Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

The Heatley Soap Opera

16

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?

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Comments

16 Responses to “The Heatley Soap Opera”
  1. skeeter_dan says:

    Bingo. It’s disappointing that the media isn’t looking into this with an unbiased mindset, instead approaching it with the “spoiled athlete” filter over their camera lens…

  2. Visiting Fellow says:

    A very intelligent presentation of what’s up with D. Heatley. I have no reason think the Senators organization is any less venal, greedy or malevolent than is described in the posting.

    I agree that this type of thing should be sorted out better than this. Even if a player gets peevish and stupid, one expects an NHL team to conduct itself in a manner that remains respectful of its fans and players, or at least its own business interests.

    As a hockey fan, I really don’t like it when hockey people band together in common cause, as they are often want to do, to demolish a particular player.

    Really, what’s in it for me when a situation gets ugly, and an entertaining and talented hockey player gets slammed into great diminishment? Other than diminished enjoyment?

    Which makes me ask this:

    Why is it that at least three players who could have been marquee NHL players, or at least good players, for a long time (Daigel, Yashin, and now Heatley) ended up “diminished” as they skulked out of Kanata? Something toxic there in the water, maybe?

    Anyway, your post was a good read. I think I’ll look around…

    - VF

  3. David Staples says:

    Tom.

    The Oilers were apparently on some kind of list. After there was no movement, no rush to trade for Heatley, the list was expanded, with permission from Heatley’s camp. Now, it’s unclear what that expanded list meant or why it was done.

    Murray evidently felt he had the green light to make a trade. But Heatley’s camp insists Murray could negotiate with these teams, but not finalize a deal.

    As a result, I see it as Heatley’s camp using the Oilers to fire up the trade market, to motivate other buyers, though Heatley had zero intention of coming to Edmonton. That, to me, is Heatley’s camp using the Oilers, bargaining in bad faith.

    Now, this is just my suspicion, but it’s certainly left a bad taste in my mouth regarding this player.

    And then there’s the leaking of Cogliano, Smid and Penner’s names. Who did that? The Sens and Oilers insist it wasn’t them. Who does that leave?

  4. Magicpie says:

    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.

    Or maybe they did do one of those two things, and it was only after that that Heatley went public, precisely because he didn’t like their behavior. Or maybe his wife is pressuring him to leave because he had an affair with a local sportscaster. We don’t know.

    I’m not saying your version of events is necessarily wrong, but you’re drawing some strong conclusions on a fact pattern that’s pretty ambiguous.

  5. Tom says:

    Or maybe they did do one of those two things, and it was only after that that Heatley went public, precisely because he didn’t like their behavior.

    Heatley did not go public, though. He didn’t say word one and he was very upset that it leaked. Besides which, what Heatley liked or didn’t like isn’t really relevant. They could say “no” when Heatley asked for a trade. We would be exactly where we are today – Heatley getting ready to report to the Sens camp – without any of us being the wiser.

    I’m not saying your version of events is necessarily wrong, but you’re drawing some strong conclusions on a fact pattern that’s pretty ambiguous.

    Fair enough. Still I think my interpretation is every bit as credible as the only version currently out there. “Dany Heatley is a dork who is screwing the Senators over” is a strong conclusion on a fact pattern that’s pretty ambiguous, too.

  6. Tom says:

    Evidently Murray thought he had the green light. Indeed.

    As a result, I see it as Heatley’s camp using the Oilers to fire up the trade market, to motivate other buyers, though Heatley had zero intention of coming to Edmonton. That, to me, is Heatley’s camp using the Oilers, bargaining in bad faith.

    I can’t see how an Oiler offer fires up the trade market or motivates other buyers. I agree that Heatley never had any intention of going to Edmonton. The smart thing for Heatley to do throughout is nothing. I think that’s exactly what they did.

    Your alternative is that Barry misled Murray into making a deal with Edmonton so that he could leak the names and thereby fire up the trade market. I think that’s a real stretch.

    And then there’s the leaking of Cogliano, Smid and Penner’s names. Who did that? The Sens and Oilers insist it wasn’t them. Who does that leave?

    I don’t care what the Sens insist. I don’t believe them. This was the only trade they had on the table, the only sniff. They were down to hours on the $4 MM bonus. I don’t blame Oiler fans for the bad taste in the mouth, but I think the Oilers were used by Bryan Murray, not by Dany Heatley.

