Gonchar next for Sens boo hounds?
DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency
|Senators defenceman Sergei Gonchar takes down Maple Leafs forward Philippe Dupuis at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., Oct. 8, 2011. (STAN BEHAL/QMI Agency)
OTTAWA - Fans at Scotiabank Place Tuesday will be doing an awful lot of booing for a home opener, and it will have nothing to do with the fact the Senators are oh-fer-two and haven’t even scored a goal until they’ve been in a third-period hole deeper than Eugene Melnyk’s pockets.
They will, of course, be giving it to Dany Heatley. As they are good and right to do.
Heatley is a Wild now. He’s wearing an ‘A’ on his new jersey, perhaps because there was no room for his full title as “A One Dimensional Selfish Suckhole.” But a leopard cannot change his spots. Heatley is what he is, which is either the most or second-most hated Senator in 20 years, depending on where Alexei Yashin ranks.
Elapsed time has not erased folks’ memory of how Heatley signed a six-year, $45-million contract with the team in October 2007, then less than two years into it stomped his feet and demanded to be moved because of the bogus claim that his role had “diminished.” They remember how, when GM Bryan Murray finally worked out what he figured was a decent deal for his whining sniper, Heatley stomped and cried some more, exercising his contract right to veto a trade to Edmonton. But Murray still had to extract what would have been a growing cancer in the room, and when he finally did find an acceptable home for Heatley, he didn’t get equal value for a commodity that was much more valuable than it is now.
The 30-year-old Heatley — acquired from San Jose for Martin Havlat in a swap of former Senators — appears to be on the downslide of his career. It’s been four years since he scored 50 goals, and his production slipped to 26 goals last season. He also had just five goals in 32 playoff games with the Sharks, which is a lousy return on a guy with a $7.5-million cap hit.
Could very well turn out Ottawa was lucky to get rid of Heatley, who might be down to 10-15 goals in 2013-14, the final year of his deal, but that won’t stop the SBP customers from sharing their feelings.
“Amongst ourselves, we haven’t talked about it,” said Jason Spezza, who knows his friend is going to get booed when he touches the puck. “More than half the guys here haven’t played with him or know much about Heater.”
Some of the wrath Tuesday might get directed to Sergei Gonchar if the Senators defenceman quits on a play again like he did after watching Todd Bertuzzi blow by him en route to the very first goal against the team this season. Gonchar also looked soft and weak on a couple of goals against the next night in Toronto, but it was Thursday’s impersonation of a pylon that was still a hot topic on talk radio as a new week began.
Personally, I thought he looked like he was going for a leisurely skate on the canal in his pursuit of Bertuzzi. Somebody argued that opinion with me, saying Gonchar wasn’t even moving at one point. Okay, so maybe he was on the canal but stopping for a Beavertail.
“His partner (Jared Cowen) didn’t tell him he was changing,” coach Paul MacLean said when asked about the moment Monday. “If you’re leaving the ice, you’re supposed to tell you’re partner that you’re changing, and Sergei didn’t know.
“The puck moved pretty quickly. I’m not sure what he was supposed to do. Could he have moved, could he have dove, could he have done something? Probably. But for the most part, I’ve got no issue with what happened. He didn’t have a chance.”
But what about the perception? Gonchar, along with Chris Phillips and Filip Kuba, is a veteran looked at to lead a group of young defencemen. Show them how to do things right.
Part of that should be not giving up during a NHL game. Ever. No matter what the circumstances. The kids are watching.
It’s not like old Sergei can rest on his 2010-11 laurels. Not even a little bit. With his elbow.
“It might not look good this way, but to be honest with you, I don’t think I had enough time to do anything,” said Gonchar. “If he missed the net, I’ll have all the time in the world to get there and meet him in front of the net again, but how can I catch the guy when he’s going full speed and I’m standing still.
“Maybe I didn’t have a good last year, and people have that opinion about me, and are continuing to blame me for things, but what can I do.”
More Sergei. You can do more. If not, you risk getting the Heatley treatment at SBP.