Jason Spezza's departure from the Ottawa Senators will be met with cheers from some corners, and with sadness in others. To call him a polarizing figure would be an understatement of epic proportions; rarely has an athlete been alternately so heaped with praise and scorn.
Regardless of whether you were in the pro-Spezza or anti-Spezza camp over the course of his career with the Senators, you had to acknowledge that the man was one of the most skilled players in the world. Below, in no particular order, is my attempt at listing his five best plays from his time with the team:
End to end rush against the Vancouver Canucks
I love this goal for so many reasons, but my favourite part has to be the futile Kesler point right at the beginning. He recognizes Spezza's about to come around the net with a head of steam, he's yelling at someone, anyone, to get over to the left wing to cut Spezza off at the pass and no one gets there. It's the beginning of the end.
Dangle and Roof Job against Florida
Another great example of Spezza's ability to handle the puck at full speed. An understated part of this clip: the whole thing starts with Karlsson firing a laser beam cross-ice pass to Spezza streaking up the wing, which he handles perfectly. Next time Colin Greening boots one of these beauties, remember Spezza.
Humiliation of the Winnipeg Jets
This assist is Spezza in a nutshell. First, he takes a kind of crappy pass from Karlsson in full stride by kicking the puck up to his stick and then has the skill and presence of mind to keep it away from the Jets defenseman. He attacks wide, sees his path is cut off, has the patience to not just ring the puck around the boards, and doubles back into the middle of the ice. Then he does something very risky: he toe drags the Jets forward in the middle of the ice with only the forever inept Filip Kuba left to defend what could be a 2 on 1 the other way. This time he pulls it off, and seconds later delivers a beautiful pass through what's left of the Jets defense for Kyle Turris to tap in. Turris' expression says it all: "You just did WHAT?"
The Montreal Goal
This is one of the more iconic goals in the franchise's history. There's not much else to say really, it's just a beautiful move to lose Sheldon Souray so completely that Spezza then has the time to drag the puck to his backhand and go top shelf on a bewildered Jose Theodore. This is probably the goal Sens fans will remember when they think back on Jason Spezza's time with the team.
Shootout Goal Against Pittsburgh
There are probably better candidates for the final spot, but this felt perfect for its symbolism. In his last game in the Sens' uniform, Spezza skated out into the shootout with a chance to win the game and so thoroughly embarrassed Zatkoff that Mike Johnson, doing the colour commentary for the game, just plain laughs out loud. Ho hum, just another display of top shelf skill from one of the best in the game.
Those were my top five Jason Spezza moments, if you have more I'd love to hear about them in the comments section!