Dealing Spezza might not be the answer in Ottawa
Thursday, April 17, 2008 | 08:58 AM ET
So here’s a question I was asked Wednesday: "Why do you think the Senators should trade Jason Spezza? You’ve mentioned it twice in blogs and once in a radio interview."
The answer is: I’m not certain they should. But I do believe that is the biggest decision the Senators will have to make.
In September 2006, Bryan Murray created a six-man leadership council among the players. It consists of Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Phillips, Wade Redden, Mike Fisher, Heatley and Spezza. Murray included the last two because he wanted them to start feeling ownership of the team and responsibility to it. The players – specifically Ray Emery and Redden – will take most of the blame for this year’s failure. That’s why those two will not be back – Emery as a buyout, Redden as a UFA.
Murray must decide how much farther he wants to go. And that’s where Spezza comes in.
I wrote yesterday that Spezza’s no-trade kicks in on July 1 – based on previous information I’d been given. However, another source indicates it doesn’t take effect until July 1, 2010, although Dany Heatley’s does start in three months.
At this point, though, Heatley’s value is limited. I’m not sure Murray would get reasonable return after such a disappointing season, unless he’s willing to accept a brutal contract. Any team that takes the winger accepts a six-year, $45 million risk, with a full no-move clause. And, his contract is structured so that $14 million of it must be paid out from July 1 of this year to July 1, 2009.
Now, it’s reasonable to point out that Spezza also had a down year, so what’s the difference?
The difference is that every player gets one "change of scenery" trade in their career, and Spezza’s hasn’t happened yet.
We all know Heatley’s history, and it appeared that he was making huge strides in Ottawa. Last year, I remember him talking about how much he liked the city/organization and how much he wanted to stay.
Members of the Senators public relations staff said he was one of the best to deal with and one of the most willing to accept media requests/public appearances. I’m not saying that changed this season, but there’s no doubt something happened.
He’s just not the same player, and, given his history, many teams may be afraid to take a chance.
Spezza is a different story.
I thought he was unfairly criticized after the Stanley Cup Final. He wasn’t the only opposing centre to be dominated by Sami Pahlsson, and it seemed his impressive improvement during the first 15 playoff games was totally overshadowed by his failure during the final five. I remember John Paddock telling me that Spezza asked for a specially made DVD of all his Games 1 and 2 shifts so he could try and figure out what was going wrong prior to Game 3.
That’s not the attitude of a guy who doesn’t care. We all figured he would be highly motivated to finish the job in 2007-08.
We all know now that didn’t happen. If anything, Spezza regressed. He continued to make the same opposing-blueline turnovers that drive coaches and teammates bonkers, and was a non-factor on too many nights.
But he’s only 25 (in June) and set a career high in points. In a league where youth rules, there will be serious interest if Murray makes him available, since teams find many players to be highly motivated when traded for the first time. (One edition of our Hotstove floated Spezza for Roberto Luongo, assuming the latter wants to leave Vancouver.
That’s intriguing, if entirely speculative. But if Luongo does want to move, the Canucks can do a heck of a lot worse.
The situation is similar to that of another number one centre Murray coached – Steve Yzerman. Eventually, Yzerman had to decide whether it was more important to be a 100-point player or a two-way force. We all know what he chose. A former Yzerman teammate, Mike O’Connell, figured Joe Thornton would never make the same decision and traded him at the age of 26. That’s the danger Murray faces, even though Thornton still has doubters.
Can Spezza make the right choice? That’s Murray’s gamble. It’s not a great free-agent year, and the GM knows an available Spezza becomes the most attractive commodity out there.
As the clock ticked down on the Senators season, the HNIC cameras cut to Wade Redden’s father, Gord. My exchanges with him always began the same way:
"Hello, Mr. Redden."
"Elliotte, it’s Gord."
Very, very nice man, who, like his son, really struggled with the passing of his wife, Pat, during the 2006 playoffs. Hockey is full of parents who are proud of their children, happily telling stories about them when asked. But, I’m not sure if anyone is as emotional about them as he is about Wade.
