Michalek better than Heatley

Senators forward Milan Michalek battles with Wild defenceman Clayton Stoner (not shown) at...

Senators forward Milan Michalek battles with Wild defenceman Clayton Stoner (not shown) at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, Ont., Oct. 11, 2011. (ERROL McGIHON/QMI Agency)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:07 PM ET

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

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

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.

Hes always been a good player when Ive 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 thought Milan showed great leadership, MacLean said. I dont know if thats his bread and butter move, but it was a good one.

Thats what Michalek is a good one. A real good one. Hes 6-foot-2, 225 pounds and doesnt shy away from the heavy traffic. Hes probably the fastest skater on the team. Hes got a decent shot. He kills penalties and plays the power play.

He does it all.

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. Hes an elite player in the league, in my mind.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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 hasnt reached that mark in three years, 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, its easier if youre a team thats 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 hes definitely got the potential, no question.

Alfredsson says Michalek brings intangibles.

Hes one of those guys that works extremely hard every game, said Alfredsson.

He does the little things right. Hes fast and strong and shoots the puck well.

Im 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 Im 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 dont want to change the way I play, I wouldnt be affective. If injuries happen, they happen. Ill just have to battle through them like in the past.

Michalek has another goal.

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.


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