If Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley wanted Ottawa followers to continue cringing after the Senators' season was over, they've succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
One is struggling while the other succeeds, but both are frustrating Senators fans, albeit for very different reasons.
Two-thirds of Ottawa's top line is currently playing for Team Canada at the world hockey championship. The Canadians were 4-0 heading into play yesterday against Germany, but that statistic provides little solace to Senators fans -- those forced to watch and wonder about their so-called dynamic duo.
To be fair, Dany Heatley is living up to his billing. With 10 points in the first four games, No. 15 has created a stir with his point-producing firepower. Last Sunday against Latvia saw Heatley become Canada's all-time leading scorer at the worlds, with 40 points in 36 games (vaulting him ahead of previous record-holder, Steve Yzerman).
He's not just scoring goals to pad team totals, either. Heatley played the role of Mr. Clutch during a dramatic bout vs. the U.S. on Tuesday. With the game tied 4-4 in the third period, the 27-year-old came through with 46.8 seconds left on the clock, and buried the puck behind American netminder Craig Anderson for the win.
Canadian supporters may enjoy Heatley's offensive bounty, but for Senators fans still stinging from another subpar playoff run, every point their winger scores for another team is like a dagger through the heart.
Where was this scoring touch when the Senators needed it in the post-season? Heatley's stick appeared allergic to the puck during Ottawa's series vs. Pittsburgh -- through four games, he produced only one point.
Some may suggest Heatley is buoyed by his current linemates. After all, playing on Canada's top line alongside the Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf and Rick Nash of the Blue Jackets is nothing to sneeze at.
So what does that say about Heatley's traditional linemate, Spezza? The demotion of the Senators' No. 1 centre to Canada's fourth line (flanked by Jason Chimera and Patrick Sharp) speaks volumes and serves as yet another blow to Ottawa observers.
After beginning the tournament on the second line with Eric Staal and Martin St. Louis, Spezza's defensive irresponsibility and lack of offensive consistency was too much of an issue. He took the reduction in playing time in typical fashion, telling reporters, "A so-called fourth line (for Canada) could be a first line on most NHL teams."
It's a positive spin to be sure, but here's the truth: Chimera and Sharp typically function as second- or third-line players (Sharp saw some first-line time late in the regular season) and both play for team that missed the playoffs.
MAKES WADS OF CASH
It's also worth mentioning that Chimera and Sharp will be making $1.875 million and $3.3 million (all terms US), respectively, next season. Jason Spezza, on the other hand, will be pulling down a whopping $8 million in 2008-09.
Therein lies the problem for Ottawa fans. Sure, they're seeing a heavy hand being taken to Spezza for his indiscretions (something many have called for), but what if he doesn't respond?
The $8-million man can't find his scoring touch (Spezza had one point through the first four games) with all the talent surrounding him?
What's going to happen when he gets back into a Senators uniform?
Two Ottawa linemates playing for Canada and their situations could not be more different. This isn't what Senators fans wanted to see.
They didn't want to resent Heatley's success or view Spezza's struggles as additional evidence of his ineffectiveness.
The uniforms are different, but the players and the emotions they produce are still the same.
For Senators fans following Canada at the world championship, that revelation is all too frustrating.