4/13/19 – Scratching Spezza

The last two things I’ve written for the Dallas Morning News have centered around matchups with the Nashville Predators. The last one was this morning revolving around Esa Lindell. It got me thinking about Jason Spezza. Then Sean tweeted this out:

I genuinely like Jason Spezza. There is no dimension where Justin Dowling is a more accomplished NHL player, or where he has more offensive upside than Spezza. It’s important to consider how the Stars roll their lines these days. Once you do the logic behind scratching Spezza is easier to follow.

The Stars need to generate offense. It isn’t coming from the bottom lines. There is a need to get the top two lines into the offensive zone as much as possible. Seguin and Hintz take defensive zone draws, but in a perfect selling-out-for-offense world they’re starting in the offensive zone as much as possible. When the series shifts to Dallas I would expect them to get significantly more offensive zone starts than they did in game one (and likely game two) since the home team can dictate matchups to a greater extent.

So there are not going to be any offensive zone starts for Spezza if he isn’t on the top two lines, and with the emergence of Hintz there isn’t really a spot for him up there given his production and lack of defensive ability. If he’s playing on the bottom lines he’s going to be expected to start in the defensive zone more often. If you don’t let him on the ice for faceoffs (negating some of his value as a faceoff “ace”) you’re throwing him out on the fly when you know his skating isn’t great.

It’s…tricky. It’s the same logic that keeps Denis Gurianov out of the lineup. I don’t agree with it when it comes to Gurianov given his game breaking speed, but I have a hard time getting too worked up over Spezza at this point. In the top six they do have better options now, even if Spezza is better offensively than Dowling. Dowling is a pretty decent player though.

The fourth line barely played in game one, but when they were on the ice they were fine. They played straight up with the Calle Jarnkrok, Wayne Simmonds, and Brian Boyle line. Dowling had 52 points in 62 AHL games with a normal shooting percentage. He’s a fine depth player. If Spezza isn’t going to be a big part of the offense or on the powerplay it makes sense to have a more defensively responsible better skater on the bottom line.

It sucks for Spezza, but he’ll find a home next year with a team more able to fit him in. The speed game just isn’t going to work for him now, and the Stars are doing a hell of a lot more skating the past few months. It sucks for him, but getting worked up over it as a fan makes little sense.

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