With reports indicating that former captain Daniel Alfredsson is back in town skating at the Sensplex, it was a good time for Jason Spezza to make a radio appearance.
SPEZ FOR CAPTAIN IN 2013/14 WHOOO!
Fortunately, with the emerging popularity of bloggers transcribing radio interviews, it means one thing: Spezza speaks, Lund translates and I can pillage most of the content while adding in my own commentary.
If you want to listen to the interview itself, you can check do so here, or stream at the bottom of the post.
As always, my thoughts in bold.
On Alfie's departure...
“Alfie called me the day before free agency and we talked, we had a good talk. I was really surprised — I think as anybody was — to hear that he was going to move on. I respect his decision as a player and I think he wants to have a chance to win and he wanted to go somewhere else and kind of see what was out there. I really respected him calling me and explaining his reasoning and I wish him nothing but the best. There will be no ill will held towards Alfie. He's taught me a lot and he's done great things for our team and the community but we'll move on and I think we have a real good club too.”
With these popcorn answers, Spezza could find a second career as a politician. Fluff up the exiting vet? Check. Acknowledge and respect the vet’s rationale? Check. Prop up your own team because you’re not going to say anything otherwise, even if it weren’t true? Check.
On if he saw the move coming:
“No, to me it was completely out of the blue. You'd have to talk to him at a later date probably to see if there was a thought throughout the last year but to me it was completely out of the blue. I knew he was going to come back and play because he had felt pretty good all year but to me it was just more of a decision where if he was going to come back and play and if he did it was inevitable that it was going to be with us, but that's sport and that's hockey and we respect his decision.”
The fans, the media, management, ownership and Jason Spezza… the list of individuals who took news of Alfie’s return for granted still continues to grow.
On if the change in free agency rules affected the process:
“I have too much respect for Alfie to get into our conversation and his reasons why. He'll kind of map out why he made his decision over the course of time but I think maybe having the chance to talk to teams (played a role) but only Alfie knows why his decisions were made and I wouldn't really feel comfortable talking about what we talked about. I think the free agency period is good for guys, it's good for teams to be able to talk to guys and it gives guys a few more days to think about things instead of making rash decisions but, as for Alfie making his decision, he's the only one that should speak upon it.”
Reasons meaning there was more than one? You mean the decision to leave was not necessarily all about having a chance to selfishly pursue a chance at the Stanley Cup? I’m shocked. Shocked, I say!
Cue the clamouring for an Alfie tell all in which he can hold court with the Ottawa media in which we’ll be treated to the following exchange…
Reporter: “Alfie, why did you leave?”
Alfie: “I wanted a chance to win the Cup.”
Reporter 2: “But why leave now after you had your opportune to leave when Ottawa started the rebuild years ago? Why not leave for Detroit when you were younger, better, and do it while the Wings had Lidstrom? If you’re going to throw the Sens under the bus, you can do it now.
Reporter 2: “No? Okay, so what number are you going to wear in Detroit?
Expecting anything out of Alfredsson that hasn’t been said to this point is preposterous. Fans expecting him to shine some light on potential ownership issues or expose the organization being in a state of financial crisis, can keep dreaming. It’s never going to happen.
Besides, Alfie being a class act who won’t jeopardize the legacy that he has here in the City of Ottawa.
Between rumours of Ottawa’s financial difficulties in the fall of 2012 on the Fan 590, to Ottawa’s relatively small payroll, to Melnyk’s fervent appeals to City Council not to sole-source the casino bid process, investigative journalists don’t need Alfie to validate anything for them to start poking their heads into the state of the Senators’ finances. You can bet it’s already happening.
On his departure motivating the Senators:
“I think we feel like have a really good team and I don't think I agree with the assessment that they're in a much better place than us to win. We've made some good acquisitions and his decision was made on what he felt was best for him personally. We feel strongly about our group here and we think we've made some big strides. With all the injuries last year guys have had a chance to step up and play in a bigger role than they would have last year. I think that coupled with us coming back healthy, hopefully we can take the next step as a group. Every year is a new challenge and you really can't rest on a good season last year.”
Love me some offseason player clichés; 1) how this season is going to be better than the last; 2) how they’re motivated; 3) how they have something to prove; and 4) how you can’t rest on your laurels.
On possibly being named the next captain:
“If you ask any player you'd love to have the distinction of being captain of your club. It's something that I pride myself on being a leader in our room and we've always led as a group leadership core. I think it'll continue that way whether it's me or someone else as captain. I feel like I'm one of the leaders on our team that has to be good night in and night out and make sure things are running smoothly in the room and take a lot of responsibility with how I'm playing. If it does happen I don't think there's much in the way I have to handle myself that'll have to change and that couldn't have been said five or six years ago. We'll see what happens, we don't make those decisions but it's definitely something I'd love to have a chance to do.”
How can Ottawa possibly turn away from Spezza as its captain now?
It’ simple, they can’t and Spezza’s got a wonderful opportunity here.
