Editor's Note: We decided to promote this Fan Post to highlight some of the thoughts from the fans with Dany Heatley coming to Minnesota. It sounds like Heatley will play on the right side with Koivu, so long as there is chemistry. Maybe that makes all of this go away, but the following post details where Heatley seems to play better in different situations. Please enjoy.
I found this comment by someone on the Sharks beat writer's blog about the Heatley Havlat trade. I think it's very interesting and explains why Dany Heatley's production declined since going to San Jose. This doesn't mean Heatley has not also slowed down a little bit, or that injuries weren't also a factor, but this should at least alleviate the worst of the "Heatley's passed his prime" worries.
Here is the post:
"I am sick of Doug Wilson, so I did not want to get this information out there while Heatley was here, because I knew it would just help the team if they found out, and I want Doug Wilson gone. And that information is, I know why Heatley didn’t do as well as he did in Ottawa, and it has nothing to do the injuries or anything else. In fact, I knew after about five games. I was so excited about the Heatley acquisition when it happened – to me, watching him reach his stick all the way up in the air for a one-timer, like he did all the time in Ottawa, and then absolutely nail it, was one of the most beautiful sights in hockey.
And that is precisely why my excitement turned to utter frustration about five games into the Heatley tenure. You see, in two seasons of Dany Heatley, I’m not sure we got to see that, once. They took the best one-timer in the league at the time, and instead of putting him on his off wing (read: his one-timer side), and letting him tee off passes from Joe Thornton like I had envisioned, they put him on the left wing 5 on 5, and in front of the net on the powerplay. They played him as if he was Ryan Smyth, or Holmstrom. It actually got so bad, that I remember either Doug Wilson or Mclellan saying (or maybe it was Remenda), maybe a season and a half after we got him, that, "The perception about Heatley when he came from Ottawa was that he scored most of his goals on slapshots and one-timers, but that’s actually not true. Heatley needs to get to the front of the net and score the dirty goals."
If it’s not true, why was that the perception? Because, obviously, it was true. I guess it’s a hard concept for [Sharks Assistant Coach] Drew Remenda or whoever to grasp, but something can be true while he was in Ottawa, and then be different on a different team.
Anyway, the bottom line is, from the moment Heatley got to San Jose, Mclellan used him wrong. I used to not be a fan of Mclellan, for this reason, and a few other things, but the last season and a half, I’ve really liked what he’s done, overall. I like the system, I feel the Sharks play such an organized game now, because of him. But even when I became a convert about liking Mclellan, I would always say to my friends, I like Mclellan, minus the Heatley thing. That was the one blatant thing. They used him 100% wrong. That’s why he struggled.
In fact, I’ll say this. I didn’t need any other proof than comparing Heatley in Ottawa to Heatley in San Jose to know I was right, but I got it. Every once in awhile, Heatley would end up on the right wing by accident, or just because the way the puck was going, he and the right winger had to rotate, and when he did end up there, it was a 180% change. He could rush the puck, defenders had to respect that the puck was always in a shooting position, so he could do so much more. He could deke them. Check this out, I actually remember a specific play against Ottawa.
Watch at the 1:20 mark or so, and you can clearly see what I’m talking about on the powerplay. Heatley is standing in front of the net ala Holmstrom, instead of either playing the right half boards, or where I, personally, would have put him. Put him at the right point the Sharks had no hard-shooting defenseman after Blake and Ehrhoff left, and Heatley shoots it about twice as well as those guys when you factor in the speed and accuracy combined, so that’s where I would have put him, and he probably would have been awesome there.
As for his effectiveness on the right wing compared to the left, it’s not in the video, but it was a play where he got it towards the right wing, sort of middle of the ice but on the right wing, where he attack with the puck on his stick facing the middle of the ice, and he deked past his defender, got in on the goalie, almost scored but drew a penalty.
It was a great play, no groin issue or anything there, he’s actually faster than people realize, and he beat his defender because he was on the right wing. It’s much harder to stickhandle from the left wing. You’ll notice almost all of Ovechkin’s highlight reel goals start with him on his-off wing, because that’s the best to attack from. The puck is always in a shooting position, and you can either shoot it or stickhandle from there much more easily.
