One year ago today (thereabout) as Dallas Stars training camp 2013 opened we had many questions on our minds. One of them was "Why do the Stars have so many third-line centers on the roster?", the implication being that there didn't really appear to be a clear number-two.
Jim Nill must have at some point, probably long before our feeble-minded sensibilities came to the revelation, realized this as well. Some time later he swindled C Jason Spezza away from the Ottawa Senators.
As such, there are no questions about the center position in Dallas this year.
Jason Spezza offers many of us quite a lot of intrigue this season simply by virtue of having played in the eastern conference his entire career, and more than that, having played for the Sens. Which is to say, we haven't exactly spent much time watching him on NBCSN. Or Versus. Or OLN. What have you.
But while there is a great deal of unknown, such as how his chemistry will unfold with the group here, there are a couple of central themes that come with acquiring a second-line center that's good enough to be a clear number-one on many rosters.
Take the power play. It's not been good enough here in quite some time. Even in the season prior when Dallas finally made it back to the post-season by the hair of a chinny-chin-chin not belonging to Jordie Benn, the power play was simply not good enough. Part of that is a drop-off from unit number one to unit number two. Spezza now gives Ruff and staff options on that front.
And Hemsky. Nichushkin. Seguin. I think that Jamie Benn guy is still here as well. So that will be something to watch, as his impact could be significant.
Then there's the reason the Stars couldn't quite squeeze their way past the Ducks, which is simply that in a two-week war of brawn on the ice and brains behind the bench, you can't get it done with only one threatening line offensively.
Now they'll have two. It will come in quite handy on the road. Does the opposing coach go all-in to stop this line, or that line? And now if you have Cody Eakin (err, soon?) and Ryan Garbutt out there as a third line that can score a bit as well, you're ahead of the game on a lot of nights.
The acquisition of Spezza solves all of that. Not to mention that it also provides a bit of insurance policy. The Stars were one Seguin injury away last season from ruin. More talent equates to being better equipped to absorb man-games lost.
The Stars acquired him for for forward Alex Chiasson, prospects Nicholas Paul and Alex Guptill, and a second-round draft pick in 2015. We all like Alex Chiasson. We spent a lot of time liking him rather an awful lot, and he may have a Reilly Smith-like renaissance and/or "coming out party" in Ottawa. Such is life. There wasn't really a lot of risk or potential downside perceived in the move. That's how good people think Spezza is.
The only downside comes in his contract situation, which is a topic that has quietly scampered off into a dark corner somewhere while excitement and his friend anticipation continue to party and carry on quite loudly in the garage.
Eventually it will have to be addressed. Spezza is 31 and coming off a 23-goal, 66-point performance last season. You'd think with his $7M AAV cap-hit that he's had his big contract and will come down a bit on the next one. Then again, Brad Richards was also 31 years of age when he signed that deal in New York, so free-agent center bonanzas remain ever a threat.
But hey, that's future Brad's problem, or rather, Jim Nill and staff's. Today I (we) am (are) just excited that he's here on this, the opening day of training camp 2014.
Things Jason Spezza does: