The Dallas Stars acquired Jason Spezza to add a second layer to their offensive attack. They have an elite offense. Mission Accomplished? Sure, but defensively we know how much of a train wreck this season has been. One of the themes of this season has been Spezza adjusting to the Stars system.
Playing out of the spotlight that shines bright in a Canadian market has allowed Spezza to try and improve defensively without feeling the pressure of having to score while he makes adjustments.
"I'm trying to play a little bit more responsible game," he said. "At times you feel the pressure to score and to put up points and be consistent that way, and maybe by doing that, I didn't make the necessary adjustments at times in my game."
How have the efforts to play a more responsible game gone for Spezza?
We can approach this from a few ways, but a straight forward way is to see how many shot attempts the Stars allow with Spezza on the ice. It won't be perfect, but it should give us a good glimpse at how fruitful his efforts have been. We'll look at Corsi Against per 60 minutes of ice time in close situations adjusted for zone starts. What this will do is remove situations where the Stars are down big and firing pucks heavily to produce offense and times when the Stars sit back in a defensive shell. This will also adjust the data to not penalize players who take a lot of faceoffs in their own end or give extra boosts to players who get a lot of offensive zone faceoffs.
In these situations. about 257 minutes, opposing teams are generating 59.42 CA/60. That's a better rate than both Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin. That rate is the lowest allowed with Spezza on the ice since the 2009 season. He's made that happen without sacrificing much offensively. The 67.11 CF/60 is only .7 lower than last season in Ottawa.
The downside is that the improvement isn't huge. The difference is about one shot attempt against for 60 minutes of ice time. But the idea has been presented that this has been a work in progress. So it would only be fair to see how this has changed over the course of the year. As you would expect it has been up and down.
His best stretch of the season came between games 30 to 40, but lately he has settled in at a respectable level. The improvement referenced throughout the season appears to be real. I was skeptical much improvement had taken place when initially considering the question, but there is definitely evidence supporting an improvement on behalf of Spezza.