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Dany Heatley: History Repeating Itself?

Those of you who follow the NHL at large (more than just the Sharks) no doubt remember the falling out between Dany Heatley and the Ottawa Senators.  Heatley claimed that the Senators were no longer using him as much or as properly as they should have been and wished to be moved.  His numbers dropped from 105 points in 2006-2007, to 82 points in 2007-2008, and eventually to 72 points in 2008-2009.  This drop in stats implied that:

a) His whole team was worse which made it more difficult for him to perform

b) He was correct in that his team was not using him correctly

or c) He was no longer trying as hard

Throughout the offseason between his last season in Ottawa and first season in San Jose he had developed a reputation as a prima dona who needed to be given his way or he would simply stop playing.  Doug Wilson took the risk by shipping over-the-hill Jonathan Cheechoo and the speedy Milan Michalek to the Senators.  

This ended up being a brilliant move in the first year of the Dany Heatley experiment.  Cheechoo was a disaster in Ottawa and Michalek proved to be rather injury prone, never able to contribute much.  Heatley scored 82 points in his first year with the Sharks and looked like he could easily reach 100 points again playing next to Thornton with a year already under his belt.  And then this year happened. 

Heatley dropped down to a lowly 64 points.  Far too few for a $7 million sniper.  He also only had 26 goals, tied with his rookie season for his fewest goals in a full season.  He has been the target of criticism this season and this post-season.  It did not take him long to be demoted to a second/third line role this year, where he has remained since.  This season has me concerned that history could repeat itself in our Dany Heatley saga, although Heatley has remained quiet thus far.  Let's compare this year to his last year in Ottawa by the three points I mentioned earlier:

a) His whole team was worse which made it more difficult for him to perform

2008-2009 Senators: True. They went from playoff contenders to the bottom of the barrel while he was there.  

2010-2011 Sharks: Definitely NOT true.  This time around, this is not an excuse for his drop in numbers.  Our offense is as deep as it's ever been and our goaltending found stability.

b) He was correct in that his team was not using him correctly

2008-2009 Senators: Probably.  Heatley saw less Power Play time in his final year which is where he is so deadly with his shot.  I didn't watch them enough to know how their even strength lines changed but I know that the Heatley/Spezza/Alfredsson line was the deadliest in the NHL

2010-2011 Sharks: Possibly.  Much like his time with the Senators, Heatley spent time on one of the deadliest lines in the NHL.  The Heatley/Thornton/Marleau line was almost on par with the Heatley/Spezza/Alfredsson line at it's peak.  Heatley spent most of his time away from the HTML line and has clearly missed playing alongside Thornton.  his PP time has also been slashed considering that he has spent a majority of the year on the second PP line.

c) He was no longer trying as hard

2008-2009 Senators: Yes.  It was no secret that Heatley stopped being satisfied with his diminished role on the Senators.  By the end of the season, they couldn't wait to get rid of him.

2010-2011 Sharks: Sadly, it sure looks like it.  Heatley has a history of not performing well when he isn't put in the situation he wants.  He isn't someone who can be motivated by being demoted.  McLellan will probably only reward Heatley when he produces, but Heatley will probably only produce when he is rewarded.  Hence the awkward Catch 22 of Dany Heatley we are now stuck in.

Diagnosis:

Heatley is a player that flourishes when surrounded by talent and given opportunity to produce.  He was on the best line in the NHL last year, and the best line for a few years in Ottawa as well.  I do not think that reuniting the Heatley/Thornton/Marleau line at this time is a wise move, but, I do think it might be worthwhile to give Heatley more powerplay time.  The powerplay is where Heatley is the most dangerous.  Today Heatley was demoted to the third line; IMO, that is not how you are going to motivate him.  It might be worthwhile to sort of let the baby have his bottle.  If we continue to demote him and not give him opportunities to play alongside our elite, I have no doubts that we could have a similar falling out as the Senators did with him two years ago.  Currently, Heatley is not being motivated in the right way, and his play is suffering.  I'm not saying that we need to give him whatever he wants, but maybe if we give him a taste, he will wake up.  Heatley is a player that is WORTH motivating.  Don't forget that he is a two time 50 goal scorer.  If we cannot motivate him eventually, he will no longer have a place on this team.

 

Go Sharks

This item was created by a member of this blog's community and is not necessarily endorsed by Fear The Fin.

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