Admittedly, it’s pretty easy to be down on Curtis Lazar.
Since arriving on the NHL scene as a 19-year old, the young forward has struggled to assert himself at the NHL level. The blend of offensive skill, intangibles and grit that turned Lazar into the 17th overall draft selection in 2013 has not translated into strong performance since he turned pro.
In fact, in his first three seasons in the league, he’s not only been one of the least productive NHL forwards relative to his ice time, he’s now been held pointless through 21 games this season.
In each of his seasons, there have been excuses along the way. In his first year, he was just a rookie who played conservatively in depth role. Sure, that style helped limit mistakes and earned the praise of his coaches, but it didn’t grow or allow Lazar to develop confidence in his skills either.
In his sophomore year, Lazar’s performance was blamed on the fact that his spot in the lineup was always in a state of flux. It’s not that he was at risk of ever being benched, but thanks to the injuries, Lazar always seemed to be the guy who was moved around the lineup to fill whatever vacancy in the top six or top nine opened up.
In his mind, the inconsistent roles and inconsistent linemates created an identity crisis which contributed to his ineffectiveness.
This season was supposed to be different, but mononucleosis derailed his training camp and Lazar missed the entire preseason. Rather than start the season in the NHL, Lazar was optioned to Binghamton where he played in their first 13 games scoring three goals and adding an assist.
The numbers alone never warranted a promotion, but thanks to the general shittiness of the Binghamton roster, when the Senators were beset by injuries, they turned to a familiar face in Lazar.
Lazar’s struggles have been omnipresent throughout his 164 games as a pro, but because he has failed to register just one point in his 21 games played this season, the media have picked up on his struggles. They previously would have been swept under the rug or chalked to development, but coupled with the likelihood that Lazar will be left unprotected in this summer’s expansion draft, his future with the Senators has never felt less certain.
Due to these struggles and the fact that he’s already into his third season with Ottawa, it was assumed that his inherent trade value would be proportionate to his performance, but when TSN‘s Frank Seravelli published his list of the ‘Top 20 players potentially available’ before the March 1st NHL Trade Deadline, I was shocked to see Lazar be ranked 12th in the listing.
Now, this simply could be a stunning reflection of how barren the NHL trade market has become thanks to the congestion in the standings, but then you see Lazar be mentioned ahead of players like Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, James van Riemsdyk and Alex Burrows and you can’t help but wonder if there are enough general managers out there who will overlook Lazar’s recent history to trade something of value to Ottawa because of what he accomplished in junior hockey.
I love the NHL.