Elliotte Friedman Talks Spezza and Ryan’s Future: “I think both of those guys will be looking at a new partner. “

Hockey Night in Canada‘s Elliotte Friedman appeared on Calgary’s Fan 960 this morning to touch upon a number of NHL topics, but with Friedman being in Ottawa for tonight’s Canadiens/Senators broadcast on the CBC, the interview immediately focused upon a number of Senators related issues.

While Friedman does discuss how this season has gone sideways on the Senators, his comments on Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan’s future and how the Senators may approach this offseason are illuminating and offer a realistic outsider’s perspective on the likelihood that the Senators are going to be able to retain one or both players. I know in such a downtrodden year, fans don’t want to dwell on the negative or hear pessimistic approach, but maybe it would do some of these more optimistic fans some good to hear a well respected voice like Friedman comment on the matter.

I’ve transcribed the important stuff below, but if you want to listen to the full interview, you can stream it at the bottom of this post or conversely, you can access it here.

As always, my thoughts will be in bold.

On what Friedman makes of the Ottawa Senators…

“They’re definitely up and down. They have spurts as you’ve said and they can’t sustain anything. This has been a bit of a nightmare year for them. They’ve had a number of their key players take steps back – whether it’s (Jared) Cowen or (Patrick) Wiercioch or even (Jason) Spezza’s having kind of a weird year. (Craig) Anderson and (Robin) Lehner haven’t been as good as they were last year; although last year, they were superhuman. This hasn’t been… and I mean, it’s all epitomized by a game you’ve got to win on Wednesday night. You’re playing the Islanders and you lose to them and although they didn’t play that badly, I mean, you can’t be losing to them at this time of year. It’s kind of the season it’s been.”

The Islanders game. The Calgary game. The Edmonton game. That Montreal game in which the Senators blew a three-goal lead with under four minutes left to play in the third. There have simply been too many of these punch to the gut losses this season. 

On what to expect next year and whether the Senators are trending forward…

“Well, I think the thing with Karlsson and I was talking to some guys in the organization about him yesterday, is that there’s a feeling that as well as he’s played offensively, he’s still not there in terms of his defensive coverage yet. And it’s not just the fact that he’s a one-way guy, it’s just that he, they said, doesn’t seem confident yet after his injury on his puck retrieval and things like that. So I think Erik Karlsson can be a lot better.”

In this upcoming Monday’s Number’s Game analytics piece for the Ottawa Citizen, I’ll be looking at and contrasting Erik Karlsson’s 2011/12 Norris Trophy winning campaign with this season’s numbers. 

On other factors that contributed to Ottawa’s disappointing campaign…

“You know, the thing that really hurt them this year is they had a couple of young defencemen who were very good for them in Cowen and Wiercioch who’ve taken major steps back this year. And I think you look at that and you say, ‘Okay, is that a one-year drop?’ or are they going send those guys home this summer (and) say, ‘Work out, rebuild your confidence and we’re going to start all over again with you next year.’ So that’s number one. I think Spezza and (Bobby) Ryan are going to be very interesting because both of those guys are one-year away from unrestricted free agency. It would not surprise me in the least if Jason Spezza is traded this summer. I think they kind of look at each other… it’s sort of like a marriage that has gone a bit stale, you know? I don’t know if you’re familiar with that concept or that’s happened to you, but (it’s) a marriage that goes a little bit stale. And I think they’re at a point now where you can continue or you can look for a new partner and I think both of those guys will be looking at a new partner. It’s interesting with Bobby Ryan too. He’s out for the rest of the year and he talked yesterday. I think the Senators, if they can’t get him to sign long-term, they might have to look at moving him too. They’re a franchise that’s at a bit of a crossroads.”

Swell.

I have written about this before, but I can’t say with any confidence that it would be prudent for the Senators to invest more than 20.0% of your internal budget on two players who can only impact the game heavily in one aspect (offence). 

As much as I like these two players, I just don’t believe that they’re building blocks for this franchise at this point and time. In Spezza’s case, I’d be wary about investing heavily in term and dollar on a player over the age of 30 who has already had two major back surgeries. And with Ryan, it’s a bit more difficult to evaluate him because of the way his sports hernia affected him physically, but the organization is going to have to weigh whether or not his trade value (and salary space created) exceeds whatever contributions that he can make on the ice.

The greatest concern is that the status quo remains and the Senators never really takes that big step forward from a playoff bubble team to a contender – languishing away in mediocrity and wasting the prime and inexpensive years of players like Kyle Turris and Erik Karlsson. Perhaps adding more young pieces (ie. draft picks and prospects) to this roster and fervently searching for underappreciated commodities via trade and free agency — like the organization did with Kyle Turris, Ben Bishop, Clarke MacArthur — is the best route to go rather than be content with the status quo? 

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