Sports is all about capitalizing on windows of opportunity.
When the Senators traded Jason Spezza in July of 2014 to the Dallas Stars, it left many Senators fans cursing the organization for selling low on their captain and not cutting bait years earlier when the playmaking centre originally expressed an interest in a change of scenery.
After Bryan Murray’s attempts at trading Spezza to Nashville, a team that was not on Spezza’s list of teams that he could be traded to, for a package similar to what the Penguins received for James Neal, Murray essentially had to acquiesce to Dallas’ offer of Alex Chiasson, prospects Alex Guptill and Nick Paul, and a 2015 second round pick.
The return was underwhelming then and it’s even more underwhelming now.
Although he was billed as a player whose age, size and pedigree meant that he had projectable upside, Chiasson’s production and underlying metrics in Dallas told the story of a player who was destined to be a bottom-six player.
In Ottawa, he was exactly that, but because he was the one piece of the return who was young and actually NHL-ready, he was often unfairly portrayed as the key piece of this deal. Eventually, the expendable Chiasson was dumped on the Calgary Flames for an AHL depth player in Patrick Sieloff.
The prospects haven’t fared much better.
Alex Guptill was an afterthought throw-in in last year’s trade deadline move that brought Phil Varone and Jason Akeson into the fold from the Buffalo Sabres. He is now playing with the Atlanta Gladiators in the ECHL.
Nick Paul’s taken a step back this season and in late February, he was publicly criticized by Pierre Dorion who labeled the prospect as his “biggest disappointment” in Binghamton this season. Through 56 AHL games, he has 10 goals and 28 points – both new professional regular season highs — but, Paul has routinely been passed over whenever the opportunity for an AHL call-up has arisen.
The second round pick that the Senators acquired from Dallas was parlayed at the 2015 NHL Draft with a 2016 conditional third round pick for New Jersey’s second round selection that allowed the Senators to move up and grab Gabriel Gagne.
The 20-year old winger is currently with Ottawa’s ECHL affiliate, the Wichita Thunder, where he was tallied six goals and five assists in 18 games. He has spent 24 games in Binghamton, but his minutes have been limited and he has zero goals and three assists on the stat sheet. The toolsy project is a long ways from playing regular NHL minutes.
Considering how Paul MacLean handled Jason Spezza in the aftermath of the Bobby Ryan trade, I could never really fault Spezza for asking to be moved. The team’s best offensive centre always seemed like a bit of an afterthought who was relegated to playing with lesser skilled players because MacLean felt more comfortable giving those opportunities to younger centres like Mika Zibanejad and Kyle Turris. It wasn’t really until near the trade deadline when the Senators acquired Ales Hemsky that Spezza found his stride again, but by that point, it was like the damage was already done.
Beyond being closer to his beloved Cowboys, I’m not really sure what the allure to playing in Dallas was for Spezza.
It’s possible he, like a number of hockey analysts, viewed them as a team on the rise that had more resources available and was fewer pieces away from Stanley Cup contention. Perhaps he wanted to escape playing in a Canadian market where he could play in anonymity behind Tyler Seguin but not have his performance be scrutinized heavily by a cynical sect of the fan base who emphasized his shortcomings rather than embrace his talents and what he could bring to the table.
Whatever the case, Dallas’ road to success hasn’t exactly been a smooth one since Spezza arrived.
In his first season, the Stars finished sixth in the Central Division and missed the playoffs.
The following year, the Stars pushed the St. Louis Blues to a game seven and were just one win away from playing in the Western Conference finals, but this season, the Stars sit in sixth-place within their division and are at risk of the missing the playoffs for the second time since the Spezza trade was made.
Obviously it’s unfair to expect linear development that sees a franchise achieve greater levels of success each season, but the Stars are a franchise whose underlying numbers improved each season culminating with 2015-16’s 52.56 CF%, but this season, the Stars took a step back.
Now it appears as though they are poised to let veterans like Jiri Hudler, Ales Hemsky and Patrick Sharp test free agency while paving the way for the next generation of young players. The thing is, their farm system has been panned as one of the league’s worst, so barring a series of significant offseason transactions, it’s hard to believe that this team can contend in either of the two years left on Spezza’s deal.
Uproar Over Jersey Numbers
So the City of Pittsburgh is up in arms each and every time a player dons a jersey embroidered with the no. 66 on it (read: Josh Ho-Sang, T.J. Brodie), but if we’re really going to complain about undeserving players wearing a Hall of Famer’s jersey number that’s in the 60’s, let’s talk about how many unrecognizable shitbags don Erik Karlsson’s no. 65.
Hockey-Reference.com‘s database indicates that eight other players have worn no. 65 this season: Andre Burakovsky; Danny DeKeyser; Yanni Gourde; Alexandre Grenier; Ron Hainsey; Karlsson; Markus Nutivaara; Daniel O’Regan; and Andre fucking Shaw. None of these names are made up. They’re actually real people who played in the NHL this season. Yes, Yanni Gourde is a real name and you’re right, even his parents believe wholeheartedly that he never should have merited serious consideration to wear no. 65.
Do the right thing, Gary Bettman. Ban these players and future incompetents from ever wearing no. 65. It’s the right thing to do. #make65greatagain
Sweden Pushing for Players to Develop At Home
On day three of the general managers meeting in Boca Raton, Swedish hockey officials convened with the 30 NHL general managers to discuss player development.
Somewhere, Mikael Wikstrand is saying, “See!”