The Sports Daily > The 6th Sens
On Spezza And His Game At Present

Anyone else find this Ottawa Sun interview with Jason Spezza over his captaincy and the evolution of his role odd?

“I find a way to get points,” said Spezza. “I’ve got to be good on the power play. I’ve always found a way to get points. It’s one thing to talk about, as your career goes on, points not being as important. It’s the reality now for me.

“I’m trying to work on other other parts of my game. I may never win a scoring race, but I’m trying to build towards winning a (Stanley) Cup, so these are things you have to go through as a player. (MacLean) has talked to me about that.

“Yeah, they could put me with offensive guys and we can score goals, but does that make me a better player? I’m not sure. I’m trying to work at it. I’m just trying to round my game out and get better at the things I’m bad at.”

Sounds like a player who is incredibly self-aware about his age, the prospect of diminishing production, and his leadership.

But as a reminder to fans, this is also the same story that has been written about Jason since Jacques Martin referred to hockey as a man’s game.

I’ve been a proponent of Spezza’s for a number of years now – essentially since the team went into the shitter following their 2007 Cup Finals appearance and he became a lightning rod of criticism thanks to his big contract, some untimely turnovers, and this perpetuated nonsense that the Sens would be better off without him.

Admittedly, Spezza has never had the greatest acumen for playing defensive hockey, however, his ability to drive the play and win faceoffs has more than made up for these shortcomings. So long as he put up points and possessed the puck more than the opposing lines that he was matched up against, he was fine.

As some have pointed out, Spezza’s still producing at a point-per-game clip – thanks in part to some inflated goals per 60 and points per 60 rates, which you can probably attribute to those two consecutive games against New Jersey and Detroit in which he tallied 4 goals and 6 points – but he’s no longer driving play.

That’s significant because historically, Spezza’s been one of the team’s better players at driving the play towards the opposition’s net.

Looking at Ottawa’s season’s since 2007/08, here is how Spezza stacked up on the team in regards to Relative Corsi:

Rel Corsi Rank

So, notwithstanding that dreadful 2009/10 campaign in which the Sens couldn’t move the puck out of their own end, Spezza’s been pretty damn good. For kicks, I looked at the defensive pairing that was most frequently on the ice with Spezza during these seasons to see if there would be some correlation between their puck moving skills and Spezza’s Relative Corsi. But, for as bad as the Volchenkov/Phillips duo was in 2009/10, this theory gets debunked upon finding out that Spezza has been paired mostly with the Methot/Karlsson tandem this season.

There are plenty of reasonable theories to help explain Spezza’s struggles. Constantly playing with a revolving door of linemates won’t help; especially when he’s still being matched up against the opposition’s best defensive pairings. There is also the matter of his health. Having undergone a second major on his back last season, has he fully recovered from the procedure or will he be able to play at the level that he was at before he got hurt? There’s also the fear that Spezza is entering the stage of his career in which we can reasonably expect his play and production to decline.

It remains to be seen, but maybe Spezza’s at an age in which he no longer can carry his linemates or make them exponentially better like he used to. A quick glance at his With or Without You (WOWY) numbers, reflects that the only teammates who have benefited from playing with Spezza are Joe Corvo, Zack Smith and Erik Condra.

I don’t think there’s any Sens fan out there who doesn’t want to see the captain get back to the level that we’re accustomed to see him play at. But, I think we’ve reached a point in his career in which it’s fair to acknowledge that he needs help.

There’s no question that having the Clarke MacArthur-Kyle Turris-Bobby Ryan line be the fifth most productive in the NHL this season helps.

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But eventually, the organization has to find some talent to help Spezza out; for his sake and their's. They will need to properly evaluate whether this season is a blip on the radar or the start of some longer-term decline.