This is the same for Heatley, except there’s also the added bonus of Heatley’s one-timer. You can’t one-time pucks from the left wing if you’re left handed. This is why you often see defenseman switch sides during the middle of the powerplay to "set up the one-timer." In Ottawa, they put Heatley in positions where he could utilize his one-timer. In San Jose, he probably didn’t score 3 goals with his patented one-timer in his entire two-year stay with the Sharks.
So that’s why Heatley didn’t work out in San Jose, if you want to know the truth. I may not know much, but I know this, and saw it immediately upon his arriving in San Jose. I went to a preseason game, noticed that he didn’t get any one-timers (that was the reason I went, actually, I was dying to see Heatley in a Sharks jersey, smashing one-timers, I drove 3 hours…).
Then the regular season started, no one-timers in the first game. But you can’t draw conclusions that fast. You have to wait, hope it will come, hope that he just didn’t get open those first few games, or whatever. But it never happened, and it wasn’t about getting open, it was about how Mclellan used him. Wrong wing 5 on 5 (Ottawa used him on the left wing sometimes 5 on 5 too, but the difference is they set up their offense so that he could find his way over to the right wing eventually – SJ didn’t do this), and the powerplay is where they really, really misused him.
You have an amazing shot like that, and you’re sticking him in front of the net? Anyone with a big body can screen the goalie and tap home rebounds. You have to utilize your weapons. In fact, that’s what I always used to say to my friends when talking about why I didn’t used to like Mclellan, it was that he "didn’t utilize the weapons at his disposal." You have a shot like that, but you put him in positions where he can’t use it? Really stupid.
But Mclellan wanted to keep his system tight. You’ll notice almost no wingers on San Jose play the off-wing, and on the powerplay, Mclellan prefers to have the two point-men on their strong sides. It’s not as good for one-timers, but it’s much easier to keep a puck in the zone when it’s being cleared along the boards when you’re on your forehand.
Heatley bombed because he was used wrong. I’m sure injuries didn’t help, but he wasn’t always injured. He went stretches of like 20 games with just 1 goal even while healthy, crazy stuff like that, which had never happened in Ottawa, and that’s because they turned him into Holmstrom. He would have good stretches, where he’d stand in front of the net, and rebounds would come to him constantly, and he’d get 4 goals in 4 games. But then there would be stretches where no rebounds came, and that was the only way he was scoring goals with the Sharks. T
hey gave him more rebounds and more dirty goals in front of the net, but they took away his shot and his creativity. And you can’t always get dirty goals. Sometimes the goalie gives up rebounds and the defense doesn’t cover you, sometimes the goalie doesn’t, or sometimes he does but the defense is all over you, so that’s an even further explanation on his long droughts.
Lots of interesting information here, but one thing stands out above all else, and that is Heatley has to play on the right side in Minnesota. It's imperative. Especially on the powerplay. For left handed shooters, the left wing is for the type of left winger who relies on speed to the outside, burning past people. Heatley is not that type of player. Heatley needs to be on the right side, his shooting, one-timer side, where he can blast one-timers and cut to the middle, cut to the slot, for wristshots, both of which are deadly.
The video above is of Heatley's 50 goals in Ottawa in the 05-06 season, and like the commenter said, you can see most of them are from the right side in that video, whereas he played left in San Jose. There is even a comment by a Sharks fan saying, "I'm a Sharks fan trying to see the difference between the 50 goal scorer in Ottawa and the 39/26 goal scorer. It seems obvious that somehow Heater needs to get to the right side of the ice. I don't think I've seen Heater rip a one timer with the Sharks...maybe he should be playing with Wellwood(right handed passer)..."
It wasn't common knowledge in SJ that this was the problem, clearly, but it should be in Minnesota. The difference between RW Heatley (and right side/right point on the powerplay) and LW Heatley is night and day.
I hope you guys found this information helpful. Credit to "YJohny" on the Sharks blog comments for the detailed writeup of all this.