Monday News and Notes: Spezza, Karlsson, WJHC Invites

The drama over whether Jason Spezza did or did not request a trade is just the latest undesirable micro-controversy for the organization and rips the band-aid off of the wound that still hasn’t completely healed thanks to the organization’s handling of last year’s Daniel Alfredsson situation.

From the organization downplaying trade rumours of Spezza’s availability at the 2014 trade deadline, to speculation that the Senators were shopping Spezza because of his relationship with Paul MacLean or because he wanted the organization to invest in the team’s payroll, Bryan Murray had his pre-draft media availability last week wherein he did his best to quell concerns about the reasons for Spezza wanting out; blaming Jason’s desire to move on from Ottawa because he’s a lightning rod for criticism.

“With Jason I think that he feels that he’s the trigger point here or the center point of criticism. He gets lots of credit when we win, but lots of criticism when we don’t win and he probably thinks it’s easier on everyone if he moves on,” Bryan Murray explained on TSN 1200. “He does listen to all the stations and he reads all the articles, so when you point the finger, I guess after ten or eleven years, you say ‘Maybe another opportunity or another place not being the focal point all the time might be a good thing.’”

Per the The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell, Spezza’s also the victim of blame.

“According to sources close to Spezza, the scenario went down a little differently than it’s being portrayed. In his exit interview with Murray, Spezza laid his cards on the table. He told Murray that if the Senators were intent on a quick rebuild and were in the acquisition mode in terms of bringing in top-end talent, he wanted to be a part of it. But if the plan was to tear down the roster and rebuild the team with young players and draft picks, it might be best for the organization to maximize his value now and that he would not stand in the way of a deal involving him, provided it was not to one of the 10 teams in his modified no-trade clause.

But at no time did he make any demands, according to those close to Spezza. He loves Ottawa and would have been happy to stay. He likes Murray and has had a good relationship with him and the feelings are mutual. Murray would probably prefer not to deal Spezza, but sees that the player will be an unrestricted free agent in a year and knows the best thing for the organization would be to get return for him now rather than as a rental at the trade deadline if the Senators are out of the playoff picture.”

Campbell’s comments echoed those made by former NHL general manager and TSN personality Craig Button on TSN 1040 in Vancouver.

Button’s comments were captured by Sportsnet’s Chris Nichols, who has been excellently chronicling the Spezza trade watch on his own personal blog.

“I think Bryan Murray’s saying that,” began Button. “I don’t believe it. I don’t think Jason Spezza shies away from it. I think Jason Spezza has been a very good player for the Ottawa Senators. I don’t think he shies away from any type of pressure. I don’t think you can perform at over a point a game played in the National Hockey League if you’re afraid of the pressure.

“And I think it’s a situation where, I do – I think it’s unraveling in Ottawa. And I saw what happened last year with Alfredsson. You know, they wanted him to have a different role. They didn’t to pay him. I think that’s exactly what’s happened with Spezza and I think that players are now saying ‘You know what? Get me my life jacket, I know where the life raft is. I’m outta here.’

“Because I don’t think the Ottawa Senators are on a path of what you would call upward mobility. I think they’re on the downward path.”

Understandably, the incongruences between the two sides is the type of thing that will raise the ire of a fan base that has already grown sensitive to the internal budget and the team’s ability to augment the roster.

For the past few years, the Senators have relayed the message to fans that when the time comes and a move is to be made, the organization can absorb salary to improve the team’s competitiveness on the ice. Yet, despite the team’s relative competitiveness on the ice for the past three seasons, every transaction has been dollar-in and dollar-out.

As frustrating as it’s been for fans, it’s easy to sometimes forget that the players are also human. They are tuned into the organization’s situation and can get just as frustrated as the fans.

On the other hand, I don’t know what anyone else could expect Bryan Murray to say. He’s in a position to protect his employer and boss and as a result, he can’t say, “We are simply not committed to making this roster better simply by spending money at this point in time.”

