Losing both Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza for an extended period of time could be the best thing that could happen to the Ottawa Senators this season.
No, I’m not a Leafs fan in disguise. (If I were, I’d be telling you that Ottawa should trade Antonie Vermette, Anton Volchenkov and a few first round picks to Toronto for Mats Sundin.) As I am not, let me explain myself.
A constant this season has been the Ottawa media discussing the Senators’ need for secondary scoring, and the need to pick up a top six forward for the playoffs.
Well, with potentially two of Ottawa’s top three forwards out for a few games, the need for secondary scoring is that much greater—true, Spezza could be back right away, but in my experience his injuries tend to linger, so let’s go with my hypothesized scenario.
The reason that missing both Heatley and Spezza could be a good thing is that it would give Ottawa’s remaining players an opportunity to demonstrate their scoring potential.
The primary candidates to step it up are Mike Fisher, Randy Robitaille, (the aforementioned) Vermette, and Patrick Eaves (once he returns from injury).
Each have demonstrated the ability to put up decent offensive number in the past, but have not performed at their best in that department so far this season.
Perhaps we should strike Fisher off that list since a recent turnaround in his offensive numbers. Nevertheless, it would be good to see what he can do with first line minutes.
Additionally, each of these players would like to show coach John Paddock that they can play up to Daniel Alfredsson’s level on a possible scoring second line down the road.
For those of you who fret about the Senators losing ground in the Eastern conference standings, let me remind you that starting in 4th place didn’t hurt the teams ability to defeat the higher ranked New Jersey Devils (2nd) and Buffalo Sabres (1st) in last year's Stanley Cup playoffs. If anything, losing the title as “the team to beat” would only do the team good.
My only real concern is that team captain Alfredsson might wear himself out trying to carry the rest of the team while its currently short handed.
Last night against the New York Islanders, he looked like a 5’11” dynamo (not the Moscow variety) as he torn around the ice leading both the attack and defense, and hitting anything that moved. If he keeps up this pace, he’ll have nothing left in the spring time.
Hence the need for other players to step it up a bit, and provide him with some support.
For now, let’s just see what happens—as I suggested earlier, Spezza may not even miss any games.
But, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if he did.