Yesterday morning the Dallas Stars unveiled Jason Spezza to their throng of local reporters and welcomed him to their organization via an introductory press conference.
As someone who has been waiting for more candid details of his request to be traded and his reaction to how the Senators publicly handled said request, I was expecting a lot more.
The interview itself wasn’t even that juicy and only lasted a little over ten minutes At least it spared us from the kind of stupidity that Eugenie Bouchard endured during her media availabilities at Wimbledon and didn’t involve questions asking Spezza, a Dallas Cowboys fan, how much faith he has in Tony Romo as a quarterback.
There as a lot of verbal fellatio going on.
Via the Stars’ website, take a look, for example, Spezza’s answer on how he sees himself fitting in as the team’s second line center.
“I think there’s a lot of positives to this move for me. First and foremost, I think it gives me a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup and at this point in my career is all I’m looking for. I’ve been the No. 1 center where I’ve been for a long time, but I feel like to win in this League you have to have depth amongst your team and I feel like if the LA Kings and how they won is a lot of strength up the middle, so to be on a team with the center depth they already had before, having myself coming to the fold I think it puts myself and the team hopefully in a good position to compete, so that’s the reason why I feel it’s a great fit for me, is because I’m just a piece to the puzzle. You have to be willing to be that in order to win in this League. I think it’s a great fit and to have the young group and some of the young stars they have, you don’t see that very often and you hope to kind of grow with the group.”
It’s a throwaway spin comment made to make the organization that he’s coming to look good, but it was his comments about the Stars’ ownership and management group that raised some eyebrows in the nation’s capital.
“I think the opportunity to compete. I think it’s paramount to be in an organization that’s committed to winning. I think that word gets around the league fast that when a team has made a decision to try to be a team that tries to compete every year and win. This city and they’ve had success in the past and the fans have been great in the past and kind of the total package makes it a desirable place to be. So for me, I’m very fortunate to come to a sports city like this that’s passionate about the game, but also with an ownership group and with Mr. Nill that are committed to trying to win. And as a player, that’s all you want, is that opportunity to give yourself a chance to win.”
Spezza also stressed DAL ownership is committed to winning. Kind of ironic that Spezza wasn’t happy with the compete level of Sens ownership
— Steve Warne™ (@TSNSteve) July 8, 2014
There are always going to be Spezza detractors who point out that he either lacks the defensive aptitude or the willingness to do the little things away from the puck to be someone who can lead by example.
The problem is that Spezza’s a polarizing player. You either like what he brings to the table or you don’t. So even if you buy into the argument that Spezza didn’t feel like himself until the latter stages of the season, there are always going to be those critics out there who will dismiss his performance because he plays a particular way.
It’s not even worth the time trying to elaborating on the point that the Senators have historically outscored (51.8%) and possessed the puck (51.8) more than the opposition at even strength while Spezza’s been on the ice over the last seven years. His detractors have already made up their mind on whether or not he’s “a winner”, so it’s not even worth the time arguing that Spezza helped the Senators win more often than not.
Questioning his compete level however, is a tad rich.
Nothing like criticizing the compete level of the same player who rushed back and played for the Senators in the 2013 playoffs instead of just mailing it in and looking out for his own self-interests. Playing at the risk of further injury, instead of taking the rest of the season and offseason to recuperate from another operation on his already surgically repaired back reeks of a guy who just isn’t competitive.
And if the organization was that concerned about his play, his lack of attention or hustle in the defensive end, or being a poor on-ice leader, it certainly never showed. They could have given the ‘C’ to Chris Phillips, a less talented player who ostensibly looks like he’s trying in large part because he struggles on the ice. Or the organization could have simply put a moratorium on the captaincy and given a letter to a player at the upcoming training camp.
They could have done either of those things, but they didn’t.
So here we are in a situation in which it looks like Spezza is making a backhanded crack at the Senators by complimenting his new team’s ownership and their commitment to win.
And why wouldn’t he?
The Senators organization has struggled for years to surround him with talent not named Colin Greening or Milan Michalek. After those two wingers piggybacked Spezza and Karlsson’s successful 2011/12 campaigns to career years, they’ve struggled to repeat their success.
Even when the organization acquired Bobby Ryan in what was presumably a move designed to put two gifted offensive talents together, this line combination only lasted for a handful of games before being split up.
Following that decision, it took the Senators months to find a competent winger for Spezza and when push came to shove, the Senators were unwilling to commit the kind of financial resources necessary to keep Hemsky playing in a Canadian market.
Contrast the time it took to find Spezza a competent winger with the minutes it took for the Stars to announce the Hemsky signing in the wake of the Spezza trade announcement and yeah, the Stars are obviously in it to compete now.
Spezza Extension Already in the Works?
One thing of particular interest that Dallas GM Jim Nill discussed in the latter stages of the press conference was their willingness to work out an extension with Spezza.
“I’ll speak here. I’ve spoken to Jason’s agent, Rick Curran, and we’ve already talked. We’re going to let Jason get settled in here first. But we’ve already talked about it and kind of go from there. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. I just want him to get his family in here, get settled and then we’ll move forward from there.”
Considering Spezza’s uncertain future with the Stars beyond the one-year term that is left on his current deal, I’m somewhat surprised that there was never a conditional component of the trade with the Senators in the event that Spezza was re-signed.
Maybe the Senators tried to grease that wheel, but it would have been interesting to see something like: should Stars re-sign Spezza, the Sens have right to decide whether or not to flip the 2015 second rounder in exchange for Dallas’ 2016 first round pick, for example.
Other News and Notes…
– Le Droit‘s Sylvain St-Laurent made an interesting comment on the radio yesterday about how the Senators had planned on releasing news pertaining to Bryan Murray’s health when the organization felt comfortable knowing that the bulk of their moves were complete and Murray would not have to make himself available to the media.
In the wake of the Spezza trade, the organization did note that it did have something in the works with another team, but following yesterday’s announcement, I can’t help but wonder whether there’s no deal on the horizon or that the announcement was simply a result of Steve Simmons revealing the news in his Sunday column.
– On the subject of Simmons, he defended revealing the news in his Sunday column, tweeting:
I wished Bryan Murray well. Same as I have for Dick Thornton, Leo Cahill, Pat Burns, Pat Marsden, Danny Nykoluk. And lots more than that…
— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) July 8, 2014
Writing Sunday column for 26 years and wished many many people the best of health. None of it was done with anything but best of intentions
— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) July 8, 2014
Nobody should be questioning Simmons’ intentions. I’m sure he was being sincere with him comments. I only question his logic in publicly disclosing that there’s something wrong with Bryan Murray’s health when neither the man, his family or the organization have come forward and released a statement of their own. It’s an oversight on his part that warrants an apology – assuming of course, that he never had Murray’s blessing to come forward with the news.
– The legend of Curtis Lazar continues to grow. Yesterday he was named the 2014 Senators development camp’s hardest working player. It was his first Borowiecki and shockingly, the trophy awarded to him has not yet been replaced by a bronze bust of the Borocop.