Ratto: Dany Heatley -- Ottawa's Lebron James

December 2, 2010, 6:29 pm
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OTTAWA -- Dany Heatley made the cover of both Ottawa papers today, in much the same way that LeBron James was probably on the cover of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

In the staid Citizen, he was the subject of a fairly thorough but largely even-handed column from Wayne Scanlan. In the Sun, he had a pacifier stuck in his mouth and instructions on a DIY mask for fans to wear at tonight's Sharks-Senators game. The theme for the evening, as graphically portrayed:

Tonight's The Night.

PREVIEW: Sharks (11-8-4) vs. Ottawa (11-13-1)

Dichotomy, thy name is Canada.

Heatley left Ottawa more than a year ago, no longer BFF's with coach Cory Clouston or upper management, and declining a trade to Edmonton that would have enriched the Senators to the tune of Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano and Ladislav Smid.

In short, he's not well liked in many of these parts, unless we misunderstood Sun columnist Don Brennan's tag line this morning:

"Give it to the selfish suckhole, people. Give it to him good."
SOUND OFF: "selfish suckhole"? That guy is a journalist?" -- auvaa
Without knowing what if any history the two men have, we can only assume that "suckhole" falls short of being a term of endearment. But Brennan did offer that he still won't be the most hated man in Ottawa's long and proud 20-year history (still Alexei Yashin), and he bemoaned the likelihood that Heatley would score at least one goal and that no Senator save maybe veteran enforcer Chris Neil would even hit him with a hard check "because the Senators don't hit anyone any more."

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Well, that kind of sucks the fun out of the moral lesson.

Now we're not here to say anyone's right or wrong. Different horses for different courses and all that. Heatley has been a fine enough fellow in San Jose, playing hurt through much of the playoffs in April and May while delivering a worthy target for Joe Thornton.

And it may very well be that Clouston was under orders to show a firmer hand than Heatley liked, and Heatley chafed to the point of forcing his way out of town. Two things can be equally true.

RELATED: NHL scoreboard

Point is, Heatley didn't net the Senators the treasure trove of Oilers, but a second-line deal with San Jose that brought Jonathan Cheechoo (back in San Jose's control at Worcester) and Milan Michalek (grinding through games with a balky knee) and a second-round draft pick. Not a lot of return, that.

Plus, owner Eugene Melnyk is still trying to get the 4 million signing bonus Heatley collected after refusing the Oiler trade, so there won't be hugs and smoochies there, either.

But unless the crowd basically storms the ice, the best Heatley will face is a lot of masks of his pacifier-ed likeness, some very pointed (and probably funny if you're not Heatley) signs, and lots of booing. He's had that before.

But it might not have been a bad idea to send LeBron here and Heatley to Cleveland for one night, just to keep the peace. Two games would have been ruined, sure, but we wouldn't have had to read the word "suckhole" over our morning coffee.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.