— Sarah Jean Maher (@sarahjeanmaher) May 25, 2014
David Rundblad would admit that the unendingly mounting hype surrounding Lazar is getting out of control, so just when you think the Curtis Lazar Hype Machine can’t get any bigger, his Edmonton Oil Kings knock off the Guelph Storm to capture the Memorial Cup.
On one hand, I’d like to caution against getting too caught up in the hype and setting sensible expectations for Lazar as a professional.
On the other, this is the prospect porn indulging city of Ottawa – a place where message boards, social media and even Eugene Melnyk promote the hell out of the team’s farm system in which Curtis Lazar is the crown jewel.
It certainly helped that Lazar has thrived offensively everywhere he has gone this season:
- 41 goals and 76 points in 58 regular season games
- 10 goals and 22 points in 21 WHL playoff games
- Two goals and four points in the Oil Kings’ five Memorial Cup games
- Three goals and seven points in seven games representing Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships
Relative to his peers in a farm system has its share of depth but has been routinely ranked in the lower half of third party prospect valuations (see here and here), Lazar’s emergence and play given fans hope that the organization has a projectable talent who has a very good chance of fulfilling his potential.
Better yet, it’s not the offensive accolades that are grabbing all of the attention. Thanks to Lazar’s infamous bag carrying story and to being named the Memorial Cup tournament’s most sportsmanlike player, Lazar’s intangibles however have become something of lore.
With the Senators organization doing their best to publicly hang their 2013/14 season’s shortcomings on leadership and accountability instead of pinning it on talent, many in the nation’s capital are yearning for the days when his mystical leadership qualities can fill the void left by the departed Daniel Alfredsson or better yet, inspire Chris Neil to take less dumb penalties.
To hear some tell it, many expect to see Lazar in a Sens jersey as early as next season.
As much as the idea that the organization’s best prospect could be on the verge of playing in the NHL, it’s not like we shouldn’t pretend that there are a number of obstacles for him to overcome that could keep him off of Ottawa’s roster.
Although there are expected to be a lot of moving parts this offseason and the trio of Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky isn’t expected back, it’s naïve to assume that Lazar will be ready to play in a top six capacity in 2014/15.
The problem therein is that it may not make much sense to keep Lazar in the fold if he’s being used in a bottom six capacity when the roster is riddled with other other prospects like Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau who are more accomplished professional players (at least in the AHL) and who have also accrued NHL experience.
Coupled with the presence of the Colin Greening, Zack Smith and Chris Neil line that Paul MacLean used far too often and puck possession wizard Erik Condra entrenched on the fourth line, there simply may not be that many available spots for Lazar to fit.
Granted, there is a ton of time between now and the start of training camp and as I mentioned earlier, there are a ton of moving parts at this time of the year. Lazar’s name, pedigree and intangibles means that his name is going to continue to be mentioned recurrently throughout the course of the offseason as Bryan Murray looks for ways to alter his roster.
Get used to it.