There was one game this year where I asked Mr. Redden – sorry, Gord – about his son’s favourite goals. He named two: a World Junior goal in Calgary’s Saddledome during Canada’s undefeated run of 1995; and the first score of Wade’s NHL career, in 1996 against Montreal.
"He was interviewed by Dick Irvin after the game, and after it was over, Wade sat in the studio and asked to watch the goal again. I was just excited he was being interviewed by Dick Irvin," Gord laughed.
But when he was finished, there were tears in his eyes. Couldn’t help thinking of that as he appeared on the screen.
The relationship between Wade Redden and Bryan Murray is tenuous at best. In last year’s playoffs, Murray revealed that he’d had a meeting with his defenceman during the Pittsburgh series. Redden’s response: "I wish he’d stop telling you guys that stuff."
Things didn’t get any better when Redden declined two trades – one to Edmonton at the draft, one to San Jose during the season. Even if he wanted to come back at, say, $2 million a year, I’m not sure Murray would do it. If anyone on the roster needs a change of scenery, it’s him.
I’m sure the last few weeks have been very hard for Gord Redden, seeing Wade lose confidence on the ice and seeing the organization lose confidence in him. Hopefully both of them will regain their enjoyment of the game somewhere else.
Alright, let’s settle one debate.
Canada’s second-largest market is Montreal. The Vancouver stuff is a bit of an urban myth. According to 2006 census data, the top 5 metropolitan areas are:
1) Toronto 5.1 million (up from 4.7 million in 2001)
2) Montreal 3.6 million (up from 3.45 million)
3) Vancouver 2.1 million (up from 1.986 million)
4) Ottawa/Gatineau 1.13 million (up less than 70,000 from 2001)
5) Calgary 1.08 million (up from 951,000)
(Rounding out the top 10 were Edmonton, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Hamilton/Burlington and London.)
And, if you go strictly by municipal borders alone, Vancouver actually drops to 8th – a bit of a stunner – behind Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa, Edmonton, Mississauga and Winnipeg. It’s true that Montreal is growing at a lower rate than Vansterdam, but the latter hasn’t made up 1.5 million people in two years.
This discussion is now Open. Submit your Comment.
Post a Comment
About the Author
Elliotte Friedman is the host of the CFL ON CBC. Prior to being named host in 2006, Friedman worked on the CFL on CBC broadcasts for the three seasons as a sideline reporter. A Toronto native, Friedman is well known for his additional work on Hockey Night in Canada, as well as his presence on the Torino 2006 Winter Games telecasts as a hockey reporter. Prior to joining the CBC, Friedman worked at The Score network and was widely regarded as one of the best reporters in the country. Friedman used his reporting skills to break stories and file feature reports for high profile events including six Stanley Cup Finals, four Grey Cup Championships, two World Series and one Olympic Games. He is also a regular on the nationally syndicated Prime Time Sports radio telecast, hosted by Bob McCown.
- Fall of the Argos can be traced back to Austin firing
- Friday, September 12, 2008
- Rejuvenated Matthews a good choice to revive Argos
- Tuesday, September 9, 2008
- Things I’ll never forget about Beijing 2008
- Tuesday, August 26, 2008
- Never let your emotions cloud your judgment
- Thursday, August 21, 2008
- Cheering for Priscilla Lopes-Schliep
- Tuesday, August 19, 2008
- Subscribe to From the Pressbox
- September 2008 (2)
- August 2008 (4)
- July 2008 (1)
- June 2008 (1)
- May 2008 (5)
- April 2008 (11)
- February 2008 (3)
- January 2008 (5)
- December 2007 (2)
- November 2007 (3)
- October 2007 (3)
- September 2007 (5)
- August 2007 (3)
- July 2007 (8)
- June 2007 (3)
- May 2007 (2)
- April 2007 (3)
- February 2007 (3)
- January 2007 (2)
- December 2006 (4)
- November 2006 (10)