It’s All Uh-Oh-ver

And they’re off.

No not the Senators…yet.

The whiners, second guessers, and down right bandwagon jumpers.

I’m not Pollyanna sunshine, puppy dogs and kissing babies here, but come on, missing the post season for the first time in over a decade is hardly a reason for tear it down introspection, as is being writ large on Ottawa all sports radio today.

The local sports jockeys (who I honestly enjoy listening to) were all gung-ho to pin the bulk of the teams failures on Spezza.  Now, to be fair, they did try to mitigate their attack somewhat by pointing to the fact that he alone among the supposed big 4 has no NTC, thus attracting their attention as the most viable trade option, but, when accompanied by statements like “points don’t matter” and “100 points is all well and good, but why not 120 pts. if that’s what he can get?”,  it seems pretty obvious a teams failures can be rather easily boiled down to an individual failure, in the minds of some.

They point to the chimeric intangible “Effort”.  Or worse, the fact he isn’t ready to punch Mendes in the face after a loss.  Are people really so shallow that they believe he made it to the NHL, through the Canadian development system, on pure talent, and no desire?  Do people really believe that if he isn’t ready to destroy somebody after a loss he doesn’t care?  Honestly, I doubt it.  More likely they’re just scape-goating a guy, which is fine, I guess, it’s been done to every player, great or not.

But when it comes to “Effort”, what about Fisher?  This guy signed a deal based on his supposed great effort, and leadership.  How does he get a pass?  How do people make statements like “I’d take 1 Fisher over 2 Spezza’s any day”?  Seriously?  I don’t want to bust on Fish either, but if 12 goals is anywhere near his showing an effort, why not just sign a hard working 4th liner for a fraction of the cost?  Lets face it, from the mid point of last season, to the hiring of Clouston, this team has been a mess.  In that stretch, top to bottom, nobody has looked particularly good, NOBODY.

Do I like Spezza?  Sometimes.  And, undoubtedly, this appears to add fuel to the fire of those wanting to extricate his (negative?) influence from this team.  Sometimes he’s awesome, sometimes he’s not.  But here’s where reality sets in.  Name that 100% awesome player.  You can’t.  For any salary.  In any position.  I can go down the list of top scorers and point out bad years, or endemic weaknesses in their games now, or in the past.

On the radio many names were bandied about as possible replacements, or examples of better players as #1 centres, and I won’t dispute any of them, this year.  And that’s the rub.  Players have bad years, teams have bad years.  To decide to throw away a player of Spezza’s ability, out of frustration, is, IMO, stupid.

Look no further than Redden.  He sucked for 2 years.  He wasn’t resigned, thank goodness, but, and this is the thing to remember, he also wasn’t replaced.  Why?  Because replacing top tier players isn’t an easy proposition.  Redden wasn’t a top tier player, and as such it was good that he wasn’t re-signed, but his vacating a #1 defenseman role exemplifies what happens when you have a hole on your roster that only a select few can fill…it generally remains unfilled, and you either pay through the nose (Campbell), or wait (suffer?) to get lucky via the draft.

Spezza has been among the best forwards in the NHL, both regular season, and post season.  Is he perfect?  Hells no.  Would I sign him today for his current contract?  Hells no.  But I also don’t go around looking a gift horse in the mouth.  In the absence of a viable alternative, I’ll take a guy who scores 30 goals, 68 pts, in an off year, over a guy who does the same, in a career year.  To trade Speazza now, would be to buy high, sell low, and in all likelihood it is the receiving team that will benefit, not the Ottawa Senators.  I know his salary is an anchor right now, and that is a real issue, but not until the following season, and I do not believe a NTC means NT.  If a player isn’t wanted, he’ll leave, especially if he has a number of years remaining on the deal.

I suspect both Mr. Murray and Big Mel will sit down with Jason, and ask him very candidly if he enjoyed the last 2 seasons.  If he enjoyed the media scrutiny.  If he enjoyed the bulk of the blame for his teams failure.  We all know the answers will be “No!”.  Then he’ll be asked if he wants it to continue.  Because there are only 2 ways for Jason to make it stop, ask for a trade, or take the next step in his development as a true elite centreman.

Not so long ago Alfredsson faced much the same criticism, and we all know how that turned out.

Now, if some GM wants to trade a budding elite centre (i.e. Stamkos) for Spezza, well then, lets shake on it, but a combination of draft picks/prospects, and a middling player or 2…I’d pass.

You don’t go to war with the army you want, you go to war with the army you have.

And when you look at the Sens lack of prospect depth…what you see is what you get, barring a lopsided trade.


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