From back-to-back 50 goals campaigns to the AHL in eight seasons. Dany Heatley cleared waivers today and has been assigned to the Norfolk Admirals, and it could mean his NHL days are over.
In 2005-06, the top five goal scorers in the NHL were, in order, Jonathan Cheechoo, Jaromir Jagr, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Ovechkin, and Dany Heatley. If you had to pick a player that wouldn’t be able to cut it in the league eight years later, the two easiest answers don’t include a then 25-year-old Heatley.
As of noon Tuesday, however, Heatley’s days in the NHL look like they’re all but through. After a few consecutive seasons of dwindling numbers for far-too-much money, including zero points in six games with the Anaheim Ducks this season on a $1 million deal, Heatley is finds himself demoted for the first time in his career.
In the years following the lockout, there were few players in the league more feared offensively than Heatley. And, really, from 2005-05 up until 2009-10, he was one of the best goal scorers in the league. Sure, he was aging, but over that period he scored no fewer than 39 goals, scored 50 in both 2005-06 and 2006-07, and his lowest point total over the five seasons that followed the 2004-05 work stoppage was 72.
Speed was never exactly Heatley’s game, and the groin injuries in the past few years have hurt him. He was never the strongest skater, but he had a knack for finding the right areas and his shot was the driving force behind his gaudy goal totals. But, so it seems, having left the side of skillful puck distributors and playmakers that made Heatley able to sit in those soft areas and score has been what’s taken his scoring ability away from him.
Over the last seven seasons, most of Heatley’s ice time has come along side the following centers: Jason Spezza (1,888 minutes), Joe Thornton (1,460), Patrick Marleau (1,114), and Mikko Koivu (1,029). It’s no coincidence, either, that alongside each of these players, his scoring totals were down significantly when playing alongside Koivu. For all his tremendous attributes, no one will mistake Koivu for Thornton or Spezza, two premier playmakers.
That said, it’s also no coincidence that Heatley’s ability to drive play was more thanks to his linemates than it was to his own ability. He was never leading the charge, but rather the triggerman alongside a cast of players who could set him up to do what he did best.
When he was dealt to the Minnesota Wild from the San Jose Sharks in July 2011, he left the side of Thornton and, in the span of three seasons, went from a 24-goal scorer to scoring a mere 12 in 76 games. His 28 points in 2013-14 was also the lowest point total of his career over the course of a full season.
From his first day, it had been a steady decline in Minnesota, and it was a surprise when Anaheim took a flyer on the veteran winger this summer when he was an unrestricted free agent. But it’s clear that things just aren’t working out any longer for Heatley.
This is all to say that it seems as if, especially with his demotion to the AHL and the subsequent passing over by 29 NHL teams, Heatley’s days are finished in the NHL. As a 33-year-old who, according to CapGeek, has made more than $62 million in his career, it might just be time to call it a day for Heatley, too.