With two years left on his current deal, coming off a second back surgery, it’s not like he was necessarily well positioned for a long-term, retirement contract to keep him in the fold in Ottawa. Now with Alfie moving on, he’s getting some of that leverage back. Assuming he gets the ‘C’, could the Senators balk and walk away (even though they will have incredibly rational reasons for being hesitant to re-up) after this PR snag with the loss of Alfie? Stay tuned.
In the meantime, I’ll have recurring nightmares about the Senators turning into the late 2000’s Buffalo Sabres (ie. Bobby Ryan and Spezza leaving in two years like Chris Drury and Danny Briere, Ottawa’s prospects not winding up being as good as advertised and the goaltending having to carry a deep but not overly talented group.)
On the group leadership dynamic:
“We've always leaned on each other. Myself, Alfie, Philly (Chris Phillips), Chris Neil, Erik (Karlsson), we've all been together for a long time, especially me, Philly, Alfie and Neiler. Not much will change in our room but we'll see where it goes. You have to lead as a group within a dressing room, there's so many different personalities, there's not one guy that can just be the sole leader of a team. I think we have a great nucleus and a great leadership group. You hear Mac (Paul MacLean) refer to it all the time. When we have meetings it's not one-on-one Mac and the captain, it's five or six of us that get together and kind of bounce things around.”
Not to read too much into Spezza’s comment, but haven’t you ever wondered at times how much we (the fans and the media) have built up Alfie’s reputation as a great leader without ever really knowing what goes on with the dynamics of the actual locker room?
Even if it wasn’t intended and baseless, I find Spezza’s willingness to credit the collective without singling Alfie out as a great leader, to be interesting.
On adding Bobby Ryan:
“He's a heck of an addition for our club. When I saw that I was pretty excited. He'll bring a different element to our team that maybe we haven't had in a few years. To get a guy at his age that's in the prime of his career that feels like he's got a bit more to give — I talked to him he's really excited about coming and I think there's a lot of things I think I can probably help him along with to make him a better player. If we get a chance to play together that'll be great and if we don't there's still a lot of great things in his game he can bring to our team. I'm excited, I hope I get a chance to play with him and it's a great acquisition.”
Here’s a the list of right wingers who have spent time playing with Jason Spezza since Dany Heatley: Bobby Butler, a declining Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, and a handful of games with a rookie in Jakob Silfverberg.
With the exception of one ridiculously productive season from Milo, Spezza hasn’t had much to work of late, but this will change with the acquisition of Bobby Ryan.
As a player who, again, has two years left on his deal, if Spezza’s going to strike it rich one last time before becoming a UFA, he could do worse than having an in his prime goal scorer in Bobby Ryan on his flank.
On how close the Sens are to contention:
“I don't think you ever want to get too far ahead of yourself in this league, but I think we have a team that I feel should make the playoffs this year and if you get into the playoffs and things are going well, everyone has a chance. We're in a tough, tough division right now but I feel like we have a great team and we made a lot of strides two years ago, we've made more strides last year. If we can continue to kind of keep building our foundation we have a chance to contend, but you've got to get into the playoffs first and that's no easy task.”
On his health:
“I feel great and the only impact it has had on my training is it's making me feel really motivated to make sure I'm coming to camp in great shape and excited to go. I can't remember having the excitement coming towards a season like I have right now for a long time just because of the time that I've missed. I'm feeling good, I'm able to train full. I started skating probably three or four weeks earlier than I normally would and I've been skating three or four times a week just because I missed so much time that I want to make sure I'm getting the proper reps in so it's no surprise to my body come training camp. It's been a fun summer for me, I haven't had to worry too much about the injuries. With a back you never really cast it aside and expect to never hear from it again, it's something that'll be a career long thing where I have to make sure I'm doing the proper maintenance but I feel pretty good right now and I'm excited to good.”
As good as Spezza can be, for a player leaving his prime who a significant back injury history, again, I have to ask, is this a player you’re comfortable extending over the long-term?
On being left off the Canadian Olympic camp roster:
“They phoned me before they released the list. I was a little bit surprised, but as these things are and you don't control how they pick these teams or what. Like I said, I was pretty motivated going into this season because I had missed all of last year and I'd say this has definitely added to it a little bit.”
Spezza was nothing more than a taxi squad guy in 2006 and although he’s gone to bat for his country in a number of different internal tournaments – including the Spengler -- he essentially hasn’t played in a season and would have to contend with the likes of Crosby, Giroux, Stamkos, Tavares, Bergeron, Toews, Richards, Thornton, Couture, Duchene, Staals one and two, and Getzlaf for a spot at center. It wasn’t going to happen for him, even if he was healthy last season.
On receiving the call
“You know what, I'm not really worried about it. If I have a great season with the Ottawa Senators and we win a lot of hockey games and I'm a big part of it and they feel like making room for me come Christmas or whenever they pick the team then great. I've played for Team Canada a lot and you can't control how they pick these teams. My goal is to help our team and get better and be a leader on our club. I expect to have a real good season this year, I've pushed myself this summer and I missed a whole year last year and I feel like I have a lot to give. I was making big strides in my game. I'm not going to let a development camp get in the way of my goals.”
And after Dom got injured during his time in Turin, I’m completely comfortable with this.