No hiding it: Heatley is exactly who he is

 

The over-under on Jesse Lumsden was supposed to be 14 games, not 14 minutes.

 
 
 
 
 

The over-under on Jesse Lumsden was supposed to be 14 games, not 14 minutes.

However, one particularly vulnerable part of the poor kid's body continues to insist it wasn't meant for the occasionally devastating physical contact that most of him is willing to take head-on.

Word is the running back has been given the option of season-ending surgery on his dislocated left shoulder or several weeks of rehabilitation. It's believed Lumsden will choose the latter and be fitted for a brace upon his return to action later this season. He has been placed on the nine-game disabled list which shields his contract from the salary cap, but puts him on the shelf until the second half of the 18-game campaign.

Lumsden is who we thought he is, an unlucky, injury-prone back who has fought a losing battle to stay out of the trainer's room.

There also ought to be a lesson in this tale of woe for the Edmonton Oilers because Dany Heatley is exactly who we think he is. He is a one-dimensional sniper who will score goals and be among the more selfish and high-maintenance players on the roster if the Oilers' persistent begging puts him in their colours. If he wanted to play for Edmonton, even a little, he would have OK'd the trade from Ottawa days ago.

If he finally relents, he will do so only because there is no other option that could fulfil his whiny trade demand, and that will only add resentment to his other unfavourable characteristics.

Crazy old Dennis Green had it right when he said the Chicago Bears are who he thought they were. It was a delicious rant. His sadsack Arizona Cardinals gagged on a 23-3 third-quarter lead on Monday Night Football in 2006 and lost 24-23.

"The Bears are what we thought they were. If you want to crown 'em, then crown their ass," he yelled during his post-game news conference. "They are who we thought they were. And we let 'em off the hook."

People are who they are.

Lumsden can no more escape the Achilles heel in his left shoulder than Heatley can override his dominant sense of entitlement. It's part of his personality. As Todd Bertuzzi would no doubt opine, it is what it is.

If it also seems odd that the Oilers would fall all over themselves to get Heatley's grudging approval, it's because they are who we think they are: a non-playoff team desperate for goal scoring. Their crushing need creates both a weakness and a willingness to view Heatley in only the most optimistic light.

Will he score 40 goals on a top line with Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff? Of course. Maybe 50.

Will he play defence if head coach Pat Quinn asks him to do so? How could he refuse such a tenured bench boss?

Will he accept a demotion to the second power play unit if the first one isn't getting the job done? To do otherwise would allow ego to hurt the team and that can't happen. Right?

It's not even hard for the Oilers' braintrust to extrapolate those positive likelihoods into Heatley's long-term happiness in Edmonton, playing for a team that will no doubt make the playoffs for years to come, bolstered by goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and their new, high-scoring left winger.

Still, isn't it also odd that other teams with similar holes in the lineup -- the Rangers come to mind -- have steered clear of Heatley?

The Los Angeles Kings had $13.5 million U.S. in cap space and decided to spend a chunk of it on Ryan Smyth, the former Colorado Avalanche left-winger for whom they traded two defencemen and a draft pick.

"He fills an important need as he is a competitive, gritty, scoring left-winger and he fits with the overall identity we continue to build here," Kings GM Dean Lombardi said.

Smyth is 33. The average age of the Kings before the trade was 26.3 and Heatley is a 28-year-old scoring left-winger.

Why doesn't he fit their identity better than a player who scores an average of 12 fewer goals each season, is five years older and only $1.25 million U.S. easier on the salary cap? Because Heatley is what the Kings know he is: a potentially disruptive force whose goal totals are mitigated by his one-dimensional game.

L.A.'s assistant GM Ron Hextall delivered a devastating character assessment of Heatley to a gathering of Kings' fans mere days before the Smyth deal was consummated, but Oilers GM Steve Tambellini will apparently keep chasing until Heatley turns them down flat.

The Eskimos pursued Lumsden last off-season and when they landed him, it was with an incentive-laden, one-year deal. They were hoping for the best from him this year but preparing for a repeat of his unfortunate past.

Since the Oilers insist on denying the obvious signs that Heatley is who we think he is, they should at least seek an assurance, a safety net of sorts, if they land him. They should ask Heatley to sign a piece of paper, a legal document pledging his service to Edmonton for a specified period of time at a specified rate of pay.

You know, a binding contract.

That ought to do it.

 
 
 
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