Jason Spezza and Paul MacLean Not On Same Page?

Throughout the course of the season, one prevailing theme has been the disconnect or the inability to deliver a coordinated and consistent message. Whether it’s been Eugene Melnyk, Cyril Leeder, Bryan Murray, the coaching staff or the players, Senators fans have been inundated with contradictory statements and conflicting messages.

Not only has it been maddeningly unnerving, it’s made an incredibly disappointing season that much harder to endure. If anything, it has made the public’s faith in this franchise waver.

The latest incident stems from today’s morning skate in which Jared Cowen and Colin Greening did not practice with their teammates, but Jason Spezza returned and participated in line rush drills with his regular linemates Milan Michalek and Ales Hemsky.

After scratching Spezza from Monday’s game against Carolina because of some undisclosed injury, MacLean at the time, would not rule Spezza out for tonight’s game.

On the surface, judging by Spezza’s participation alone, it seemed reasonable to assume that he would return to the lineup and play in tonight’s game and those hopes were strengthened after the practice when Spezza acknowledged to reporters that he optimistically declared himself a game-time decision.

Oddly enough, less than 15 minutes after Spezza spoke with the media, head coach Paul MacLean addressed the masses in his availability and ruled Spezza out.

It wouldn’t be fair for me to comment on whether there is any disconnect between MacLean and his players, but this would not be the first time that the Senators have held veteran players out of the lineup. Earlier this season, MacLean raised eyebrows by scratching defenceman Marc Methot for two games in late January (Jan. 21st @ Washington and Jan. 23rd @ Tampa Bay).

At the time, fans were led to believe that Methot was being held out for precautionary reasons, however Methot expressed frustration because he believed he was healthy to play.

Did Spezza and MacLean have ample opportunity to discuss the captain’s health before either party talked to the media?

Possibly, but who knows?

Could the circumstances change and could we ultimately see Spezza dress for tonight’s game if he feels that he’s ready to play and contribute?

I certainly wouldn’t rule that out either.

In fact, the only guarantee that I can make is that the fans and the media are going to sensationalize this miscommunication, which in turn will lead to speculation on Paul MacLean’s future with the organization.

If this were any other year, this incident would probably blow over pretty quickly or not even arouse suspicion, but considering everything that has gone, it’s inevitably going to be a hot button issue.

Of course it doesn’t really help matters that the local media has played up Bryan Murray’s comments on Paul MacLean’s job security on Ottawa radio last week.

“Well, I don’t have any definite answers but Paul’s got a contract going forward. He was coach of the year last year. I don’t know what happened this year necessarily, as far as performance is concerned. I think he’s a very good coach. I think he has the ear of the players in the room. We’ve had some really tough outings and I guess, it’s shared amongst a lot of people – myself included – we thought our team was better. We thought we had enough skill here to offset a couple of little things that we were missing last year. From the outset, it didn’t work out. Was it because of the departure of Daniel Alfredsson? Was it that we overestimated a couple of our young guys? I think all of those evaluations will take place and will continue with ten games to go. We’ll be watching very closely with the effort that’s put forward here, but I’m certainly not going to make and not planning to make any decisions until the 82 games have gone by the board and we make a decision based on the whole year.”

It’s already been a difficult season for anyone who’s watched this team, but this latest distraction is annoying in the sense that the associated negativity that comes with it arrives at a time in which its been incredibly fun to watch the Senators play. As improbable as it is that this team can miraculously run the table and win each of its remaining games, they have been winning games and until they lose, the bubble hasn’t burst on the season.

If and when it does, sure, let the negativity and micro-analysis of what went wrong this season prevail. In the meantime, I just want to enjoy the games.

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