Even had he come out and said, “Both parties believe it’s in their best own interests if Jason moves on,” it would have raised more questions.

Like it or not, the organization still has to sell tickets and the idea of Spezza leaving the organization for competitive reasons because the Senators are not in a position financially to make this team better, would be a tough fucking pill to swallow for season ticket holders who invest hard-earned cash into this franchise and want to see it become a winner.

Sure, there will be some naïve fans out there who will blindly believe any information the organization throws out there, but that’s their problem. So long as you can think for yourself by absorbing as much information as possible before forming my your own opinion and reaching some rational and defensible position, who really cares what the organization has to say on the matter?

Ben Harpur and Curtis Lazar Invited to Team Canada WJHC Camp

Today Hockey Canada revealed its 40-man roster for its 2014-15 National Junior Team summer camp. Two Senators prospects made the list: Guelph Storm defenceman Ben Harpur and the Edmonton Oil Kings’ Curtis Lazar.

Don Brennan Hints at Erik Karlsson Being Next Star to Ask Out

Citing maturity issues and his struggles playing a two-way game, the Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan hinted at Erik Karlsson possibly being next in the line of star players who have left Ottawa.

Brennan’s probably right about Karlsson being the next appointed whipping boy or scapegoat for the open-mouth breathing sect of the fan base (although I think a strong case could be made for Bobby Ryan being the next one out of town) that the Ottawa Sun conveniently caters to.

The article also ignores the fact that Karlsson’s defensive struggles were also blamed by MacLean on Karlsson’s confidence in his surgically repaired Achilles injury, but presenting both sides of an argument before reaching a conclusion is for schmucks – not for esteemed journalists who can appeal to the lowest common denominator and question a man’s maturity levels when that same journalist was once mature enough to pen a sports article devoted to his penis.

Elliotte Friedman’s Latest 30 Thoughts

Elliotte Friedman has penned what may have been his last entry for CBC.ca — since he inked a contract with Sportsnet — but within his ’30 Thoughts’ blog are three thoughts pertaining to Senators center Jason Spezza.

16. In the middle of all the Jason Spezza rumours, he did a really nice thing for Sam Bennett. Bennett told reporters while attending Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final that Ottawa’s captain (for now) reached out to him when news broke that the upcoming first-round pick couldn’t do a single pull-up at the NHL combine. The two work out at the same gym. So what was said? “I don’t really know Sam, but he is around the gym. So I called him because I felt bad for him,” Spezza wrote by email. “I know the pressure he must be under before the draft.”

17. He continued: “I told him that I have never really watched him play; the only reason why people are making a big deal about this is because you are an amazing player. [Don't] make what should be a positive life experience of getting drafted become a negative because of one test… I said he is probably well aware that he needs to work at his upper-body strength. Use the criticism constructively and use it to motivate, not to beat yourself up… My whole career people have told me about all the things I do wrong but it just drives me to get better… And I told him to own it, don’t be cocky about the fact that you can’t do a pull-up but don’t run from it either… Anyways, that’s kinda the Coles Notes version of my talk.” That’s great stuff. (Spezza responded through a third party — no way he’s giving me his email address right now.)

That’s a pretty classy and cool thing to do.

18. There’s a lot of linkage between Spezza and St. Louis, which makes a ton of sense. I asked four execs to name the one trade they think will happen, and Spezza to St. Louis got three votes. (This, of course, means it won’t occur. Eric Staal would also look great in a Blues jersey, if Carolina wanted to do that.) Anyway, the key name being mentioned in return is Patrik Berglund, who needs a new contract after making $3.2M last season. There are differing opinions on him. He’s bounced a bit from centre to wing and has this weird career history of strong production in odd-numbered seasons (eg. 2012-2013, which is a good omen for next year) but lower totals in even ones (2013-14).

Berglund and two prospects would be so underwhelming.

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