After a long road trip to start the season with plenty of ups and a few more downs, Jason Spezza and his Ottawa Senators are finally coming home to familiar territory.
It has become customary for Spezza to take early season flack for something or other—valid or not—and the pundits didn’t have to wait long to make their presence known. With a finicky groin that flared up in pre-season, it came back enough to take the captain out of the game in Los Angeles.
But with some rest and a couple of line shuffles, Spezza helped salvage the abysmal looking road trip by potting a hat trick last night against the Phoenix Coyotes. The goals weren’t exactly all highlight reel worthy but he’ll surely sacrifice the style points for the win on the board.
The Senators may only be sporting a mediocre-looking record of 2-2-2 but considering how frazzled and panicked their play on the ice seemed for long stretches, the team will happily take it.
It’s no question the team is going through an identity search to start the year with so many key changes in personnel. While the work ethic and battle level will continue to be under the microscope and with good reason, the leadership is something that shouldn’t be worried about — not with Spezza anyway.
It has been a long time coming for this home grown player to settle into a large and permanent leadership role and with Daniel Alfredsson’s departure, it was a no-brainer to stick the C on Spezza’s chest.
Spezza has endured many hardships and faced more than a few obstacles to get to where he is today. As a hot shot top prospect entering the NHL, he still wasn’t like many other stars who were instantly thrust into burdening and important roles.
The expectations were there, of course, because that’s what second overall draft picks come with. But he battled in the minors and paid his dues before becoming a regular NHL roster player.
Now, with some mileage, experience, and maturity under his belt, there’s no doubt he has grown into his own as a Senator that isn’t limited to on the ice. We all know about his personal involvement with charities in the community that certainly doesn’t go unnoticed. Not only that but he has gotten married in this city and is raising his family here, proving those roots well-planted.
Because of the Alfredsson situation, it’s understandable for Senators fans to keep guarded and hesitant about placing trust in someone who is supposed to lead and be the face of the team. But considering the kind of scrutiny Spezza is under 100 per cent of the time, his commitment to the Senators has never faltered.
Hopefully the next time someone criticizes Spezza about an unfortunate pass or questions his ability to carry a team on his back, they’ll stop and realize this team is a hundred times better with him in the lineup and that he’s integral to team success.
The first six games may have been an indication of some growing pains yet to endure this season but confidence in Spezza’s leadership will go a long way and that’s something the players do not lack.