Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Neverending Spezza Argument..... and Winchester Gets His Chance

As everyone and their dogs have already reported, Jason Spezza is expected to miss upwards of 8 weeks with a right knee injury he sustained against the Maple Leafs on Monday, obviously levelling a massive blow against the Senators going forward.

Incredibly, some actually believe the Senators will be better off. The Team 1200's Steve Warne asked this question in a serious manner to guest Pierre McGuire and added that Spezza is "overrated". McGuire seemed a little surprised at the question and obviously didn't agree.

That kind of mindset is out there in Ottawa regarding Spezza but I think these people will be unpleasantly surprised when the scoring dries up even more than it already has this season.

No doubt that Spezza is having a tough year, but the guys over at the Silver Seven blog make a great point, saying that the forced rest may do Spezza's not-so-secretly injured back a world of good and get him back to being that elite playmaker that he has always been.

The loss of Dany Heatley and a new found commitment to defense have certainly hurt Spezza's numbers but I'd be willing to bet that wonky back has as much to do with it. He even took a nasty crosscheck against the Leafs and was seen struggling to get back to the bench long before his knee blew out late in the 3rd.

It's a tough situation for a hockey player when they are nursing an injury. You don't want to bring it up with the press because it looks like you are making excuses. But if you don't let anyone know, they get on you for not performing up to expectations.

I think this is the place Spezza found himself in before the knee injury. I don't know that for a fact, but I think it's a reasonable guess.

Regardless, the Senators are going to have to pull it together and get on with the games, starting with the surprising Sabres Wednesday night. Early indications from practice make it look like Jesse Winchester will slide into Spezza's spot on the top line. That's an interesting move and one I'm looking forward to seeing in action. Winchester has some offensive skill but it hasn't readily appeared in the NHL since he's been busy establishing himself as a reliable defensive presence (mission accomplished by the way). Clouston is a coach who changes his mind a lot with lines so I wouldn't etch his name into stone anytime soon.


GelatinousMutantCoconut said...

This IS a good thing.

Not because I have anything against Spezza, but because:

A) As mentioned by man, it gives him time for his back to heal as well as his knee

B) last time Spezza was injured, it gave the team new life. They banded together and went on a tear. When Spezza returned, they made it to the Stanley cup Final.

Anonymous said...

I'm also interested to see how Winchester fills the role. I would have thought that Kelly was a better fit, seeing as he's filled the role before. I'm a little surprised. I kinda liked Jesse in his current role.

I heard the comment by Warne this morning as well. Didn't agree.

I like your analysis. I also think, while not knowing for sure, that there is a very normal human element going on as well. It's just the whole atmosphere around the team and how he feels personally.

I don't know him, so I'm just speculating. But, if I try to imagine myself in his position, I would not be feeling to inspired about my position. That doesn't mean that you don't work hard, it means that the extra emotional jolt you get from feeling good about your situation is lacking.

On SensTV, there's a video where Murray is addressing the season ticket holders, where he sheds some light on his philosophy. He says that "he believes that if you make people feel important, they become important". I believe that this is a piece of Management 101.

Murray has made Carkner, Winchester, Picard, Karlsson ... feel important. He has given them opportunities that have surprised the fan base. It's pretty clear that he doesn't see Lee as an important. The regular demotions prove it. I also think that he tries to make Fisher feel important. I don't think he tries to make Spezza feel important. I think Spezza was ready for leadership recognition by way of the 'A'.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but when Fisher was out, he gave the 'A' to Kelly for a game before giving it to Spezza. Spezza got it the following game.

Also, before Heatley wanted out, there were constant rumours that Spezza would be dealt over the summer. I think that it would be entirely natural for Spezza to be thinking "Do they want me here or not?"

Lastly, organizations of any kind get messed up when people are not held accountable for nonperformance. It's called rot. Murray has not performed. He should have been canned last year. That's a black cloud that hovers over the team. I'm sure if affects players. I'm sure some are thinking "What more does this guy have to do to get fired?".