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.