While it is still early, Bryan Murray is my front-runner for executive of the year honors this season. Murray took one very sour lemon and parlayed it into two refreshing glasses of lemonade by moving self-centered Dany Heatley to San Jose for solid NHLers Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek. The trade itself may not go down as one that rocked the sport, but, given the circumstances, Murray clearly pulled a rabbit from his hat and helped his hockey team in the process.
Historically, I have been a Doug Wilson fan. He seemed to understand the importance of chemistry and the need to acquire players who value the crest on the front of their sweater more than the name on the back. Last year’s acquisition of Stanley Cup champion Dan Boyle from the Lightning was such a move. No one is more committed to the “team concept” than Dan. While the Sharks crashed and burned again in the first round last season, I believed they had started to turn a corner.
The acquisition of Heatley makes me rethink the future in San Jose. Wilson looks more like a mad scientist running about the lab tossing chemicals into the beaker with little regard to their compatibility, or combustibility, for that matter. Oh, Doug said the Sharks did their homework - and then some - before acquiring Heatley. Really?
For a group that appears to need more leadership, grit and mental toughness, how is Heatley the answer? After signing a new long-term contract in Ottawa, (five years left, $7.5-million cap hit per season) Heatley decided he wanted out because he was unhappy with his “reduced role” under new head coach Cory Clouston. Imagine, a head coach with the courage of his convictions.
What a shock to find a coach who believes that players, even superstar players who have scored 50 goals twice, must “earn” their ice time! Blasphemy! Second power play unit, reduced ice time, all designed not to keep Dany happy, but to help the team win more hockey games! Shocking!
If Sharks head coach Todd McLellan knows what is good for him he had better name Heatley captain of the team right now. What better way to keep Dany happy and show him he is loved? McLellan has already indicated he thinks he will place Heatley with ‘Jumbo’ Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi on the top line. Stop the presses! Did he have a choice?
What if he put Heatley with lesser lights such as Patrick Marleau and Ryan Clowe? Would the snub be enough for Dany to want out? Think Heatley will be on McLellan’s No. 1 power play unit? Is there any other option? (Because Heatley’s no-movement clause remains in full force in San Jose, he remains in control.)
McLellan’s job is no longer worrying about the group of players known as the Sharks. It is about the care and feeding of me-first Dany Heatley. Good luck, Todd. When the inmates run the asylum it’s usually the head coach who pays the price.
Jay Feaster is a former GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he took over in 2002 and helped build the team into a Stanley Cup champion in 2004. As he did last season, he will blog on THN.com throughout the 2009-10 campaign. Read his other entries HERE.