I get it. The style of play Jason Spezza employs isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But really after 10 or so seasons where he has put up a point per game over a career, a number that isn’t matched by very many players in this league, has he not done enough to earn a little respect from the fan base?
When did “Spezza” become a swear word? Because that’s what it became in the crowd last night. Any turnover, even when he was not on the ice when it happened, drew a “Spezz-aaa” utterance from at least one group of fans in the building.
On Tuesday night, Spezza, like all 18 of his teammates who were on the ice, failed to put up a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers. Yet, most of the ire from the frustrated fans was directed at #19. And this is nothing new. Ottawa fans have always had a “whipping boy”, who no matter what he did, it was never enough.
Against the Flyers, you could count the number of Senators players who looked like they showed up for the game on about 3 fingers. And leading the way in that category was Spezza. Yet, callers to the post game show on the radio were really quick to dump all over Spezza, doubting his leadership ability and his effort. I don’t know if those people were in the building or not, but I was, and given the quality of wingers he is playing with right now, he might as well be out there alone. There is no way Spezza should have to be the first man in on the forecheck, which he was on almost every shift, and then be expected to be the first forward back in a defensive role. It simply can’t work that way. Milan Michalek is a shell of his former self, for whatever reason, and although he tries hard, Cory Conacher has not brought the top 6 ability that he showed flashes of in the pre-season. Even the defense has been geared toward the Kyle Turris line, with Erik Karlsson playing most of his shifts with that trio instead of Spezza’s unit.
That’s all well and good, but the Turris line showed last night that they can’t always get the job done, and had a difficult time handling the Claude Giroux-led first unit of the Flyers, because Turris simply isn’t a #1 centre.
And with the vigor with which the fan base jumps on and off the Spezza bandwagon, I wouldn’t blame him one bit for waiting out his contract and jumping ship when it ends after next season. After all, why should he show loyalty to a fan base or team that has shown him none. There are two teams within a 5 hour drive that have long been without a #1 centre that would love to open up the pocketbooks and pay him what he is worth, not to mention the other 10 or so teams around the league that don’t have a true #1 pivot. If Spezza was playing in Montreal or Toronto right now, he would be in the mix for the Canadian Olympic team, rather than just the afterthought he is right now.
Spezza, with his playmaking ability being in the top 10 in the NHL, should not have an equal ratio of goals to assists. It doesn’t make sense. He isn’t Rick Nash or Dany Heatley (of 5 years ago), who have the shoot-first mentality. The fact is, Spezza Island is putting in the effort, but when he is surrounded by players who cannot finish, how could you expect anything more from him. If anything, the ire should be directed at ownerships inability (or unwillingness) to open the wallet and spend even close to the cap to bring in a winger (or retain one) who has some offensive upside.
With all the debate at the start of the season about who was going to be the Senators 6th top 6 forward, it turns out we should have also been concerned about who the 5th one would be, because the way he has played this seson, Michalek has fallen off that pedestal.
So the Senators have essentially 4 top 6 forwards, and with 3 of them on one line and as long as that situation remains, Spezza Island will be what it is….a lone wolf who has to try to do it himself, and when that doesn’t work, get pelted by the boo-birds, and it is going to drive the most talented offensive player in the franchise’s history right out of town. If and when it happens, the fan base will no doubt be critical of the decision and toss the blame around, pointing the finger at the player, ownership, the finances of the game. But, remember this post if and when it does happen, a big part of it will be the abuse thrown at him by a fickle fan base. He is not a perfect player by any means, but definitely deserves a little more respect than he gets in the good times and the bad.