Wild's Heatley out to prove himself again

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 13, 2013 - 12:24 AM

The veteran forward arrived at camp lean and healthy and determined to land a top-six forward spot.


Dany Heatley practices at Ridder Arena on the U of M campus during training camp, September 12, 2013.

Photo: Joel Koyama, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger


Dany Heatley looks back at the waning seconds of that crucial April 3 game in San Jose and says he probably would have done the same thing.

“It was just a battle in front of the net with a defenseman, which you get into a million times,” Heatley said of his nasty clash with former Sharks teammate Marc-Edouard Vlasic. “I just kind of tripped up and landed funny.”

Heatley’s spill left the Wild winger with a torn labrum and required season-ending surgery on his left shoulder. He doesn’t blame Vlasic, who called to apologize.

“It’s hockey,” Heatley said.

Heatley’s absence affected the Wild. Say what you want about the aging Heatley — he admits he’s not the same Dany Heatley who was Rookie of the Year, All-Star Game MVP, first-team All-Star and two-time 50-goal and 100-point scorer — but he’s still a big body who can score from anywhere.

Example: That same game in San Jose. Heatley tied the score with a shot taken from near the Wild bench.

After Heatley’s injury, the Wild won only five times in 12 games and went from division leader to nearly missing the playoffs. After Heatley’s injury, the Wild scored five power-play goals in 17 games, including the playoffs. Heatley has scored 139 career power-play goals, most in the NHL since he entered in 2001-02, and 360 career goals, fourth in the league over that span.

“Heater doesn’t get nearly enough respect,” coach Mike Yeo said. “Seeing him out, people now realize how important he is to our team.”

Getting quicker

Heatley, 32, enters this season motivated to show the league, Wild fans and, most important, himself that he is just that. He says his shoulder is “strong and tight and feels good.”

He’s visibly leaner. And after an honest, frank conversation this summer with Yeo, he is excited that he’ll be put in a spot where he can succeed — a top-six forward role after playing on the third line for much of last season.

“I’d be very disappointed if I didn’t get 30 [goals] at least,” Heatley said. “The rehab kind of almost reset me this summer. I had a focus. I had to keep working on [the shoulder], which helped with my other training. I’m lighter this year. I feel quicker. I’m just anxious to get back and be who I can be. I’m refreshed and excited to play.”

Heatley’s numbers have declined the past three years, going from 119 combined goals from 2007-10 to 26 in 2010-11, 24 his first year with Minnesota in 2011-12 and 11 (pace of 25 over 82 games) last season.

The two-time Olympian wasn’t invited to Canada’s Olympic camp last month, which he didn’t expect, but it still stung a bit. He spent the summer trying to improve his skating with power-skating coach Aaron Konecsni and will make a conscious effort to stay on top of it all season.

“It’s something that for me doesn’t come natural. It never has,” Heatley said of his skating. “I’ve always had to focus on it, maybe now more than ever because I’m getting older and the game’s gotten faster.”

Almost bought out

Heatley was driven by the offseason chatter that the Wild may have likely used one of its two compliance buyouts on him if he wasn’t hurt. A buyout would have cost the cap-strapped Wild $3.3 million but cleared $7.5 million to spend elsewhere.

Instead, Heatley’s injury prevented it, and his friend, former Badger Tom Gilbert, became the buyout casualty instead. Gilbert still hasn’t found a job.

“I understand the business. I know the talk was going on, but I was aware of the rules and the situation,” Heatley said. “It didn’t happen, and now I move on and try to help us win this year.”

He’ll have to do so without his buddy Devin Setoguchi, who was also traded to the Winnipeg Jets. They were acquired nine days apart by the Wild from San Jose two years ago.

“He’s going to enjoy playing in a Canadian city,” Heatley said. “He’s a guy that a lot of times plays on adrenaline and it’s good for his game, and I think that’s going to help him in Winnipeg.”

Heatley is entering the final year of his contract. He’s not dumb. He sees the league getting younger. He sees how many legit NHLers, like Gilbert, haven’t found jobs.

“It is a huge year. Obviously I’m aware it’s a contract year, but that can’t be my focus,” Heatley said. “My focus is to get back to how I know I can play, and if I do that, things will take care of themselves.

“My self-pride is a big motivating factor for me. Proving people wrong is bred into pretty much every hockey player. Very rarely are there the Sidney Crosbys. Most guys, you have to beat out different guys all the way through [your career]. That’s good motivation.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Tampa 6 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 96 FINAL
Chicago 86
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Houston 105
Golden State 106 FINAL
Boston 101
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
Indiana 94
Portland 110 FINAL
Sacramento 99
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Orlando 83
Oklahoma City 108 FINAL
LA Lakers 101
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Denver 92
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Winnipeg 5
Tampa Bay 3 FINAL
Florida 4
Columbus 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Toronto 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Anaheim 3 FINAL
Dallas 1
St. Louis 5 FINAL(SO)
Vancouver 6
Connecticut 81
Quinnipiac 65 FINAL
Manhattan 69
Fairfield 56 FINAL
Niagara 57
Marist 49 FINAL
Rider 59
Iona 60 FINAL
Saint Peters 68
Oregon State 56 FINAL
California 73
South Florida 55 FINAL
Houston 72
Marquette 66 FINAL
Providence 77
Michigan State 61 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
Siena 57 FINAL
Monmouth 63
Pittsburgh 66 FINAL
Wake Forest 69
Oregon 73 FINAL
Stanford 70
Purdue 61 FINAL
Ohio State 65
Arizona State 81 FINAL
Colorado 87
Washington St 67 FINAL
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
Elon 65 FINAL
Hofstra 58
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 59 FINAL
Virginia 75
Texas 69 FINAL
West Virginia 76
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 65
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 53 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 60
Rhode Island 70 FINAL
Massachusetts 78
Richmond 55 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 49
Davidson 46 FINAL
Fordham 54
St Bonaventure 43 FINAL
Duquesne 51
George Mason 45 FINAL
(22) George Washington 80
Indiana 60 FINAL
(20) Rutgers 71
(12) Texas A&M 63 FINAL
LSU 80
Ole Miss 47 FINAL
(11) Miss State 55
Clemson 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 61
Maine 47 FINAL
New Hampshire 61
Vermont 48 FINAL
Albany 76
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Monmouth 48
Saint Peters 47 FINAL
Siena 64
(4) Notre Dame 67 FINAL
NC State 60
Wisconsin 62 FINAL
Penn State 56
Stony Brook 49 FINAL
Hartford 56
Northeastern 47 FINAL
William & Mary 62
St Johns 61 FINAL
Xavier 74
James Madison 74 FINAL
Delaware 71
Towson 45 FINAL
Drexel 50
Illinois State 50 FINAL
Bradley 60
Southern Ill 74 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 70
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Wichita State 66
Minnesota 76 FINAL
(17) Iowa 92
(15) North Carolina 80 FINAL
(16) Duke 81
Alabama 73 FINAL
Auburn 80
(9) Florida State 69 FINAL
Miami-Florida 55
Arkansas 41 FINAL
Missouri 57
Georgia 52 FINAL
Florida 45
Dayton 95 FINAL
Saint Louis 68
Drake 57 FINAL
Missouri State 86
Colorado 46 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 59
(19) Stanford 55 FINAL
Oregon 62
Marquette 82 FINAL
DePaul 99
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 60
Vanderbilt 49 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 79
(2) South Carolina 56 FINAL
(13) Kentucky 67
Utah 41 FINAL
Arizona 64
Ohio State 78 FINAL
Nebraska 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Which is your favorite 'return' by a Minnesota athlete?

Weekly Question