I believe it was during our podcast that featured an interview with Gord Wilson that I first truly heard about the lengths that Jason Spezza was going to in developing into one of the team’s biggest off-ice leaders.
I’m paraphrasing now, but at the time – February 20th, 2010 – Wilson acknowledged the fact that Spezza was the driving force and organizer of many of the team’s private functions and get-togethers.
From private team parties to a very public and grandiose wedding in the heart of downtown Ottawa, Spezza’s always struck me as a someone who wants to be ‘the man’. And for years, it wasn’t easy.
From the moment that we walked through the doors to what’s now ScotiaBank Place, he has been a lightning rod for criticism. Of course it never helped that Jacques Martin dropped a “the NHL is a man’s league” and “Spezza is still a boy” bomb when Jason participated in his first training camp. From there, he was maligned by fans because he wasn’t enough of a complete player for their liking; and he would make those patently ill-advised drop passes at the opposition’s blue line.
Too often his elite offensive skill set was taken for granted. Even during their recent downturn that necessitated the team’s retooling, some (myself included) openly wondered whether a Spezza trade could expedite the process. That’s what losing and systemic shitty hockey does to you: they make you want to trade your best aging players for young, unproven and inexpensive assets.
Thankfully, Senators management exposed the fact that in the current NHL climate, it’s easier to maximize value and get teams to overpay for second and third line talent than it is to get top value for established stars. By peddling the Kellys, Fishers and Campolis of the world, management traded this bevy of expendable talents for a number of early draft selections – which in turn, could be used to augment and build around Spezza and other established players.
Now 29 years of age, Spezza’s no longer the boy that Jacques talked about at that 2002 training camp. He’s a veteran who is stepping up and relishing that leadership role.
Fast forward to the present date – with the uncertainty enshrouding the start of the 2012/13 season, Spezza has rallied many of his teammates to join him in New York for a significant meeting of the NHLPA's membership.
“It just looks good on the team,” Methot said. “We’re supporting the union, we’re supporting the cause and we’ve got to represent our team well. We want to show that Ottawa is involved as a team, as well. I know Spezza has been texting all of us, making sure we’re ready to go. He has taken the reins on that and we’re following suit.”
In case you were wondering who the next captain of the Senators will be when Alfie decides to hang them up, look no further than the team's number one center.