Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter
If you are an NHL fan and have a pulse, by now you have caught wind that Dany Heatley was sent to the San Jose Sharks for Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek.
Lost in all the hoopla was the impact the trade will have on Healey’s former line mate and friend, Jason Spezza.
For the most part, the hockey community feels that, under the circumstances Ottawa general manger Bryan Murray was under, the Heatley trade, while not spectacular, brought back a decent return.
Heatley had become a huge distraction to the other players, the fans and the Senators organization on the whole. There was no way on God’s green earth that Heatley would have been able to attend training camp with the rumors swirling around.
Simply put, Heatley had outlived his welcome in Ottawa and, due to his trade demands, Heatley had turned his back on his teammates, the City of Ottawa and his good friend, Jason Spezza.
Spezza and Heatley made up one of the NHL’s most potent one-two punches. During their four seasons together in Ottawa, Spezza and Heatley combined for an impressive 299 goals and 405 assists, good enough for 704 points. That’s money, folks!
In many ways, the departure of Heatley will be a blow to Spezza, it’s not very often that two players have the kind of chemistry on the ice that Heatley and Spezza had.
Further, Heatley and Spezza were extremely close off the ice, so one would have to think that the loss of Heatley off the ice will sting as well.
Fear not Spezza fans, all is not lost, in fact, the future looks bright for the 26 year old Mississauga native, it says here, Spezza may be in line for his best season ever.
Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek will be given every opportunity to play alongside Spezza.
That said, if neither one of those players is able to find the right chemistry with Spezza the alternative, more likely scenario, would be to have free agent acquisition Alex Kovalev flanking Spezza’s Left Side, not exactly a bad thing.
The top two lines for Ottawa could go a bunch of ways, my intuition tells me Senators head Coach Cory Clouston will likely have a top line of Alex Kovalev (LW), Jason Spezza (C) and Daniel Alfredsson (RW).
That leaves the Sens with a second line of Milan Michalek (LW), Mike Fisher (C) and Jonathan Cheechoo (RW). What it all amounts to is a very impressive top six, certainly one that has the depth that Coach Clouston so desires.
A Jason Spezza-Alex Kovalev combo might be just what the doctor ordered. Both of these players had tough seasons in 2008-09.
As a member of the Montreal Canadiens, Kovalev scored just 26 goals last season, a significant drop from the 35 goals he scored in 2007-08.
Comparatively, Spezza had 73 points in 2008-09, a drop of 19 points from his 92-point effort in 2007-08. A change in scenery, a positive attitude and a fresh start should work well for both players.
Spezza lost a great teammate and a good friend over the weekend. But Heatley never was a good “team guy”. Sure, he may have been a good “teammate:” head out for drinks after games, play cards on the plane, lend you $20 when you forgot your wallet, that kinda stuff...but Heatley failed to help Spezza and the Senators when they needed him most.
The fact is, Heatley bailed, turned his back, and feels zero guilt about it. Some friend that is!
Sometimes you have to put your personal agenda behind you and do what is right for the team.
Heatley always does what is right for Heatley and for that reason, Jason Spezza is better off playing with Kovalev and/or Cheechoo and Michalek, and so are the Senators.
Spezza being a great set-up man and Heatley being one of the NHL’s best finishers was a match made in hockey heaven, but you cannot have bad apples in the dressing room, and that is exactly what Heatley had become in Ottawa: a bad apple.
Let’s face it, with Joe Thornton passing the puck to him in San Jose, Heatley is going score 50 goals this season. But he would not have done that in Ottawa, and he would have been more trouble than he is worth, 50 goals or no 50 goals.
Keep your chin up, Mr. Spezza, even though you lost a good friend and a good teammate, you gained two pretty decent players on your team and, unlike Heatley, you still have the respect of your teammates and NHL players from coast to coast.
You are going to have a great year, and so are the Sens.