NHL.com have been running their 30 in 30 series for a few weeks now and today just happens to be Ottawa Senators day. Feel free to tell your boss you’re heading home early out of respect for the festivities. We said it’s okay.
There’s no sense spoiling the handful of topics covered by the writers over there, but among the more important ones is who they’ve dubbed Ottawa’s “X-Factor” — Jason Spezza.
Spezza, coming off of a back injury that wiped out most of 2013’s shortened season for him, returns to the Sens lineup as their top offensive catalyst and the premier incumbent name up front. He will not only be relied upon as a top scorer, but also as a figurehead in the dressing room. His talent is beyond dispute as one of the premier centres in the NHL, and now it sounds as though he is welcoming a bigger, brighter spotlight.
From the NHL.com story…
"He wants that to be the case, I know that from talking to Jason," Senators general manager Bryan Murray told NHL.com. "He has great respect among his teammates, in particular the young guys seem to congregate around him. He brings a lot to the table on our team."
Spezza in all likelihood will be named captain in Ottawa before the season starts. At 30 years old and with two years remaining on his contract, Spezza is a logical choice to get the nod over the other main candidate, defenseman Chris Phillips, who is 35 and entering the final year of his contract.
It may not always be easy for Spezza if he gets the "C" sewn on his sweater, considering the person he'll be replacing and the manner in which that person left the team made some fans angry. But Spezza has watched Alfredsson operate for years, and that surely will help.
"Any young player being around a guy like Alfredsson had to learn, and I think Jason had great respect for Alfie. So I think he blossomed to a degree," Murray said. "He's a real smart hockey guy. He understands the League and what goes on in the marketplace here. I think Jason brings a lot now. He's at that stage in his life where his performance level and his maturity level, he should benefit from being one of the leaders now and maybe stepping out from under that shadow."
The Sens have been adamant that despite the presence of Alfredsson in the locker room they operated on a leadership-by-committee system with the likes of Spezza, Chris Phillips and Chris Neil also active participants. While Spezza’s duties may not change pragmatically in-house if he is named captain, his public duties and perception would as the guy.
With that in mind however, it sounds as though the added burden may bring out the best in Spezza. Considering this is a player who already averages over a point-per-game for his career, that is a very exciting thought.
You can read the full NHL.com “Spezza X-Factor” piece here.
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