Is Michalek Better Than Heatley?

 

In today’s Ottawa Sun, Don Brennan wrote a curious piece that featured a headline that read, ‘Brennan: Michalek Better Than Heatley’. I’ve copied and pasted the article below while including my own comments which as always, are in bold. To read the article in its originality, you can follow this link.

OTTAWA - In his first two seasons with the Senators, Milan Michalek was never picked to participate in a shootout.

 

In the first 30 seconds it took me to research a rebuttal to this piece on NHL.com, I learned that Milan Michalek was picked to participate in a shootout during the 2009-10 season – his first season with the Senators.

That changed Tuesday, when Paul MacLean tapped No. 9 on the back as his first choice to settle the score against Minnesota.

No it did not. Although I’m sure the gesture did not go unappreciated.

Of all the players he inherited when taking over the coaching job, MacLean knew Michalek best from when they worked mostly in the Western Conference as a Red Wings assistant and Sharks winger.

Weird. This all sounds so vaguely familiar. It’s almost akin to the additional context that was applied to the Nikita Filatov’s trade since “MacLean, a former Detroit Red Wings assistant, had seen previous snapshots of Filatov’s talent because Columbus serves as a divisional rival for Detroit.”

Let the record show that Filatov will likely be relegated to the press box for the second consecutive game.  

“He’s always been a good player when I’ve seen him,” MacLean said of his decision to pick Michalek. “I believe in the shootout, you put your best players out there.”

Michalek did not disappoint. The Senators have had a lot of problems with shootouts in the past, but he set them in the right direction in 2011-12 by beating Niklas Backstrom with a smooth deke.

Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson followed suit by scoring on the Wild goalie.

I remember when Dany Heatley set the team in the right direction by scoring the first ever Senators shootout goal. It paved the way for Daniel Alfredsson to put one in the record books and clinch the NHL’s first shootout victory. Oh that Dany Heatley, he was a trailblazer. So much so that the Senators to date, have gone on to post a stellar career shootout record of 19 W and 33 L.

“I thought Milan showed great leadership,” MacLean said. “I don’t know if that’s his bread and butter move, but it was a good one.”

That’s what Michalek is — a good one. A real good one. He’s 6-foot-2, 225 pounds and doesn’t shy away from the heavy traffic. He’s probably the fastest skater on the team. He’s got a decent shot. He kills penalties and plays the power play.

Who cares if Colin Greening set the franchise record last season for fastest recorded lap at the team’s annual skills competition with a lap time of 13.665 seconds? And who cares that Dany Heatley has used his 6’4” 220lb frame to outhit Milan Michalek in every single season since Yahoo! Sports started keeping track of the hits statistic? (Wait, what?)

That isn’t about comparative statistical nonsense, statistics are just a measure of performance. This is about hyperbole and generalities!

This is about Milan Michalek going into tight, heavy-traffic areas because he’s tough and isn’t afraid of danger. Milan Michalek could work in a Chilean mine.

He does it all.

And by playing almost two short-handed minutes and two minutes on the power-play against the Senators on Tuesday night, apparently Heatley can play in every situation too.

“I would say his injuries have been the only thing that have held him back,” MacLean said, referring to the fact Michalek missed 16 games in each of the last two seasons and never once managed to play all 82 games in four years as a Shark. “He can play in every situation. He’s an elite player in the league, in my mind.”

Injuries never held back Heatley in San Jose. That debilitating wrist injury that affected his release in his last few months of the 2010-11 season just never happened.

There was much dissecting and analyzing involved when Bryan Murray traded the disgruntled Dany Heatley and a fifth-round pick to San Jose for Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a second.

All agreed at the time that the Sharks had won the trade. Even Murray thought so, but he pulled the trigger because it was the best deal available to him.

My analysis of the trade can be found here.

Two years later, the Senators are winning the trade. And that’s even with Murray still paying Cheechoo $1.1 million to play for the Peoria Rivermen of the American Hockey League.

The Senators are winning the trade? (cough, cough cough…)

Jfdajdjfdaj jdfajjfajd jfjdsafsd jddddddjjdkjsakjfsadkj (Me ramming my stomach against my desk and keyboard as I try to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on myself.)

Did the Senators win this trade?

No. Instead of using the Heatley trade request as the opportune time to acknowledge that a rebuild might be in the organization’s best interests, it insisted upon acquiring “NHL-ready” (using fingers to do my best Chris Farley air quotations gesture) talent that could help this team remain in playoff contention and postpone the inevitable. Hell, even the second round pick was conveniently flipped to the New York Islanders for a deadline rental in Andy Sutton.

