Sens moving forward with Heatley
Players convinced they can succeed with winger in lineup
|Senators goaltender Pascal Leclaire speaks with the media prior to teeing off at the 16th annual Bell/Ottawa Senators Charity Golf Classic at Kanata Golf & Country Club.
And while it might not be business as usual right away for Heatley – whose demand for a trade played out in very public fashion over the summer – his coach and teammates firmly believe they can move forward into a new season with the two-time 50-goal scorer still in their lineup. Even if he hasn’t backed off on his stance that he’d rather find a new National Hockey League home.
“It can work, absolutely,” head coach Cory Clouston said earlier today before hitting the links at Kanata Golf & Country Club for the 16th annual Bell/Ottawa Senators Charity Golf Classic. “It’s not going to be easy. But it doesn’t matter what aspect of life you’re in, you can turn adversity into a positive thing and that’s how we’re trying to look at this.
“This can bring our core group of guys together and we can stress even more of a team identity and a team concept and use this to become a stronger team.”
Added captain Daniel Alfredsson: “I think it can (work). I have no doubt in my mind that it could. But at the same time, I don’t think he’s changed his stance. From our point of view early on here, it’s not going to be an issue. That’s something maybe we can use as a positive instead.”
Training camp opens Saturday, with 55 players arriving at Scotiabank Place for medicals and fitness testing. It’s expected Heatley will meet with his teammates to clear the air at some point over the weekend but at this point, they’re more interested in action than words.
“We just have to know that he’s going to work hard every night and be committed to the team while he’s here,” said centre Jason Spezza, Heatley’s longtime linemate and one of his closest friends on the team. “That’s enough for us and his play will do the talking.
“If he just tells us he’s going to play hard every night until something gets done… and I’m sure he will. He has a lot to play for himself personally. I don’t need to hear much. There has been a lot of talking done about everything but it doesn’t matter to me. As long as he plays well and helps our team.”
While the Senators don’t deny there is great potential for the Heatley affair to turn into a major distraction during training camp and beyond, Clouston said his team is hardly the first to deal with a situation involving a player who isn’t happy.
“Everybody has to realize that this became public,” said Clouston. “There are a lot of teams who have guys who maybe aren’t necessarily happy throughout the season. And there have been things that maybe weren’t on public display that were worked out and teams became stronger because of it.
“This happens to be on a very public display and we have to do our work in front of the (media) cameras. But we feel we can make this work and that’s our job, to make it work.”
Spezza agreed, saying “it won’t be as hard as people think it’s going to be.”
“The quicker we have closure to this, the better, but we’re just going to have to deal with it and move on.”
Winning, everyone agrees, can be a cure for a lot of ills.
“I think if we get off to a great start – and we think we will – and we’re winning and (Heatley) is playing well, the fans can kind of get on our side and his side,” said centre Mike Fisher. “Winning can erase a lot of things and that’ll definitely help.
“We just want a good year with the people here and we need to forget about last year and move on. We know we’re going to be a lot better.”
Said Alfredsson: “Dany is a good teammate. If he comes in and acts like he has (in the past) and works hard… he has motivation for himself. Everybody knows that it’s an Olympic year and he’s going to do everything he can to get on that team as well. If he plays with us (all year) and nothing happens, we’ll be a good team.”