The Ottawa Senators got some bad news today. Jason Spezza had Lee Stempniak roll up on his leg during a scrum last night in Toronto. It’s the kind of thing that sometimes happens to offensive linemen standing in the midst of a big pile. Spezza suffered a knee injury and it’s a fairly serious one. Cory Clouston says it’s a real possibility he’ll be gone until after the Olympic break.
The loss of Spezza certainly leaves a void but I’m not sure as it’s as dramatic as it seems at first glance. For starters, he is not their number one centre anymore. Mike Fisher is that guy, blowing past him on both the Senator and Canadian Olympic radars. This happened long before last night’s injury. Fisher is finally scoring (must…resist…country music jokes), the only missing piece of his game. He’ll be on the Sens’ number one power play unit every single time.
Jesse Winchester will move way up the depth chart, moving into the middle on Spezza’s line with Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek. Ryan Shannon and Nick Foligno (questionable for tomorrow night’s game) will get more looks on the power play.
I am keen to see what Winchester will do. He doesn’t have Spezza’s ice time, power play time, line mates, money or history but none of that had done much for Spezza this season. Spezza is the 16th highest paid player in the game and leads all Senator forwards in power play time. Yet he stands 123rd in the league in scoring.
There isn’t a centreman in the league that wouldn’t benefit from having Dany Heatley on their line. The Senators wanted Spezza to step up and prove this season he’s an NHL star in his own right. That he can do it without Heatley. That he’s worth a 7 million dollar a year investment. That he’s a true number one NHL centre. Through 30 games, he’s failed to prove any of that.
Spezza will make more this season than Joe Thornton, Zdeno Chara and Roberto Luongo, three of the best in the league at their positions. Spezza isn’t even the best at his position on his team.
With 6 years and 41 million dollars remaining on his contract, the Senators have to be praying this isn’t the real Spezza. Otherwise, they’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake.