Fucking Dany. What else can you say? Despite an unsuccessful campaign last season, there was reason for optimism when the Senators season came to an end. Under Cory Clouston, the team had some mildly successful record and he represented the first coach since Bryan Murray who the players had responded to. It appeared that the coaching carousel might have finally come to an end. Similarly, an influx of new player personnel had fostered some warm and fuzzy feelings. Pascal Leclaire, despite having some injury concerns, represents the first non-fruitcake #1 starter that the team has had and there are rumblings that the Greatest Senator To Come, Erik Karlsson, might crack the team's d-core.
It's easy to understand why a lot of this optimism can wane when one of the most productive goal scorers of the past three seasons decides he wants out. Especially after he was set to enter into the second year of his long-term contract extension. Fans can tolerate many things -- ex-cons, drug abuse, PEDs, and even former Leafs -- but there's no bigger insult than when a player exhibits disloyalty.
And that's what hurt the most from Heatley's stance, no one saw it coming. To put this in perspective, I would have assumed there was a greater likelihood to witness Bill Muckalt's first goal in a Senators uniform than this. Ironically, many fans were too busy worrying about whether or not Jason Spezza should be moved prior to his NTC kicking in on July 1st. Instead, we were blindsided. We had no reason to assume that there was ever trouble. The team had performed better in the second half and everyone was looking forward to next year.
But Heatley's request felt like a dagger in the back. So when his agents confirmed publicly that one of the preeminent reasons for Heatley wanting out was that he felt slighted in being relegated to the second power play unit, it was like pouring sulfuric acid in the wound.
I can understand the fact that Heatley was insulted that as a star player who's in his prime, he wants to play the most meaningful minutes possible. However, from the moment Heatley made his demand public, fans and media alike have micro-analyzed this situation. Despite not playing on the first power play unit, Heatley's point production increased under Clouston. Even though his goal production dropped, the team was playing better hockey and he was getting more points. That's why fans were left asking themselves why Heatley would discredit Clouston and fuel the perception of him in the hockey world as a selfish player who's focused solely on his personal statistics.
Could you blame fans for wondering whether there was something more to this situation?
It's been six weeks since it became public that Heatley wanted out of Ottawa and he still hasn't addressed the media as to his reason(s) for wanting out. So when Heatley was conspicuously absent from Spezza's wedding, it was only a matter of time before people speculated as to why he wasn't there. If he was a good friend, why wouldn't he have made an effort to release a public statement prior to and attend the wedding and help avoid a media circus? Maybe Spezza couldn't lure him with a video on the perks of attending a wedding at the Notre Dame Basilica?
As I attended an engagement party this weekend, I couldn't help but overhear a conversation between some of the guys there. Naturally, as sports fans, their discussion shifted towards Heatley's situation and one of them raised the infamous rumour for the idiots that has been making the rounds on message boards -- that Heatley had shacked up with Spezza's fiance. (And completely ignoring the fact that Heatley attended Spezza's Vegas bachelor party.)
This rumour isn't anything new, but it's the kind of garbage that escalates because fans crave a gossip or for that matter, any reason to understand this predicament. It's gotten to the point that it's not even about hockey anymore: It's the drugs. He wants to get away from the drugs. It's his girlfriend's wish that he play closer to home. And so on...
It's all 100% unsubstantiated speculation on off-ice issues that people gravitate towards. So it comes as no surprise that we were due for another rumour making the rounds and our good friend Bruce Garrioch is asserting that:
The word in NHL circles is that Heatley fancies himself a leader, who feels he doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s accomplished in Ottawa, but is harshly judged when things aren’t going well for the Senators.
Though his camp denies it, there’s speculation Heatley would like to be a team captain, but knows he has no chance of getting the role with the Senators. ~ courtesy of The Ottawa Sun
Ironically, this isn't the first time I've heard that a Sens player wanted to leave the organization. Some of you might recall that last season, Jason York insinuated on More On Sports that Zdeno Chara left because he wanted to have a higher profile within the dressing room and with guys like Alfie, Phillips and Redden in tow, he wouldn't have the opportunity to be the man. I can envision the mainstream media running with this take: Why was Alfie absent from Spezza's wedding? Why isn't Dany returning his calls? Do the players in the room resent his corporate spiel?
It's been six long weeks that frankly, I wish I could get all of them back. They would have been better spent playing online bingo. We've been held hostage as fans. For an offseason in which fans have been forced to endure -- a discredited Head Coach; numerous bogus message board and rumour site posts; a vetoed Heatley deal with the Oilers; a Bill Watters claim about Peruvian marching powder (which for those who do not grasp South American drug slang it means cocaine not a P.E.D, as some have suggested); the overuse of the word enigma; a story from a Kelowna reporter who tried to make a name for himself; and speculation for whether Heatley would show up at Spezza's wedding -- it's been exhausting and it's gotten to the point where I don't really care how it ends. I just want it to be over with.
Looking back, as unfair as it might seem to Heatley, these events have a causal relationship to his request. Ottawa's become a sideshow and no one's more deserving of the blame. It's also important to remember how we the fans are acting as well. We're at risk of becoming second generation Habs fans with our sensationalist off ice speculating and rumor mongering. Who knows whats going on in Dany's head? Certainly not any of us and until then, it would probably be wise to just wonder silently instead of doing our best Desperate Hockeyfans impression.