The Heatley Soap Opera
The level of vitriol being directed at Dany Heatley from the media seems astonishing to me. Dan Barnes, for example. I’m not a big fan of Dany Heatley (the person, not the player) but there is another way to see this story.
While Heatley’s behaviour has been less than admirable, he hasn’t killed any dogs or harassed any cabbies. He really hasn’t done anything worthy of vilification. None of this had to happen and none of it should have happened. I think the Ottawa Senators have handled it poorly, perhaps even cynically. (Full disclosure: I’m on record as saying I’ve lost confidence in Ottawa management. This, of course, taints my view.)
My assumption is that Heatley’s feelings were hurt when Clouston took over the team and cut his ice time. Clouston did not mean it this way but it looked like Clouston thought Heatley’s play was the reason the team was losing. When the team started playing better it looked like Clouston was right even though it was probably simply regression. Heatley’s feelings were hurt and so he verbally asked for a trade in the middle of May. We can all agree that Dany was being childish, and particularly in light of his history, he should have simply accepted the situation and set out to prove Clouston wrong. That, however, is pretty much the worst anyone should say about Heatley.
At that point, the Senators could have made it all go away simply by sitting Clouston down with Heatley and stroking Dany’s ego a little. Or they could tell Dany they had no intention of trading him and they expected to see him in camp with a smile on his face. Either way, the story never sees the light of day. Heatley can’t demand a trade. He can only ask.
The Sens decided they didn’t want to do either of those things because trading Dany Heatley is a good idea for the franchise. Unloading his contract gives them a chance to change direction in the near term and the Ottawa Senators are a losing team that needs to change direction. Spezza probably isn’t tradeable, but Murray clearly thought he could deal Heatley.
So the Senators asked Heatley for the request in writing, presumably to get a list of destinations he would accept. And they leaked the trade request because Murray realized the package he will get for Heatley is going to be less than stellar and he needed a villain in this piece, a villain who wasn’t him. What would Ottawa fans have done if, out of the blue, Murray had traded Heatley for Penner, Cogliano and Smid? They would have gone nuts. The trade request is leaked to make what is almost sure to be a poor hockey trade acceptable to the fans. (Murray wants to make a good salary cap trade which is a different thing.)
This, of course, pissed off Heatley. He’s now hurt and he’s mad. The Sens have plunked a black hat on his head. Leaking the trade request – and turning it into a demand – apparently burned the bridge back to Ottawa if a suitable deal can’t be worked out.
Unfortunately Murray discovered that a Heatley deal wasn’t going to be all that easy because few teams had the cap space and everyone was worried about revenues and the possibility of a falling cap. The only team interested was the Edmonton Oilers, a team that was not on Heatley’s list. Does Murray put the Oilers on hold to discuss it with Heatley? No he doesn’t. He makes the deal with Edmonton and then leaks that, hoping to pressure Heatley into accepting it and saving the Sens $4 MM in a bonus. Heatley is now hurt and really, really mad.
“Screw you,” said Dany Heatley. “You can make me look like an asshole, but you can’t make me play in Edmonton. Either you deal me to a suitable team or I’m your problem next season.”
And that’s where we sit. All Dany Heatley did was ask for a trade, something that surely happens more frequently than fans realize. From there Bryan Murray messed this bed and now he gets to sleep in it. Heatley can’t win – his star is probably forever dimmed – but the real losers are in Ottawa. Murray can pretend to be the victim but that doesn’t change the fact that the team and the team’s fans are paying the price.
Now what, Bryan?