Clarke acknowledged that Spezza is "a great talent," but the compliments stopped there.Hey, Bobby, here's a newsflash: Getting scored on is a lot scarier these days than taking a big hit. And the league's greatest players have been those who instilled fear based on their ability to score rather than their ability to bruise you. What makes Spezza hard to play against is his ability to score goals and make plays. As much as you might prefer it, the number of hits a team throws, or bruises a team inflicts, has no literal bearing on the scoresheet. When teams play the Flyers, who do they fear more: Riley Cote or Simon Gagne? When teams play the Canadiens, are they afraid of Georges Laraque or Alex Kovalev? The league's best team is built around pure skill with some grit involved, and if bruises-inflicted was deemed a relevant statistic, the Red Wings would likely be among the league's lowest-bruising teams. But they still win games.
"Great players are hard to play against. I don't think anybody fears playing against Jason Spezza ... other than the fact he might score or make a great play on you. You never get bruised, you never get touched."
Does Spezza need to grow? Absolutely. He needs to find a way to tap into the consistency that takes players from great to elite. He has been back-checking, he's thrown some of his weight around, and he is getting somewhat stronger on the puck. He's definitely making better decisions recently, and that's reflected in the Sens' success.
Clarke's got no place in this league. He was moved from GM in Philadelphia after they had their worst season in team history and finished last in the league, and he's now the team's senior vice-president. I don't know exactly what that position entails, but it sounds like a sweet job they give to a guy who played his whole career as a broadstreet bully and can't be given any more responsibility than an office swivel chair. I'm sure they consult him on hockey decisions, and ask him to make media appearances, but his ideas of building a team are irrelevant in the New NHL. His adopted son and protegé Steve Downie has been suspended one game for every two he's played in the NHL (20-game suspension, 39 NHL games played), and was just traded from Philly. I'm not sure what kind of career Downie's going to have, but it's not going to last long if he routinely steps over the edge.
To his credit, Spezza didn't bite:
"I just do what the coaches are telling me, and if they're happy, that's what matters," Spezza said before the Senators flew out of Ottawa yesterday for tonight's game here against the New York Islanders. "I can't worry about the analysts."