Age and injuries continue to take their toll on Spezza, and the former Senator failed to crack the 20-goal mark for the second time in three seasons with the Stars. Heading into his age-34 campaign, he’s no longer capable of handling a top-line center role and is penciled onto the initial depth chart skating on the second unit, flanking newcomer Martin Hanzal. Even in the decline phase of his career, however, Spezza still possesses the skill and creativity to supply offense when he’s healthy and rested, as evidenced by his potting two goals and 12 points over 11 games in late December and early January and ending the campaign with eight points in his final nine. With a secure spot on the power play, Spezza’s fantasy floor should remain solid, even if his ceiling isn't quite as high as it used to be.
A superbly creative playmaker and one of the game’s most consistent power-play threats, Spezza may no longer be the stud scorer of his heyday with the Senators, but he’s settled in as a consistent producer of 60-plus points as the Stars’ (usually) second-line center behind Tyler Seguin. How he gets those points is another story, as his goal totals have varied widely over the last three seasons – 23, 17 and most recently 33. Yes, Spezza nearly doubled his goal total from the prior year, and he did so while posting his best plus-minus since 2011-12, which was (perhaps not so coincidentally) the last time he scored 30-plus goals. He also showed up in the playoffs despite the Stars’ disappointing second-round exit, collecting 13 points in as many games. There’s no reason to expect anything less as he enters another season as the Stars’ third-most-important offensive weapon.
After some turbulence in the early going, Spezza seemed to settle in just fine in his first year with Dallas, generating 17 goals and 62 points in 82 games. While the goal total was his lowest since his rookie season, Spezza's point production generally came at a steady clip, with few long stretches coming where he failed to appear on the scoresheet. Additionally, the 32-year-old center struck four times on the power play and fired over 200 shots on goal for the third straight season. No longer the 90-point player he was during his prime years with the Senators, Spezza remains one of the league's more dynamic No. 2 centers, and could see his scoring total rise in 2015-16 if big-time sniper Patrick Sharp slides in next to him on the wing at even strength and on the top power-play unit. Expect Spezza to stave off Father Time a little longer and remain salient in fantasy circles this season as part of a top-flight Stars attack.
The move to Dallas is going to be good for Spezza. The Senators weren't able to provide the kind of forward depth that this young Dallas team boasts, and that's great news for Spezza's fantasy owners. Teams aren't going to be able to focus shut-down lines on him when the top line in Dallas features Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Plus, the move will reunite him with Ales Hemsky, who was a great complement for Spezza late in the season last year. After Hemsky joined his line in Ottawa, Spezza had eight goals and 12 assists over the final 19 games of the season. Spezza will also add great firepower to what should be a very dangerous top power-play unit. The center should be good for 20-25 goals and 40 assists again this season. There's great upside to drafting Spezza, but just don't jump on him too early.
Spezza missed all but five regular season games with back problems last season, but was effective even when playing through the pain. He was able to record two goals and three assists in those five games, so there's no reason to believe he can't return to his point-per-game form he displayed in 2011-12, especially considering the addition of Bobby Ryan to the team. While the lines haven't been sorted out yet, putting Ryan and Milan Michalek on the top line with Spezza would give the Sens a lethal top line made up of three players who each scored more than 30 goals two years ago. If they slide one of those wingers away from Spezza, that would take some of the attention off of the top line defensively and could perhaps open up more scoring chances. Either way the lines shake out, Spezza is still a fantasy point machine, and could have another big year in 2013-14.
Like the rest of the Senators, Spezza had a fine bounceback season in 2011-12 with 34 goals and 50 assists in 80 games, a 27-point improvement over the previous year while once again playing at better than a point-per-game. This season should see more of the same from Ottawa’s number one center as head coach Paul MacLean’s puck possession game suits Spezza quite well. He'll likely start the year centering Milan Michalek on his left side, but his other winger might not be decided until after training camp, as there are a number of potential candidates. Expecting close to a point-per-game is reasonable based on Spezza's track record, with 35 goals being certainly achievable, as is a shot at 90 points.
Spezza is now unquestionably the focal point of Ottawa's offense for the rebuilding team. In addition to his scoring, Spezza is beginning to develop a more well-rounded game, having spent a lot of time on the penalty kill and being one of the better face-off men in the league during the 2010-11 season. He should see more than 20 minutes of ice time a game and, if he stays healthy, Spezza should put up around 70-80 points with around 25-30 goals.
Spezza should have a nice bounceback year in 2010-11. He'll get plenty of time on the Senators' first power play unit, and with the newly acquired Sergei Gonchar running the back end, Spezza could put up quite a few points with the man advantage. Thirty-five goals and 55 assists isn't out of the question, especially if he remains relatively healthy for the entire season.
The 2008-09 season could be described as a transition year for the 26-year-old center. Under Hartsburg's defensive system there was not much room for creativity and Spezza's numbers took a sharp decline. Although his passion for the game shouldn't be questioned, Spezza's defensive play was sub-par and he was committing too many turnovers. Under Clouston's guidance Spezza's play at both ends of the ice took a dramatic leap forward. No player's numbers improved as much as Spezza's under Clouston's reign, and the young center should have a very nice rebound year with 35 goals and 65 assists not being out of the question.
In many ways, the 2007-08 season was a step back for the talented center. He regressed defensively and displayed a disturbing knack for turning the puck over at key times - Spezza was second in the league with 96 turnovers. That being said, he did enjoy his best offensive season to date, notching 34 goals and 58 assists for 92 points. While not possessed with blazing speed, Spezza is slick with the puck and has that sixth sense for finding open shooters that all great playmaking centers have. Expect to see Spezza improve on both his point totals (40 goals is not out of the question) and his defensive game with the help of head coach Craig Hartsburg.
If Spezza can stay healthy this year, he's got a good chance at challenging for an NHL scoring title. With his maturing defensive awareness, Spezza is slowly turning into a well-rounded and dangerous NHL blue-chip center. He should net close to 40 goals this year with 60+ assists and a strong plus-minus rating.
If Spezza shoots the puck more this season as Murray wishes, the center could put up 30-plus goals easily. This year should further prove Spezza’s skills, so don’t be surprised to see him post 110-plus points if he remains healthy. He is already one of the elite centers in the league and should be near the top of most poolies’ lists.
Spezza will center either the first or second line and thus will play with at least one of the dynamic Alfie-Heatley-Havlat trio. Add the fact that he'll center the first power play unit and you can see why we're looking at least 65 points from the former Islander pick.