Another summer...Another off-season of Ottawa Senator angst.
I was so looking forward to the summer of 2010. Well, for many reasons, mostly related to hot weather and daiquiris and nights at the ball field and vacations.
But also for the fact that as a fan of the Senators, I wouldn't have to go through the infuriating debacle that was Dany Heatley's demand to be traded out of town last summer.
A stress-free off-season as a Sens fan. A fairly decent run this past year, an okay showing in the playoffs, and confidence that, going forward, this team is headed in the right direction.
Oh...Oh, but wait! What's this? Now Jason Spezza wants out?
It started a few weeks ago. Rumours bubbling up that Spezza wanted to follow in his ol' pal Heater's footsteps and get the hell outta Dodge. He didn't like that he was getting booed on home ice in the playoffs. Nope, little Chuckles didn't like that at all. So he had told Ottawa GM Bryan Murray that he wouldn't be opposed to a trade.
Does it really bother me to think of the Sens being Spezza-less next season? Not really. Not the way it bothered me when Heatley ran for the exit. Because, quite frankly, Jason Spezza drives me insane. His blind drop-passes and dipsy-doodling that hardly ever works is enough to make me want to scream and pull my hair out. And I do believe, after the Sens were ousted by the Pens in the playoffs, I actually said that I hoped he found a new home this season.
What does bother me is our supposed stars - this is two in a row now, folks - asking to be dealt. Doesn't paint a real nice picture for this city or this team. Are we really the next Edmonton?
What's going on here? What happened to the team that, a few years ago, players were clamoring to be on? Back then, guys wanted to be here. They wanted to proudly wear the Sens' colours and be a part of this team and community.
Is it Bryan Murray? Living fairly close to the town where Murray was born and raised, and still comes back to every summer, we aren't encouraged to speak ill of the man. He's a small-town success story, and he's held up on a pedestal around here. But why does he keep going to the media with in-house affairs? He's doing it with Spezza, he did it with Heatley, he even did it back with Wade Redden. I'm not quite sure it's a smart approach, and I have to think players coming in to this organization have to be wary of his tactics when it comes to sharing information about their private conversations.
Is it the media? In Ottawa, hockey takes centre stage almost year-round, and the Sens are always the hot topic on sports radio and in the newspapers. Some of the local hockey scribes have a reputation for being able to actually run players out of town. They take a dislike for a player, publish enough bad press that they get the fans on-board, and the next thing you know, said player is gonzo. Don't believe it? Ask Radek Bonk. Ask Joe Corvo. Ask Wade Redden. And now, ask Jason Spezza. The media love to find whipping boys. But I sometimes wonder if it's justified...
Is it the fans? We've been criticized for being too disparaging. For being fickle. For booing our own players. For being bandwagoners. We've also been complimented, like most Canadians who watch the game avidly, for being very knowledgeable fans. When things are going well, we cheer loudly & proudly. When things aren't going well, everyone becomes an armchair GM and they burn up the lines to the local sports radio call-in shows with their whining and complaining and big ideas. Unfortunately, when a player isn't living up to expectations - à la Jason Spezza - the boo birds come out. We make our feelings known, whether they like it or not.
Probably a combination of all three - the GM (and all team management), the media, the fans...It ain't easy being a player in the Nation's Capital, in a Canadian hockey hotbed. You have to have tough skin to play up here. I always thought Spezza handled it pretty well.
But I guess everyone has their limit. And he's had enough.
It should be interesting to see what transpires in the weeks to come. As of July 1st, his no-trade clause kicks in and he receives a $4-Million dollar bonus. But moving him will also be a challenge, as he carries a $7-Million per year price tag and he's bound to long contract terms. How many teams are willing to take a chance on a defensive liability like him?
Ugh. It's already giving me a Heatley-like ulcer.