Could this be the year Jason proves his critics wrong?
At 27, and entering his eighth season with the, top-line center has always been a good player. But can he be the great player that the team needs him to be?
At the end of last season, many fans had their doubts.
Often criticized for making lazy plays and for disappearing in the playoffs, Spezza missed 22 games due to injuries last season and recorded only 57 points, with 23 goals. It was his second worst production season since joining the NHL. Add to this the fact that his own fans booed him during Game 6 of the playoffs against Pittsburgh, and not many were surprised when Spezza told general managerhe wouldn't resist a trade.
“Nobody likes getting booed at home,” he said. “They can boo me all they want on the road. I'm trying every night. Trying to become a better player.”
Yet now, after a summer filled with trade rumours, a serious and focusedhas returned determined to put last season behind him. He spent the offseason strengthening his back, working on his weaknesses and he showed up at camp in the best shape of his career.
“Just looking at him, there's no question he's worked hard to get stronger,” said. “He looks like he has a better presence on the ice.
“I think there were times in the past where you wanted him to do more. He always appeared as if he had this great talent level, but you just wanted him to do that extra thing, that extra step. It looks like he can do it now."
In four preseason games, Spezza tallied four goals and four assists, raising hopes that this season could be his big year.
The change in Spezza has not been lost on coachwho says that Spezza has been staying late after practice and that his work ethic is a great example to the younger players.
“I think this year more than any other he's come into camp with the right frame of mind and really wants to help this team win,” Clouston said.
So, could this be the year for Spezza that the team and the fans have been waiting for?
Just ask Spezza himself.
“I think I've had a pretty good career up to this point, but I definitely feel I can take my game to another level,” he said, adding that winning a Stanley Cup is his No. 1 goal.
Withlisted as a game-time decision for Friday's season opener due to a nagging groin injury, we may just have to wait a little longer to see the new and improved Spezza in action.
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Christopher Smith run senspedia.com, an Ottawa Senators fan site.