Can Ottawa Senators Fans Forgive Dany Heatley?

By Alexander Monaghan

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Roughly three offseasons ago, Ottawa Senators winger Dany Heatley demanded a trade from Canada’s capitol and eventually booked a one-way ticket to the sunny California, where he would seemingly bask in the spotlight away from any public ire and win numerous championships.

Playing in a hockey city like Ottawa can be taxing on a player — they are recognized everywhere they go, praised when they do well and berated when they don’t. Couple that with his deteriorating relationship with then head coach Cory Clouston and the two sides simply agreed to disagree.

GM Bryan Murray admitted at the time that replacing a player the calibre of Heater would be much easier said than done. From news services:

“It’s hard to give up 50 goals,” Murray told reporters. “He didn’t get it last year — a lot of people underachieved — but Dany Heatley is that caliber of goal scorer. To be better than that is going to be difficult, there’s no question.”

While his goals decreased from back-t0-back 50 goals seasons into seasons of 41 and 39 goals, he still led the team in goal scoring in both seasons while his other counterparts in the C.A.S.H. line saw their numbers sputter. The team went from a dominant first line with a excellent supporting cast, into a one-trick pony in need of shaking some things up.

Even with Heatley, the team fell out of contention, finishing the year 11th in the Eastern Conference with 83 points. They weren’t close, and while his demands came at the wrong time, the feeling was probably more mutual than Clouston, Murray and the team’s brass ever let on.

They painted Heatley as a villian. A selfish player who could not sacrifice himself for the good of the organization. When they made awful personnel moves like trading speedy forward Antoine Vermette for the injury prone Pascal Leclaire or letting Zdeno Chara go in favor of Wade Redden, they could now blame Heatley.

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Since his departure, he spent two seasons in San Jose before falling out of favor with them as well. His 39 goals — which drew intense criticism in Ottawa — was matched in his first season out West despite playing with arguably better players. Last season, for whatever reason, he regressed to 26 goals, which matched the second-lowest totals of his entire career (Heater scored 26 goals as a rookie with the Atlanta Thrashers).

His regression came full circle. Coming from a team like San Jose that was previously filled with “playoff chokers”, he was singled out and traded for an question mark and former-Senator Martin Havlat. To put this trade into perspective, Havlat already went under the knife with offseason shoulder surgery and produced less than Heatley last season. He, along with Devin Setoguchi, were deemed expendable as the Sharks continue their quest for their first Stanley Cup.

To reiterate: the Senators felt spurned, cheated, hurt, etc by Heatley’s trade demands. He likely felt the same way with San Jose, when he was shipped out of town due to his postseason disappearing act — three goals and nine points through 18 games.

When Heatley and his now-fourth organization the Minnesota Wild come to town tonight, How will the Sens fans react? When questioned by James Gordon of Senators Extra, a resounding 65 percent of voters claimed “he betrayed this team and this city”. Every time he touches the puck in Scotiabank Place, he should expect to hear the boos.

After leaving, the Sens actually managed to make the playoffs in the 2009-2010 campaign, falling six points shy of the Northeast Division lead. While the team lost 17 goals by essentially swapping Milan Michalek with Heatley, the short-term damage was minimal. Last season, the difference was only eight tallies, which probably would not have been the difference maker in a season where they finished 29th in goals scored. If healthy this season, Michalek could score in excess of 25 goals, which should make Sens fans feel slightly better about the ‘lopsided’ trade.

Yet, they still feel spurned. A good Canadian boy who should have led them to a championship felt the need to leave for greener pastures and deny this franchise a legitimate chance at the Cup. The city of Ottawa seems poised to never forget this tragedy, and probably won’t forgive even after he retires.

The moral of this story: Don’t F*ck with Ottawa.