Saturday, September 12, 2009
Sharks acquire Dany Heatley, say goodbye to Cheechoo & Michalek
Earlier this week, rumors were running rampant all over the web. I must have gotten 5 text messages from various people telling me ESPN reports the Sharks were trading Patrick Marleau. The deal involved the Ottawa, L.A. and the Sharks. It would send estranged Captain, Patty Marleau to the Kings, Frolov and Stoll to the Sens, and the Sharks would end up with disgruntled Senators forward, Dany Heatley. As soon as I heard that Doug Wilson vehemently denied this report, I knew there was some truth to it. But in order for Marleau to be moved, he had to waive his no-trade clause, which Patty claims they never asked him to do. Also, once I heard Doug Wilson deny it, I knew he wouldn't follow through. Mainly because nobody, especially ESPN's John Buccigross, is going to tell Wilson what he is going to do.
With trade rumors popping up everywhere the last few weeks, it was clear the Sharks were pursuing Heatley. The Sharks front office desperately wanted to shake things up. They wanted to bring in an established sniper. Heatley is a 2 time 50 goal scorer and has over a point per game in his career. Heatley fits that bill. He has also been involved in a D.U.I manslaughter in Atlanta that took the life of his teammate and best friend, Dan Snyder. And his most recent blemish was demanding a trade out of Ottawa and being a locker room disruption. "Heater" is a great player, but he is bringing some serious baggage with him to Norm Mineta airport.
The deal ended up being beloved winger, Jonathan Cheechoo and underachieving, Milan Michalek, and a 2nd rd pick for Heatley and a 5th rounder. The last few years have seen some post season failures and Michalek has been very high on the list of the playoff chokers. A change of scenery might do both of these players some good. Cheech will always be remembered for the 56 goal, Rocket Richard Trophy year of 2006. The only thing that Cheechoo lacks is a ton of natural ability. He is all heart, but parts of his game leave alot to be desired. Michalek on the other hand is blessed with ability, but seems to be lacking in the heart department. Personally, this deal makes more sense than Marleau for Heatley since on many levels, they are the same player.
What this means now for the Sharks is a couple things. First, this is the last chance for the Doug Wilson regime here in San Jose. This is a make or break year for Wilson, Head Coach Todd McLellan, Marleau, and Joe Thornton. But this team that had more points in the regular season last year seems to have gotten grittier. Heatley is a sniper and an agitator. He has a knack for scoring timely goals, which the Sharks have lacked when it matters most. Second, Goalie Evegeni Nabokov and the defense need to hold up there end. If they do, this team will be one of the leagues best.
By making this deal, the Sharks arguably have the best top two lines in the NHL. Depending on how McLellan does it, you could have a top line of Heatley, Thornton, and Devin Setoguchi. That leaves Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe for the second group. However they are arranged, this group can score some goals.
Although Wilson may not be done dealing, he has accomplished his goal of changing the look of the team while keeping his most important pieces in place. If Marleau can actually survive being traded before the season starts, I look for him to have a huge year, without the pressure of the Captaincy. Heatley will be exciting and the thought of him and Jumbo and Seto together make me downright giddy. However, the success of this deal will be judged in the post season. The Sharks won't play a meaningful game until Game 1 of the playoffs in April. But for now, Doug Wilson and company have put themselves in a position to be successful for years to come. Bottom line, this is going to be a pivotal year in this franchise's history. Stanley Cup Finals or bust!