Callahan vs. Heatley – I wish I could have gotten this week's Cage Match out before the start of the season. I feel like it could have saved you all some pain. Much like last week's Filppula vs. Ribeiro Cage Match I will be comparing an in-decline veteran with an up-and-coming youngster. This week it is Dany Heatley vs. Ryan Callahan. Does the vet have anything left in the tank? Is the youngster ready to usurp him? Let's find out. Ring that bell!
Heatley is only 30, which seems too young for him to be washed up but he is looking that way. Since posting back-to-back 50-goal, 100+ point seasons in 2006-07 and 2007-08, Heatley has been on a downward spiral that briefly kicked up upon his move to San Jose. Now he is in Minnesota and things are just getting worse.
The big knock on Heatley has always been motivation but personally, I think that is inexact. He will never be accused of being the hardest worker on his team but I do think Heatley is motivated to win. That is how I explain his trade demands out of Ottawa and subsequent refusal to go to Edmonton. He wants to win. He would not have been picked to play for Canada at the 2010 Olympics if this was not a priority. Likewise, that is the only reason I believe we have yet to hear any whispers of dissention in Minnesota. The Wild are winning so Heatley is happy.
I have two knocks on Heatley that have nothing to do with motivation. First off, he is a terrible skater. It looks like he is perpetually skating in mud. Now that he is older, it is that much tougher for him to build up the power to get up to top speed and bulldoze his way to the good scoring areas. This skating issue is exacerbated by a lack of smarts. He is not as skilled of a playmaker and he is not crafty enough to slide into the good scoring spots. This is not to say that he is dumb, he just does not see the game at an elite level.
The other aspect of this lack of smarts is that I'm not sure Heatley knows how he needs to work out. With his skating mechanics and rapidly declining body he needs to be working on explosive power. Instead he looks like a guy who spent the off-season riding the bike. He works hard, but he doesn't work smart. So with a lack of skating technique or hockey IQ, his physical decline has him trapped on the perimeter.
Just look at Heatley's shooting in recent years. He is on pace for 234 SOG this season, wh