When you think Fourth of July, you think of two things. One, relaxing, drinking some beer and spending time with friends and family, celebrating the freedoms this country provides. Two, fireworks. Big, booming fireworks that rattle your being and make you sit up and pay attention.
Chuck Fletcher, who is a native of Canada (not that there's anything wrong with that), went for the later.
In a deadline killing blockbuster, Fletcher sent Martin Havlat to the San Jose Sharks for Dany Heatley. Wild fans and Sharks sat, mouths agape, trying to process the trade and figure out what it all means. Does this make the Wild a playoff team? What happened to the youth movement? Can the Wild win now and build from within?
So many questions, so little time. So much relaxing to do and beer to drink.
Make the jump and let's take a look at this. Also, make sure to visit Fear the Fin for San Jose perspective.
Press Conference Audio
Who is Dany Heatley?
Heatley comes with baggage, let's not fool ourselves. He has demanded trades out of two cities and killed a trade to a third with his no-trade clause. He is an all-star level talent, with a public image of an all-star level ego. His past is not pleasant, having the death of a teammate on his conscious, and never being able to live that down. It is not something I would want on my mind, and I am thankful it isn't. He has come to terms with it, the family of Dan Snyder has come to terms with it (and forgiven Heatley).
The on ice Dany Heatley is a potentially magnificent addition to the Wild's lineup and someone who makes Mikko Koivu instantly better should there be chemistry there. He is a former 100+ point scorer, and if that Dany Heatley shows up, the Minnesota Wild are a vastly improved hockey team.
Where does Heatley fit?
Top line with Mikko Koivu or bust. Martin Havlat was clearly a bust for just that reason. There was no chemistry there, and after reading reports out of practice last season, Koivu and Havlat didn't seem to get along at all. Just as Columbus is always searching for a center for Rick Nash, the Wild have always searched for a wing for Koivu. Is this the guy? We'll see in camp and throughout the year, but it was clear Havlat wasn't.
Does this make the Wild a playoff team?
Wild fans enjoy the word "if" about as much as the words "explosive diarrhea." However, there are still an awful lot of "ifs" involved here. IF Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley have some chemistry, the Wild will be dangerous. IF Niklas Backstrom gets solid defense from what looks to be a very young defensive corps. IF Guillaume Latendresse shows up in shape and ready to build on his promise. IF Pierre-Marc Bouchard can build on his return.
IF the stars align for the Wild for once, instead of the hockey gods being angry with them for some yet undiscovered slight... then yes, this is a playoff team. Mike Yeo wanted players who are difficult to play against. A guy who can out up 100 points is difficult to play against.
IF everything lines up, and the hockey gods smile on health, this is easily a playoff team.
Does this make the Wild contenders?
Not sure I am willing to go that far, no. I am not ruling it out (which for Wild fans should say something), but there are some very good hockey teams out there, including one in the Wild's own division. Ask yourself this... does this make the Wild as good as the Penguins? As the Red Wings? As the Canucks?
Maybe. Seems like a bit of a stretch, but it is much less of a stretch than it was yesterday.
Can the Wild win now and build from within?
It certainly looks like it. While their defense is a question mark, the offensive side of the puck is ridiculous right now. The pieces of a long term contender are coming through the system and Fletcher continues to add them. This is a very good hockey team all of a sudden, and will be an even better team as the Wild develop the players in the system.
Nothing about this trade hurts any of the kids coming up. They weren;t about to take Martin Havlat's place on the roster, and they aren't about to take Heatley's.
My take on the trade
The short answer? I like it.
The long answer? I like a lot.
The Minnesota Wild traded a player who played well for them, but did not fill the role they needed to fill for a player who potentially could fill that role. They landed themselves the replacement for Marian Gaborik that the fans have wanted so long for. Remember, Heatley has scored 50 goals in a season twice, 41 twice, and 39 twice. No one from the Wild has been able to boast that except Gaborik.
Heatley will get fans out of their seats. He has speed (maybe not blazing speed, but he is still fast), he has skill, and he can shoot the puck like few others. I can't think of anything that the fans shouldn't like about this, other than to temper it by saying to be wary of Heatley's attitude. It has reared its ugly head in the past, and could very well again. Minnesota sports fans don't deal well with prima donnas, even when they score 40 goals.
This is a good trade, for both sides. Havlat wasn't working here, Heatley struggled a bit in San Jose with their being so many options there. In Saint Paul he becomes the option. He will be the focus of the offense and the focus on the power play. He will get top minutes with top talent feeding him the puck.
We've made our share of Heatley jokes in the past, and we aren't about to hide from it. It is a checkered past, and one we move forward from. Will jokes be made? Most likely. Will people be offended by the writers here at Hockey Wilderness? Count on it. It is the nature of the beast, and we will strive to do the right thing whenever possible.
I'm not certain the past won't come back to haunt us, but today? Today looks good. Today looks better than it has in far too long. Happy Fourth of July, Wilderness. Enjoy the fireworks.