The Minnesota Wild have done better through 28 games than any hockey analyst or writer ever predicted. The Wild currently sit at the top of the NHL, boasting a record of 17-7-3, equaling out to 37 points. Everyone knows the Stanley Cup is not won in October or November, but for this franchise this is truly something remarkable. The Wild have not made the Playoffs in the last three seasons, and have not won a playoff series since 2003. With new coach Mike Yeo at the helm, and new faces like Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi in the locker room, the Wild are arguably the best team in the NHL. Though the Wild are winning, and the team is doing well, there is still plenty of room for improvement. This series will look at a number of Wild players, giving a sort of progress report (about a quarter way through the season is a progress report, we’ll do report cards at the mid way and end points… just like High School all over again) of how they are contributing to the team.
We will continue our reports with one of the Wild’s big offseason acquisitions: Dany Heatley.
Let’s start with the basics. Heatley has 18 points (8G-10A) through 28 games (5 players are tied for the team lead with 8 goals). He is playing anywhere from 19-20 minutes a night, and is a +1. Heatley has earned the trust of both Head Coach Mike Yeo and Team Captain Mikko Koivu, and has been a mainstay on the Wild’s top line and top Power Play amidst all the injuries and line shuffling that has occurred. Mike Yeo’s trust has somewhat been rewarded; two of Heater’s 8 goals have been game winners, and one of them was that amazing goal in Edmonton with 1.8 seconds left in the game that forced overtime and secured a point for the Wild (They would eventually pick up the other point in the Shoot Out). Maybe it’s not said often, but it is certainly true, Heatley is a definite upgrade from Antti Miettinen.
Where is Heatley struggling you ask? Well, it kind of depends on what your expectations were for him coming into the season. For people who expected him to come to Minnesota and score 40+ goals, they’re disappointed. For People who were expecting him to come in and be a serviceable winger that would complement Mikko Koivu and contribute to the offense, they’re probably happy but are thirsty for more. I happen to fall in the Latter, I expected Heatley to be a good winger that Mikko could setup and benefit from. For the most part, he has done that. There are, however, some places that Heater can improve upon. The main critique that I would bring to light for Dany Heatley, is that the guy just needs to shoot the puck more. This guy has a laser shot. He can truly snipe the puck, and he has only shot the puck more than 5 times in a game 4 times through 28 games. Heatley needs to stop thinking and start shooting. There may be a few reasons for this however. Heatley and Koivu have had several different line mates this season, and has been trying to build instant chemistry between the three of them. Heatley’s shots may also be affected by what has been an ineffective Wild Power Play at this point (23rd in the NHL). Heater has been all over the ice on the PP, setting screens, looking for deflections, and running the point. The man has just yet to find his niche on the PP unit. I firmly believe Heatley will score 25-30 goals. I think he will have around 70-80 points. I think he will be Mikko’s serviceable winger. My condolences to anyone that thought the Wild were getting a 50 goal scorer.
The other information worth noting is how Heatley got here, and who he replaced. On July 5, 2011 Dany Heatley was traded to the Minnesota Wild for Martin Havlat. This year Havlat is played only 20 games (he was hurt to start the season) and has managed 11 points (1G-10A). The man on the top line that Heatley replaced was Antti Miettinen, who left for the KHL after last season and is currently unemployed. So things could be a lot worse.
Progress Report Grade: B+
He is tied for the team lead in goals, but he could have 10-12 if he just shot the puck 3-4 more times a game.
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