Lost in the recent round of “trade Jason Spezza” rumors is the fact that there will not be a #1 centre coming back in the deal. Let’s face it, a team acquiring Spezza is doing so because either 1) they don’t have a #1 centre already; or 2) they want a 1 and 1A scenario. That means that IF, and I still think it is a big IF, Spezza gets traded, that thrusts Kyle Turris into the #1 centre role full time.
Turris has shown that he can centre the top line on the Ottawa Senators. But, that doesn’t mean he is a #1 center. There is a difference. Spezza has been an #1 center in the past, and although he has been limited by health reasons the past two seasons, still has that pedigree. I have in the past questioned whether or not Turris would ever get to that level. Although his play has been impressive both filling in for Spezza in the lockout shortened 2013 season and also sort of sharing that role with Spezza in the 2013-14 season, I am still not entirely convinced. I am more comfortable than I was 2 years ago, but there is still a gap there.
Turris still doesn’t appear to be physically strong enough to battle other teams top blueliners on a nightly basis. Without Spezza on a nightly basis to support him, opponents can really focus on Turris and lean on him physically. Whether he can take that constant pounding every night as the focus remains to be seen. Spezza had a nightmare season and still out-scored Turris, albeit his defensive play regressed greatly. Spezza, wherever he is playing next year, will have to turn that stat around to still be considered a #1 centre.
You could compare Turris somewhat to a guy like Derek Stepan, and the Rangers are proving you can win without a true #1 pivot. The difference is that the Rangers have a physical, skilled, big and deep blue line and also a guy named Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes. Ottawa does not have such a luxury at this point, at least with any consistency.
The Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins proved this spring that having top end offensive players don’t guarantee anything, but thrusting Turris into the #1 spot, and his readiness to accept such a role has to be considered before the Senators jump into a trade that sends Spezza out of town.