Of course one could conversely raise the argument that San Jose didn’t win the Cup with Heatley and with the health risks associated with Martin Havlat, the asset that they exchanged with Minnesota for Heatley, San Jose didn’t maximize the return for Heatley either.

Nevertheless, San Jose never won with either of Michalek or Cheechoo being at their best so getting 162 GP, 65 G, 81 A and 146 PTS from Heatley in addition to whatever Havlat can provide moving forward seems a hell of a lot better than the combined 187 GP, 45 G, 36 A, 81 PTS and one hit on Jordan Leopold that the Senators received.

No, if we’re truly being honest with ourselves, only two of the involved parties absolutely won the Dany Heatley trade: Dany Heatley and the Jonathan Cheechoo Song guy.

Right now, a team would be foolish to deal Michalek for Heatley, straight up. Any team, but especially a rebuilding team.

A rebuilding team would be foolish to deify either of those players or at the very least, trade them straight up for each other. Picks and prospects only please.

Heatley, who is making $7.5 million a season until 2014-15, is a one-dimensional player who scored 26 goals in 80 games playing alongside the best setup man in the Western Conference last season.

Michalek, who is making $4.3 million a season until 2014-15, is an all-purpose player who scored 18 goals in 66 games playing alongside the best setup man in the Eastern Conference last season.

My turn…

Heatley, is the trigger man who scored 50, 50, 41 and 39 goals playing alongside one of the best setup men in the Eastern Conference.

Michalek scored 17, 26, 24, and 23 goals playing some minutes alongside one of the best setup men in the Western Conference.

That extra $3.2 million can buy a pretty good player.

Or that money can be allocated on another Alexei Kovalev. Face it, as a rebuilding team that’s trying to stay near the salary cap floor, that $3.2 million is inconsequential; provided of course that by the time Michalek’s contract ends, the team would be competitive by then.

Meanwhile, if he can stay healthy and get the majority of his shifts with Jason Spezza, the 26-year-old Michalek could score 40. It may be a bit of a reach, but he could.

The 30-year old Heatley hasn’t reached that mark in three years, and he may never do so again.

No, Dany Heatley hasn’t scored 40 goals in the past three seasons. That bum has only scored 39 goals in two of those seasons. Meanwhile, the 26-year-old Michalek hasn’t reach the 25-goal mark in more than four seasons and he may never do so again.

Alfredsson thinks Michalek has what it takes to score 40, if all the cards fall in place.

“I think he does. I do,” said Alfredsson. “But if you want to score 40, it’s easier if you’re a team that’s winning a lot, and you can get on a streak, who knows, because you always get those extra goals at the end of games. But he’s definitely got the potential, no question.”

It would only help if Michalek played for a winning team and could score a number of empty net goals. Only!

Alfredsson says Michalek brings intangibles.

“He’s one of those guys that works extremely hard every game,” said Alfredsson.

“He does the little things right. He’s fast and strong and shoots the puck well.

“I’m sure any coach would love to have a player that takes instruction, does it on the ice and understands it, then can bring that extra dimension with his speed and shot.”

“The main thing for me is to stay healthy,” said Michalek, who is off to another fast start with two goals and two assists in three games. “If I’m healthy and I can play my game, I can use my speed.

“I guess (the injuries) are from maybe my style of play, but I don’t want to change the way I play, I wouldn’t be affective. If injuries happen, they happen. I’ll just have to battle through them like in the past.”

As Brennan noted, fast starts aren’t foreign to Michalek. In 2009-10, his first season with the Senators, he scored 15 goals before December 2nd. From thereon in, he scored 7 more goals during the rest of the season. Even with his current start and a style that he admits makes him susceptible to injury, you can forgive me for being a little more reserved in my excitement for Michalek. On another note, expect Allan Walsh to use Daniel Alfredsson’s testimony as Exhibit A for when it comes time to negotiate a new extension for Milan.

Michalek has another goal.

Dear Milan, save those goals for when you’re on the ice.

‘“I want to be a leader too, in the locker room, and on the ice,” he said. “We have lots of young guys.”

And a good one in Michalek. Two years later, the Senators are winning the Heatley trade because of him.

No, they’re not. In fairness to Milan, he is a good complimentary piece when healthy. He’s not the elite level player that MacLean referred to or the potential 40 goal scorer that Alfie thinks he could be, however, he’s still a good player.

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