By Allan Muir
The Ottawa Senators have done just fine so far without Jason Spezza, taking both games since he was hurt in a shootout loss to the Penguins last weekend.
It’s good to know they can win without him, because they’ve learned that they’ll have to manage without their superstar center for a whole lot longer.
GM Bryan Murray announced at a press conference on Thursday morning that Spezza would undergo back surgery this week and would be lost to the team “indefinitely.” At this point, the best guess is two months. Maybe more.
“We are hoping that he gets back at the later part of the season and if we’re in the playoffs [he] will be able to participate at that time,” Murray said.
The news couldn’t be much worse for the Senators, who are off to a 5-1-1 start.
It’s impossible to overstate Spezza’s importance to the team. Outside of Craig Anderson, he is Ottawa’s most valuable player and is coming off a season in which he ranked fourth overall in scoring. He’s emerged as a strong leadership presence on the room and he eats critical minutes on the ice, skating on both of Ottawa’s top-10 ranked special teams.
“He’s a guy that you can’t replace,” Kyle Turris told the Ottawa Sun. “He’s one of the best players in the league. If we have to go without him, we have guys that step up every night. Collectively, we have to come together and find ways to win.”
For now, that means moving Turris to the No. 1 spot alongside Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek. Turris has been a revelation since joining the team midway through last season, establishing himself as a legitimate No. 2 center. But he’ll be in tough to match those results when he’s facing the opposition’s top defense every shift, and his promotion re-opens that glaring hole at two. Maybe that means rookie Mika Zibanejad gets a long-term look, or perhaps Peter Regin gets another chance at a spot that he’s failed to claim in the past.
Murray will surely be working the phones looking for a trade, but finding help there won’t be easy…or cheap. He has Ben Bishop as a bargaining chip, but the big goalkeeper alone won’t bring the right piece. He may have to take a flyer on a player like Los Angeles Kings prospect Andrei Loktionov, a small but gifted offensive center, or perhaps free agent Jason Arnott (who may have health problems of his own after his contract offer was rescinded by the Rangers last week).