Monday, August 24, 2009

If Dany Heatley Makes Your Team Better, You go After Dany Heatley

Here's what's happening at the Fanhouse this evening:
Occasionally, our NHL FanHouse e-mail address ( gets an e-mail that isn't trying to sell us prescription drugs at a discounted price or hook us up with rich young singles. Following Dany Heatley's conference call on Friday, we received the following question from a reader:

After hearing his "press conference" on Friday, I'd be interested in knowing if any of you guys would still take Dany Heatley on your team?

Susan Slusser: If pro sports teams turned away prima donnas and players with issues, there would be a lot less talent in the various leagues. Any team that has the need would jump at Heatley and it looks like a few have tried.

Bruce Ciskie: I'd love to be the tough guy here, but the bottom line is that a team is going to take any opportunity available to them to get better. This includes the Senators. Under no circumstances would any team in their right mind give up major assets for a guy deemed to be a cancer both on the ice and on the salary cap. However, not every team is "in their right mind."

Tom Mantzouranis: The question isn't whether a team would take a Dany Heatley; I think we've all seen that teams in all sports will gamble on talent despite the personality. The question is whether I would take him on my team, and I wouldn't. There have simply been too many models in team sports that prove that character can trump talent in both ways. Character can create a whole greater than the sum of parts, and character (or lack thereof) can also weigh a talented team down. I can see taking an educated risk on a question mark depending on the player and circumstances, but I don't think Heatley is the type of transcendent player who warrants that type of effort and stress. I'd be content letting him be someone else's problem if I'm running a team.

The discussion references this:
Jason Spezza was asked to give the public a peek into the inner psyche of Ottawa Senators teammate Dany Heatley on Monday.

Surely there must be some hidden reason for Heatley's bizarre demand for a trade from the Senators?

"You know him as well as anyone," the reporter began in a media scrum at the Calgary International Airport after players arrived for the Olympic men's hockey orientation camp. "He's been through a trauma in his life that none of us can identify with."

You have to evaluate your system, and if Heatley works, you go get Heatley.

If you have an organization that cannot handle someone with a "character" issue, then you have a weak organization that isn't going to be improved with getting good players.

Character is another vague, loosely defined aspect of a professional athlete that is used when some other failure is not as evident. A hockey player can thrive within the system in which he is used and have nothing but 'character' issues. It's all about matching those systems with players who can excel within them. If someone wants to build a team that can win with Heatley's skills, and if he looks like the missing piece for them, they will be sorely tempted to let him go somewhere else, especially if it looks like a rival is sniffing around to try to pick him up.

If you have a strong coach--say Jacques Lemaire in New Jersey--and if Heatley looks right for what they want to do, then getting him isn't the question--it's what do they give up to get him? Lemaire is one coach who could put Heatley on the right course. New Jersey would be a great fit, provided Lemaire wants to build a team that wants to stretch out and score. Does Heatley work within a neutral zone trap? Does he chafe at being a defensive-oriented player if that's what Lemaire deems necessary?

I suspect that it would come down to character, and Heatley would choose to play for a great coach, especially if he wants to win and have a chance at redeeming himself within hockey right now.

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