Well, the Dany Heatley saga is finally over, and though Ottawa Senators fans are probably wishing him good riddance at this moment, San Jose Sharks fans are preparing to welcome him with open arms. The same can be said of the management, coaching staff and his new San Jose Sharks teammates. After all, it isn’t everyday that a team gets a 2-time 50 goal scorer added to their lineup.
However, the player most excited to see Dany Heatley in a San Jose Sharks jersey has to be Joe Thornton. The towering center is arguably the best passer in the game, and with a pure shooter like Heatley as his wingman he has a good shot of piling up enough assists to challenge for the Art Ross trophy in the 2009-10 season.
As for Heatley, he is no doubt looking forward to the opportunity as well. After a sub-par season last year, he is no doubt hungry to return to the form that saw him put together back to back 50 goal seasons. He has one of the best releases in the game, on par with players like Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin, and with Thornton’s incredible vision and passing ability Heatley can expect to get the puck in a prime shooting location on a regular basis.
However, until we see these two elite players on the ice together nothing can be taken for granted. Chemistry among superstar hockey players can be a funny thing. Throughout the history of the league there have been instances of players that seemed like they would be the perfect fit for one another, but could never find success as linemates. Combinations like Gretzky and Kurri, Trottier and Bossy, or Hull and Oates don’t come along every day. Even chemistry that is there at first can often fizzle out. Look at Thornton and Cheechoo. The two were unstoppable during Thornton’s first year in San Jose, and Cheechoo shocked the hockey world by winning the Rocket Richard trophy with 56 goals that season. However, in the seasons following his production took a dive as he and Thornton couldn’t seem to recapture the magic they had in that first season.
That being said I think it is very unlikely that Thornton and Heatley will fail to find success together. Heatley is a far more dangerous, consistent goal-scorer than Cheechoo, and he is a big body presence that can fight for the little space he needs to unload his wicked one-timer.
Don’t forget that Heatley will have something to prove when he arrives in San Jose. He took a public relations beating after his desire to leave Ottawa became public, and a lot of people around the game of hockey will be hoping for him to fail. He’ll definitely be motivated to deprive them of their chance to gloat.
Last, but not least, there are the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver to consider. With the controversy surrounding Heatley, and Team Canada’s depth at the center position, both Heatley and Thornton are far from locks to make the team. If they can light up the league during the first half of the season it will pretty much assure them roster spots, and there is a good chance they could find themselves playing together on one of Canada’s top lines.
However it plays out it will be one of the more interesting storylines early in the upcoming NHL season, and the Sharks will find themselves the object of more scrutiny than usual among hockey fans outside of San Jose.