  7. Darrell says:

    Tom, I normally like your POV, but your commentary here is sorely lacking IMHO. While Heatley himself waited until now to speak, his agents didn’t. The rumour of Heatley wanting out first appeared on ESPN.com, and within 24 hours, Heatley’s agents confirmed it on the radio. Who made that initial leak is unknown, but the Heatley camp surely didn’t try to prevent it from getting out (a denial at that point probably quashes it for a while, even if a lie).

    Next, as we move on to Edmonton, it is quite clear that Edmonton was a special case. Heatley’s agents told the Edmonton media that Edmonton was on the list, and Ottawa was told sortof yes (and probably felt that if we made the trade Heatley would say yes).

    Next, if we go back to Dany Heatley, it is widely believed by fans and media of the Atlanta Thrashers that Heatley initially requested that the Thrashers release him from his contract instead of a trade after the Snyder incident. This behaviour is extremely consistent with his current stance of wanting “options”.

    Next, coming back to the request for “options”, I have to ask you if you would ever do so as GM of a team (I know I wouldn’t). Heatley basically wants Ottawa to get him multiple teams that will make a trade, and let him choose, as opposed to the GM choosing the best trade for the Ottawa Senators. I for one am extremely glad that Murray didn’t cave to that request, as it is clearly not in the best interest of the Ottawa Senators.

    Next, we move on to his teammates. Heatley hasn’t communicated anything to any of them, skipped Spezza’s wedding, and now has Spezza basically answering questions for him at the Olympic camp (Spezza btw has been a real trooper through all of this). He may want to spite Ottawa management, but he hasn’t endeared himself to any of his teammates either.

    Finally, you say that Heatley’s best option is to do nothing. If he really doesn’t mind playing in Ottawa, I would agree. Based on the press conference, I don’t think that is the case, but the result of this mess is that Heatley gets to play in Ottawa this year (I think it is extremely unlikely he gets moved now). That is clearly not what he wanted, and not what he wants, so I fail to see how that is his best option.

  8. David Staples says:

    Tom, you say you can’t see how the Oilers entering the picture would fire up other teams to enter into the bidding for Heatley.

    Here’s my thinking . . .

    1. We know that the Oilers weren’t on the original list of preferred trade destinations.

    2. In the early bidding, the Oilers were the only team to make an offer that Murray wanted.

    3. At some point, in late June, JP Barry has said the Oilers were added to the list of teams that Ottawa could deal with.

    Why were the Oilers added? Why did the Heatley camp agree to this, if Heatley had no intention of playing in Edmonton (as is now evident)?

    If you want to motivate a buyer (New York, San Jose) to increase their offer, there’s nothing better than having another eager buyer (Edmonton) come on the scene.

    Ottawa was trying to get Dubinsky out of New York, that’s evident from the facts.

    New York didn’t want to give up Dubinsky.

    So someone — I don’t know who — figured the best way to put pressure on Sather is to have Edmonton come on the scene, make a good bid, get Sather to increase his bid. Now that last sentence wasn’t fact, it was my conjecture, but I think it fits with the fact pattern

  9. rajeev says:

    New York didn’t want to give up Dubinsky.

    No. Murray has come out and said that the Rangers refused to give up anyone who had scored more than 13 goals last season (indicating that the Rangers had offered someone who had scored 13 goals – Dubinsky). Ott most likely wanted Staal and/or Callahan. Staal they weren’t gonna get obviously. I believe Callahan, Del Zotto, and a first probably would have gotten the deal done (which is a much better return than the Edm deal). Once they signed Gaborik, it was all moot.

  10. Darrell says:

    Rajeev, the quote, from an un-named Ottawa source to Pierre Lebrun was “We couldn’t even get a 13-goal scorer in the deal.” This is basically saying we couldn’t get Dubinsky in the deal (as he is the sole 13 goal scorer on the NYR).

  11. rajeev says:

    Hmm, I thought I had read Murray as quoted that he couldn’t get more than a 13-goal scorer, though now looking at the Lebrun article, he has it the way you say. Well, that make much more sense that the Rangers wouldn’t offer Dubinsky when they could get a better contract (Gaborik’s) w/o giving anything up, and that the Senators would have turned down any offer including Dubinsky. Frankly, any of Dubinsky, Callahan, Anisimov, or Grachev straight up should have sealed the deal. Barry said that the Rangers deal was as good as Edmonton’s, though it’s hard to imagine what that could have been if it didn’t include Dubinsky. Some combo of Zherdev, Rozy, and Redden is likely.

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