Sunday, October 20, 2013

Time to rededicate the Popcorn Machine?

With his diminished play and soon-to-be expiring contract, this blogger asks if it's time to rename the Minnesota Wild press box popcorn machine at Xcel Energy Center after uber-underachiever Dany Heatley

Have we Minnesota Wild fans found the next human stalagmite (a.k.a. Martin Skoula)? Another Filip Kuba stand-around human pylon?

We just may have.

With his woeful offensive output and $7.5M cap hit, Dany Heatley just may be the next Wild player needing to learn how to make popcorn in the Al Shaver press box at Xcel Energy Center. The only bright spot (if it is that) is that his contract expires at the end of this 2013-2014 season, which may make 'Heater' attractive to a team on the rebuild.

Like, maybe the Buffalo Sabres, or Dallas Stars, or any team not based in Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division, or San Jose Sharks (but keep Marty Havlat, will you? Thanks.)

Heatley is a boat anchor on the Wild speedboat, a slow, plodding forward who's best days are well in the rear view mirror, who's attributes are marred by his lack of compete level, inability to find open space, and just flat out bad timing when in the offensive zone.

Saturday night, he was the third best defenseman the Florida Panthers (another team needing a rebuild) had, blocking two shots (one a near-sure-goal) from Mikael Granlund in the third period of the Wild's 2-1 shootout loss to the lowly Panthers, who are still looking up at nearly everyone else in the Eastern Conference.

Heatley has become more of a liability every time he steps onto the ice. A former 50-goal scorer, gifted with great hands, he hasn't used them like he has wanted to in the last two seasons. He should have received a compliance buyout last summer, but since he was injured in an end-of-game scrum in San Jose last April, Heatley ended the season on injured reserve, and according to the terms of the new CBA, compliance buyouts could not be tendered to players on IR.

And now, the Wild are paying for that injury. And how. Talk about paying it forward; the fact that Heatley is not having success to justify that massive contract is hamstringing the Wild, whose anemic offense has only scored 5 goals in the last four games, going 1-2-1 on a four-game Eastern road trip which, based on the current overall talent level of the Wild, they should have gone no worse than 3-1.

So what to do? Heatley has become the single largest liability the Wild have. And one of the toughest to deal with, as his massive contract precludes any type of a major deal. The NHL would immediately throw up red flags at any type of a 'salary dump' deal. The other team in any Heatley trade would as quickly incur the wrath of their own fans, as this albatross of a forward plays the schedule out at half-speed. Or slower.

For all those Ottawa fans who have booed Heatley over the years (he wanted out of Ottawa, and got his wish) for not being a Senator, and the San Jose fans (when they aren't beating each other up) who also boo Heatley when he returns to NorCal, the Wild would probably say 'If you want him, you can HAVE him. Cheap.'

Peyton Place, meet 317 Washington St., St. Paul. As that's what Dany Heatley has made his hockey life in Wild country.

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