As we await the beginning of the new NHL season, I’ll be previewing each of the players in the Minnesota Wild system who will be on the roster, or competing for a place this year. My subject for this edition is Dany Heatley.
During the 2013 (extended) offseason, Mike Yeo and Chuck Fletcher made it known that Dany Heatley would be playing RW on the 1st line with Mikko Koivu and, new signing, Zach Parise. This line worked reasonably well at first, but as the Wild entered a slump, the line’s production stalled. Heatley struggled with no points in 3 games and only 8 shots in his last 6, so he was demoted to the 2nd line in favour of Charlie Coyle. Coyle established himself and remained on that line for the rest of the year, while Heatley bounced around the line-up, struggling to find a good-fit. At the end of a loss to the San Jose Sharks, the same evening as the Jason Pominville trade, Heatley traded slashes with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and damaged his shoulder. He was forced to have reconstructive surgery and his season was over.
-Here are some of his regular season numbers from last year:
|SHOOTING %/SHOTS ATTEMPTED||13.3%/83|
Heatley scored at a decent clip, playing a lot of ES and PP minutes. Of the 21 points he scored, 1/3 of them were scored on the powerplay. He was a clean layer, not taking penalties, but also not drawing many.
-Here are his underlying numbers from last year:
|OFFENSIVE ZONE START %||48.9%|
|OFFENSIVE ZONE FINISH %||49.3%|
|QUALITY OF COMPETITION||-0.025|
|SHOTS FOR/20 MINS||8.770|
|GOALS FOR/20 MINS||0.711|
|SHOTS AGAINST/20 MINS||10.153|
|GOALS AGAINST/20 MINS||1.146|
|5v5 1st ASSIST/60||0.474|
The underlying numbers really show up Heatley’s deficiencies as a player. The opposition recorded more shots and goals than the Wild did while Heatley was on the ice last season. He experienced some luck in terms of team Shooting and Save percentages while he was on the ice, recording a PDO of 1009.
Heatley played average competition with less than half of his zone starts occurring in the offensive zone and posted poor Corsi numbers.
-Here’s the Player Usage Chart for the Wild forwards who played more than 30 games last year, illustrating the numbers above:
(Click To Enlarge) (Bubble Size=Corsi On Rating. Blue Bubble=Postive. Red Bubble=Negative)
A lot has been made of the way the Wild stumbled down the stretch and how their production fell-off a cliff after Heatley got injured against the Sharks. In theory, swapping-out Heatley for Pominville should have made the team a lot better as Pominville was better at driving possession and shot at a higher percentage than Heatley, but for some reason it didn’t. The numbers below show that the Wild’s poor finish was likely caused by bad luck more than the loss of Heatley:
-Team ES Sh% pre-injury: 8.88%
-Team ES Sh% post-injury: 5.74%
-Team ES Sv% pre-injury: 91.569%
-Team ES Sv%: post-injury89.243%
-PDO pre-injury: 1004
-PDO post-injury: 949
Heatley really didn’t contribute much to the Wild before his injury, at least not enough to cause that big drop-off in shooting percentage. His WOWY numbers show that he made his teammates worse and dragged down their Corsi numbers. Here’s his Corsi For % with his 5 most regular linemates:
As you can see, all 5 players put-up better numbers when they were away from Heatley. This along, with his poor puck possession numbers give weight to the argument that Heatley was not the key cog of the Wild offence that, when removed, caused the team to collapse down the stretch. The team just fell on some bad luck in terms of Sh% and Sv%.
Heatley would have almost certainly been subjected to one of the Wild’s compliance buy-outs this Summer, if he had not been ineligible due to injury. Getting his mammoth $7’500’000 cap-hit off the books would’ve given the Wild more flexibility in free-agency and allowed the team to keep, useful defenceman, Tom Gilbert. Now that he is definitely sticking around this season to see-out his contract, his future as an NHLer could be hinging on how he performs.
Much of the talk out of training camp has been about how Heatley has been working hard on his fitness and skating ability, and looks to be in the best shape of his life. He needs to do something to try and turn around his slow decline, as the numbers below show that, unless something drastic happens, there is not much reason to believe that Heatley can roll back the years and be an effective top-6 goalscorer.
-Here’s the production trend for his career:
As you can see, Heatley’s production has been dropping steadily for the last few years, staying true to the usual trend of NHLers experiencing a quick decline after they turn 30. Heatley was always going to be a candidate for this kind of decline as he was a natural shooter who lacked much speed or skating ability. All it takes is his shooting ability to drop-off a little bit, and suddenly his production is heading south of 0.6 points a game because he doesn’t have to physical attributes to compensate.
-Here’s the Goals Per Game, Sh% and SOG Per Game trends for his career:
His goalscoring actually improved from 11-12 to 12-13, but his rate is still way down from even 2010 levels and nowhere near his heyday. The slight improvement in goalscoring was thanks to his shooting percentage recovering after a desperately unlucky season in 11-12. His Sh% from last year was more on-par with the numbers he has posted since around 2008, 11-2 being an outlier, though his SOG per game was down again, illustrating how much his shooting percentage increased this year.
His position in the line-up will most likely be LW on the 2nd line, centred by either Coyle or Granlund. This might not be the best idea due to the lack of speed these players share. A good idea could be to have Heatley at RW on the 3rd line with Cooke and Brodziak. He has played with Brodziak a lot since joining the Wild, and he adds an interesting dimension to that line, which could make it a big threat offensively.
His Season Is A Success If…
His Season Is A Disappointment If…
….he continues to decline and be a shell of his former self.
Okay, that’s it for Heatley. Next, I’ll be taking a look at Jared Spurgeon and previewing his 2013/2014 campaign.
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Previous articles in this series:
#7- Jason Pominville
*Numbers in this article courtesy of:
Topics: Cal Clutterbuck, Charlie Coyle, Chuck Fletcher, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Jared Spurgeon, Jason Pominville, Jason Zucker, Kyle Brodziak, Mikael Granlund, Mike Yeo, Minnesota Wild, Minnesota Wild Preview, NHL, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Wild