of working together to achieve a solution that is acceptable to everyone?

Frankly, it makes both Heatley and the organization seem petulant and immature. Now both sides will have to work much harder to save face and get on with things.

Andy said...

Definitely agree with some of this. I heard one of the twits on TGOR (Ottawa morning radio) say that Yashin must be enjoying this because now he's the "second most hated man in Ottawa". Let's not forget, he sat out a whole year because the team wouldn't renegotiate the contract that he signed.

I had the pleasure of being at the first home game Yashin played after that. He was consistently booed throughout the game. He also scored two goals. What a talented dick.

Anyway, I agree, Heatley was well within his rights to use the no-movement clause. I don't get the indignance from management on this. YOU GAVE IT TO HIM. Now you're going to be surprised when he uses it?

I see this situation as more of a tragedy for all involved. I cannot imagine what Dany's side was thinking when they leaked the trade request. I don't understand what they expected to gain from it. It's completely backfired, and now looks like he has very little chance to go to any of the teams he wanted to go to, and it's his own damn fault. The tragedy is that had this been handled properly it could have been win-win. Now nobody wins.

So you're right, with the possibility of trade acceptable to both Murray and Heatley looking slim, the only option is to come back and play as well as he can, as much to to rehabilitate his reputation as to highlight his skills. Beyond that, who knows? Maybe he can patch it up. The ideal scenario is:

Heatley comes back, doesn't complain, avoids the media, does his best - is productive, earns his way back on to the top power play unit - at some point (December or so), has a "mea culpa" interview where he admits that the request was hasty, the leak was an accident, there were misunderstandings, he's sorry about how it was handled, has fired his agent and has patched up relations with Murray, Clouston and Melnyk.

I know, not likely, but this is a feasible scenario where I think the fans could "forgive" Heatley and things go back to normal.

However, while I don't think Heatley is "despicable" or "worse than Yashin", he has demonstrated a lack of character that doesn't bode well, and I hope he can be traded as soon as possible, even if it's just a cap-clearer to let the Sens go after one of the few remaining top-line free agents.

Jalen said...

Jeremy, there's no question he could come back and play.

But, what could have been an excellent post is badly marred by your clearly biased selective use of "facts." You could've at least made an effort to be balanced.

Odd you left out the fact Heatley asked out, odder still that you didn't mention how stupid it was of his camp to take the request public. However, I have to wonder if you're related to Heatley somehow when you altogether omit mention of the screw job he just pulled with the Edmonton situation. Heatley definitely knew Edmonton was a leading bidder, there's no way his group couldn't of known. Murray also claims the Heatley camp gave him permission to pursue a trade with Edmonton. Refusing to waive the NMC after they reach a deal is disgusting.

Finally, if you're interested in facts, how can you ignore the arrogance of the Heatley camp for being upset they weren't presented with options to choose from. WTF? They made it difficult to find one acceptable trade and they're upset they weren't give several to choose from? Ridiculous.

Yes, Heatley could come back and play. Yes, the Yashin situation was worse. But every other example you cited of a player asking for a trade is a joke.

Just like Heatley's behaviour.

- Jalen

Anonymous said...


No need to create a drama. The dude has a NTC/NMC. He has not breached his contract. He says he wants out.

The team can make him play in Ottawa, or trade him to a place he finds acceptable.

The situation is pretty simple. He has honoured his contract so far. And, the Sens have honoured their side by paying him.

The rest is unnecessary drama.

Murray doesn't have to trade him, and Heatley doesn't have to accept a trade to a place he doesn't want to go. It's all in the contract.

Jalen said...

Anon @ 3:04pm

I agree the drama's unnecessaryl Unfortunately, Heatley's camp created it.

True he has the contractual right to refuse to go somewhere he doesn't want to. However, it's disgusting to encourage the team to work out a trade and then renege as he did in the Edmonton case. He could have stopped the whole thing before they reached an agreement.

If you don't have a problem with that, then I guess we have different standards.

- Jalen

Anonymous said...

All I'm saying is that everything that has happened so far, is allowed.

As far as how it should have been handled, I have different views. Both parties should have recognized that each holds a sledgehammer.

Right now, each party is acting like they have more power. The "he said, she said" stuff is drama. Both sides are responsible for that.

Anonymous said...

dear mr. black aces,

i love your blog and commentary, so i'm pretty disappointed in your last post. your defense of heatley is way off the mark.

yes, yashin was worse, yes, heatley's acted within his rights and yes, loads of other players have requested moves but correct me if i'm wrong, but i dont remember any of the players you mentioned (pronger, et al) ever endearing themselves to anyone with their demands. heatley has actually gone one further than any of those guys because the whole fiasco killed his gm's chances of signing any FAs while divisional rivals were loading up. And anyone who thinks that heatley requesting a trade and then denying a trade could go under the radar without any drama is dreaming.

if heatley has any sense he should immediately turf his agents because i cant imagine how they could have served their client's needs any more badly than they have. why it was never communicated to murray that edm was not on heatley's wist list is beyond me. every shmoe sitting on his couch watching tsn knew ott and edm were negotiating. i also find it supremely ironic that the heatley camp would like to be presented with options considering that they have effectively robbed murray of any. The only blame that can be laid on murray is that he ever gave heatley the ntc in the first place.

now they have an impasse and i cant see how this situation will turn into anything other than a disaster. heatley needs to remember that he is not a free agent and can't go to any team he wants.

phil said...

it's not just possible for heatley to come back, it's almost probable..

there's no way he'll sit out, so if there's no deal during the summer he should be ready to show up and play his way INTO a trade - he'll have to create his own interest cause there's clearly not a lot right now.

i also don't think the proposed deal with edmonton was THAT bad.. i was shocked there even WAS one on the day that GMs could go and get an all-star free agent, and i'll be surprised if an offer comes up that's notably better.

Dany said...


JP says the Olympics are going to save me...I'm going to train at UBC on my own...just bought a house on the beach in Marina del Ray...see you in LA!

pg said...

Oh, and did these guys negotiate NTC's? Had they completed 17% of their contracts? You lose a lot of credit with your "incite the masses"piece. maybe tomorrow you can run a piece one how superb the neil signing was.

My god, you did already!!! I swear, not a word of a lie that I hadn't seen that you had already done one until after I wrote that. Wow. That's actually deeply disturbing. Well, I guess one of the beautiful things about blogs is that everyone can voice their opinions.

Anonymous said...

Blame Murray for giving the "Heater" a NMC. Bah! Blame him for wanting to lock up his #1 goal scorer and franchise player in good faith! Sure, I'd do that, and so would every other person on this blog, and every GM worth his salt when the contract was signed.

No one saw this coming, and if you ask me, Heatley blindsided the Sens with his trade request by making it public.

He asked for he is getting now.

BTW, Yashin had the worst, and I mean the worst agent in the business in Gandler. Probably still does.

Heatley's agent J.P. Barry and McAline are the master minds behind these tactics of using the media and the fans, and it has back fired big time!!!!!

I don't much care for all the personal flaming that has been going on, but you can't expect fans or anyone else to have sympathy for his supposed reasons, and his assinine tactics, which have screwed Ottawa's chances at getting better.

Even Spezza himself said it today. Paraphrasing, "either come back and will accept you, or move on if you don't want to be here". Now, he should listen to his friend's advice.