Considering a mostly amicable split with the San Jose Sharks and the Atlanta Thrashers’ relocation, there’s really only one awkward spot for Dany Heatley: Ottawa. The former Senators forward will play against his former team for the second time since demanding a trade in 2009, although this will be Heatley’s first match against them as a member of the Minnesota Wild.
To little surprise, Heatley was booed heartily during his return on Dec. 2, 2010. As TSN points out, he recorded an assist as the Sharks won 2-0 that night.
Tonight certainly won’t be pleasant for Heatley, but there won’t be many like this since he wisely focused on landing with Western Conference teams. Sadly for jilted Senators fans, but judging from Ottawa’s roster, it’s likely that Heatley might win another game as the designated villain.
It might be a stretch to call it his idea of a great evening, though.
Perhaps you should keep an eye out for ex-girlfriends and friends-turned-enemies tonight, as there are plenty of awkward reunions this Thursday.
Two of the biggest stories of the day center on teams seeing their old heroes, as Mike Modano is playing against the Dallas Stars after suiting up for them for more than 20 years while Simon Gagne faces the Philadelphia Flyers after 10 high-scoring seasons in Cream Cheese Land.
But the uncomfortable glances won’t just be shared in Dallas and Philadelphia, though. While they’ve been away from Sunrise, Florida for at a season or more, there might be some strange feelings for Panthers fans as they watch former stars Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester in Calgary uniforms. Even if Florida fans fail to truly “miss” those ex-Panthers and the game is taking place in Calgary.
George Richards of On Frozen Pond discussed Bouwmeester’s struggles under the Calgary hockey spotlight while Jokinen expressed his hopes that the Panthers “have it figured out.” Donny Rivette of Litter Box Cats captures the mixed feelings in Florida the best, though.
The “novelty” of facing former players tends to last longer among Florida fans; given that many ex-Cats left the club on less than amicable terms – and little on-ice success with which to fill the void – getting fired up for an evening featuring a Bouwmeester appearance is understandably easy.
Seeing Jokinen flop and Bouwmeester struggle to live up to big expectations (and a giant contract) made me wonder if there’s a “Panthers Effect”: a player looks like a diamond in that low-success rough in Florida only to flounder when expectations rise and their paths face more resistance. Nathan Horton is dispelling that notion a bit so far in Boston, but there’s little doubt that things haven’t been ideal for the Panthers (or those former players) since they left.
Sometimes breaking up can be a healthy thing. Sometimes one party excels while the other person regresses. Yet, in the case of Bouwmeester, Jokinen and the Panthers, it seems like things have been worse for everyone after they split.
Well, everyone but Bouwmeester’s accountant, I guess.