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Silver Nuggets: Jason Spezza in the scoring race

Must... slap... hands...
Must... slap... hands...

As it stands today, Ottawa Senators centreman Jason Spezza sits in a tie for sixth in NHL scoring with 37 points (12G, 25A) in 34GP, a rate of roughly 1.09 points per game. He's just two points behind the league's leading scorers, and he's on a tear right now: A six-game scoring streak with 12 points (3G, 9A) over that span. Not too shabby, especially when you consider that three of those games (and seven of those points) have been with the Senators' leading goal scorer, Milan Michalek, out of the lineup due to injury.

It brings up a question: How likely is it that Jason Spezza can win or approach the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer?

The biggest influencer in responding to this question is injuries. Spezza has only played a full 82-game season once in his career, back in 2008-09, and missed at least 20 games in each of the last two seasons. For him to even compete for the Art Ross, he'll have to stay healthy for the entire season.

But injuries also affect his competition, and they're really affecting his biggest competition right now: Claude Giroux and Evgeni Malkin are tied for the league lead in scoring, but both have already missed games due to injury--and Giroux could return this evening, while Malkin in already back (and Malkin has 15P in his last 6GP). They're scoring at paces of 1.39 and 1.44 P/GP, respectively. Spezza would really have to pick up his pace to catch up to and then surpass those two, to say nothing of other players in the mix for the Art Ross.

Last season, the Art Ross winner was Daniel Sedin, who scored 104P over a full season, a rate of 1.27 P/GP. At Spezza's current pace, he could be expected to score 89P in the season, which would have been sixth-best last year. On the off-chance Spezza is able to continue the pace he's set over the last six games (2 P/GP), he'd finish the year with 133P, the best single-season point total since 1995-96 (when Mario Lemieux scored 161 points to win the Art Ross). That seems pretty close to impossible.

So is it likely that Spezza could win the Art Ross Trophy this season? Despite his early-season success in the scoring race, not at all. Spezza's never scored more than 92 points in a season, and he'd likely need to break that personal record to come close to the league lead. He also has stiff competition in the race, and those he's competing against have significantly more high-calibre teammates and linemates than Spezza has. It could happen, but it would take a minor miracle.

Senators news:

  • Stats and advanced stats from last night's win over the Sabres: Boxscore | Game summary | Event Summary | Face-offs | Play-by-play | Ice time | Shot summary | Corsi | Head-to-head | Zone starts | Scoring Chances
  • Recaps from last night: Silver Seven | Citizen | Sun
  • Tough luck for Jesse Winchester last night, who sustained a concussion after being hit from behind by Paul Gaustad in last night's game. There's no timeline for his return. (Sportsnet)
  • Milan Michalek, however, is close to returning from his concussion. He might be back this week, but I'd expect the Sens to err on the side of caution and bring him back in after Christmas. (NHL)
  • Wayne Scanlan takes a look at Kyle Turris' "rushed" development with the Phoenix Coyotes. (Citizen)
  • Zenon Konopka has made a role for himself on the Ottawa Senators. (SenShot)
  • Sens prospect Shane Prince and his Team USA mates are ready for rowdy crowds at the World Juniors in Edmonton this year. The tourney starts, as always, on boxing day. (Edmonton Journal)
  • Also, Bruce at Puck Worlds is previewing each team in the lead-up to the World Juniors this year. He's written about Team Sweden, featuring Mika Zibanejad, already, as well as Team Slovakia and Team Denmark.
  • Pretty cool that Marcus Foligno's NHL debut came against his brother just days before Christmas. (Citizen)
  • The B-Sens play one last game tonight before the Christmas break, and they hope to get a few players back from injury once the team returns to action. (Press & Sun Bulletin)

NHL news:

  • A massive 1800-word essay on Brian Elliott's continuously surprising NHL career. (Citizen)
  • The Sens made a bunch of trades in 2011 (Mike Fisher, Brian Elliott for Craig Anderson, David Rundblad for Kyle Turris, and so on), but none of them made the list of the top ten biggest deals of the year. (Puck Daddy)

Finally, Kyle Turris still can't stop smiling.