Five Thoughts for Friday
A pentad of thoughts about the Stanley Cup Final and the imminent Spezza trade (I just wanted an excuse to use the word "pentad")
1. Watching the Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, the biggest thing I noticed was the ability of their defensemen to break out with the puck. Seriously, Jake Muzzin, Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez, Matt Greene... basically, anyone seemed to be perfectly capable of skating the puck out of their zone, or passing up the boards, or finding another available player. I found myself thinking back to how many times this season it seemed that the Senators defensemen failed to clear the zone shooting it up the boards, or Chris Phillips put the puck directly on the stick of an opposing forechecker. If the Sens are going to get better next year, they need a better system for zone exits.
2. I also can't help but think about what'll happen to the Rangers. They lost in five games, going down 3-0 to start the series. They were hopelessly outmatched by a superior Kings team, surviving only through lights-out play by Henrik Lundqvist. Being embarrassed in the finals means that you'd expect some changes. The last time a team lost the Cup final in five games was in 2007, when the Senators lost to the Ducks. You may remember that following that final, big changes took place. GM Muckler was fired, Coach Murray was promoted to GM, and John Paddock was hired as coach. Tom Preissing, Oleg Saprykin, and Mike Comrie were allowed to leave, while Peter Schaefer was traded.
We all expect that the Rangers will buy out Brad Richards in the coming days, but there are many other questions. Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot, Dominic Moore, and Anton Stralman are all notable UFAs. With notable RFAs as well to sign, you have to think the Rangers will trade or let some guys walk. I think embarrassment in the Cup final works in favour of teams with cap room hoping to sign Stralman, a player lots of people on this blog seem to want.
3. A sensitive topic sure gets people commenting, eh? The news that Jason Spezza has asked for a trade has led to an explosion of comments on this site, with lots of emotion-driven arguments especially in the Spezza stream. The news seems to have split the fanbase. The crowd that was always calling for a trade is rejoicing. The crowd that was hoping he'd stay has nothing good to say about management or the city's media. Many I think are like me, in that we still have some emotional attachment to Spezza, but realize that the time to trade him is probably now, but also that his return is unlikely to be what we need (i.e. a bona fide top-pairing defenseman). I think we were all hoping we'd be done with the emotional commenting for a while after the Daniel Alfredsson debacle last year. Here's hoping this time we're actually done for a few seasons.
4. There has been some debate as to why Spezza asked to be traded. Murray claimed that it was because he was tired of being blamed for the team's losses. Brad May has been claiming that actually Spezza gave an ultimatum to Murray to either spend enough to win or to trade him. I'd be fascinated to know Spezza's real reasons, or if he even outright asked to be traded. I like Murray, but the cynical part of me thinks his comments were in part to show that Ottawa is a destination where the GM cares about his players and takes their wishes to heart. That probably looks better to potential UFAs than a destination where captains get run out of town. Of course, like any he-said-she-said scenario, we'll never get the full story.
5. Some have lamented the number of available centres this offseason. I still believe Spezza is the best centre available. UFA Paul Stastny is two-and-a-half years younger, but he doesn't have the offensive history of Spezza. Even last year, he put up 0.85 points-per-game compared to Spezza's 0.88, even though Stastny's shooting percentage was a ridiculous 16.7% and Spezza's was only 10.3%. Ryan Kesler is supposedly on the Canucks' trading block, and he has the disadvantage of never having been a first-line centre because he was stuck behind Henrik Sedin. His career point totals are far worse than Spezza's, and have fluctuated a lot more. He does have the reputation of being a "hard" player though, which means GMs may be willing to overpay for him. Even if Joe Thornton enters the trade market, he's four years older than Spezza, and will likely see his points fall off soon, especially on a team worse than the Sharks. Maybe I'm just wearing my Senators-red-coloured glasses, but I think Spezza is the premier centre available this summer. I'll be sorely disappointed if Kesler nets a better return.