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Initially charged this summer with the Sisyphean task of depositing the disgruntled Dany Heatley with some unfortunate buyer, Senators GM Bryan Murray may now have to consider what life (and the cap) could be like if No. 15 stays in the fold.

Owner Eugene Melnyk has already coughed up the required $4-million bonus, and the attempted swap involving the Edmonton Oilers turned into a fiasco that led absolutely nowhere.

So, what exactly, would Dany Heatley have to fear by staying in Ottawa?

Here's your answer: Absolutely nothing.

Oh sure, we've all heard about the "wrath" of the media. But keep in mind that Ottawa is unlike any other Canadian hockey market. To outside observers, it offers the cachet of a north-of-the-border team, however, players don't face the same sort of feet-to-the-flames treatment as in other cities. The capital's traditional media remains largely sheathed in situations such as these. True, they have a voice, but it's rarely one that the intelligent sports fan can take seriously. Any attempts at emotionally-based vitriol come off as juvenile, and any diplomatic observations tend to ring hollow. Naturally, there are exceptions, of course. (Aside: I'll leave you to obsess over who they might be. For me, the Citizen's James Gordon comes to mind. What say you?)

If the media won't make Heatley's life a living hell should he return, what about the fans? Keep in mind, this is the same group that could barely remember to boo Alexei Yashin five visits into his stint with the Islanders, and are content to allow Leafs, Habs and even Penguins fans to overrun their building. Sens fans aren't the type to put "For Sale" signs on players' lawns, or burn their likeness in effigy. They're passive, and if Heatley returns and goes on a blazing streak, they'll also become incredibly forgetful for the time being.

That just leaves the head coach, Cory Clouston -- the alleged impetus in this entire drama. Here's the thing about the Senators' coaching situation as of late: It's become like the weather -- wait a while, and it will likely change. Clouston was given a great deal of credit for getting the Sens back-on-track towards the end of last season (and was rewarded for it by having the "interim" tag removed from his title). But barely righting a team on the brink of disaster when all post-season hope was lost can only be taken with a grain of salt. Essentially, Clouston gave a successful refresher course on the basics -- and Ottawa did show some signs of cohesion under his tutelage. This is the young coach's first NHL gig -- does he have any legitimate tricks up his sleeve to truly get this franchise on the right track, or will he just be another in line to cast aside? Based on recent history, Dany Heatley, should he stay, likely wouldn't have to wait long to find out.

In short, the road would be rocky in the beginning if Heatley were to remain an Ottawa Senator for whatever reason. However, it's important to remember that this city, and all its facets, remains a very soft touch within the National Hockey League. Whatever Dany Heatley potentially faces if he does leave the team, will be far worse than anything he could possibly experience if he stays.

1 response to "Does Dany Heatley have anything to fear?"

  1. I think you are dead on regarding both the media and the fans. I get the sense that there are two tiers of Canadian NHL cities. Montreal, Toronto, and, to an extent, Vancouver, are tough places to play in terms of media scrutiny and fan demands. (There's a reason why Brian Burke called Vancouver a "goalie graveyard".) Edmonton, Calgary, and Ottawa, OTOH, seem a lot less demanding of players, seemingly just happy to have an NHL franchise in town.

    I think Heatley's excuse regarding Clouston is bullfeathers, and was largely a ruse. Dany was bored of being in Ottawa, didn't like going through a losing season, and wanted a change of scenery, simple as that. I don't get the sense Dany is a really deep thinker, so it's probably a mistake to read too much into this.

    His problem is that he and his agents completely fumbled the escape, and in so doing he has made himself almost impossible to trade. Only LA and Edmonton had both cap space and interesting prospects - any other team is going to have to send a stinky contract or two back this way for Heatley, and there's no way Melnyk and Murray will accept that. (Great - now I have Alec Baldwin's speech in Glengarry Glen Ross stuck in my head.)

    Closer to camp, Melnyk should invite Heatley to the compound in Barbados. They have a chat over lunch, allowing Heatley to save face by saying the owner addressed a lot of his concerns and now he just wants to help the Senators win. Problem solved. (So long as Jason Smith either retires, or accepts being a player/coach in Bingo. Speaking of bad contracts...)

    Dennis Prouse