Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Was He Provoked?

Dany Heatley, I gather, is a pretty popular topic.

As much as I enjoy reading the beat-Heatley-with-a-bag-of-hammers brigade--which now covers a majority of the Canadian press, a press corps who have only recently awoken to things about Heatley's character that Atlanta fans have known for years--I'm always grateful to read a new perspective. This article in the Ottawa Citizen argues that Heatley's petulant behavior (which the article makes no attempt to justify) was deliberately provoked by the Senators organization.

Last season the organization seemed oddly determined to send Heatley a message: to make him adapt to new coach Cory Clouston's style of play, or make him want to simply leave altogether. He was even "demoted" to the second power play unit, which is a bit weird given the fact he was the team's leading scorer. Whether or not playing on the second PP unit is true demotion (many argue the coach was simply trying to spread out the scoring), the Senators organization must have known that it would piss Heatley off.

Why was Heatley the only high-profile player to be centred out as lagging behind the rest when it came to adjusting to a new style of play?

Heatley was the one demoted to the second-unit power play. Ask yourself: How often does that happen, the top goal scorer chosen as the first "example" by the new coach, a newbie at that.

As an organization, the Senators were clearly sending a message to Heatley, whether just to tick him off, make him improve or make him want out. They seemed genuinely shocked that it came to Heatley wanting to be moved, but then teams always win the PR battles against star players.

They are equipped for this type of warfare (think back to Rod Bryden versus Alexei Yashin). Professional organizations such as the Senators have years of experience from which to draw, and well educated ranks in these matters from the owner through to the top hockey people and media relations staff, a pretty stacked deck for an individual player to confront, especially a player as reluctant to express himself publicly as Heatley.

My guess? It's all about the salary cap.

Which brings us to this:

There may only be days to spare, but it remains to be seen whether the reluctant Senator will actually have to show his face in Ottawa. It would certainly appear that no trade is imminent, but the rumours continue to come at us from all angles.

One that made a lot of sense, and still does, involved the New York Rangers and two of their good, young players, defenceman Marc Staal and forward Brandon Dubinsky.

A Rangers top line of Heatley-Drury-Gaborik could be very unpleasant, couldn't it? As could a Senators defense as young and promising as Erik Karlsson, Marc Staal, and Jared Cowen.

I can't get behind that.

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