Like a luckless young boy living in a designated retirement community, Jason Spezza is lacking in suitable, everyday playmates. Of course, that’s not entirely true; the Ottawa Senators are certainly not bereft of talent at the forward position. But, within the “turnstile of wingers” (TSN analyst Ray Ferraro’s term) that rotates bodies on and off Spezza’s line, no one is jelling well enough.
While a top forward unit of Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur tears it up, the Senators’ captain remains in full sputter mode. He wasn’t exactly lighting off firecrackers right before suffering a minor hip injury in late December, either. Minus-17 this campaign, Spezza has six points in his past 15 games. Unsurprisingly, the three goals scored since the end of November have come on the power play.
At even strength, skating with Milan Michalek hasn’t been the answer this season. While chemistry with Mark Stone offered some promise, the rookie was recently shelved for “weeks” after suffering a recent foot injury in practice. And it’s difficult to convince anyone that Zack Smith and Erik Condra -- Spezza’s most recent linemates -- are ideal candidates.
Realistically, if the Senators aspire to enjoy a postseason campaign of some length, they have a void to fill. A fresh top-six winger is required -- not just desired -- to compliment and inspire Spezza, while adding balance to a group of forwards that includes the Ryan/Turris/MacArthur line and Michalek/Mika Zibanejad/Cory Conacher trio. Chris Neil is not the answer here. Nor does an obvious, slam-dunk solution reside in the AHL ranks in Binghamton. Presumably working the phones already, with the “green light” from ownership, general manager Bryan Murray is likely to add such a body before the trade deadline, so long as his squad doesn’t tank in the next couple of weeks.
“The Senators have to first decide if they’re buyers or not. The next slate of games over the next few weeks will help shape that decision. If they string together wins, then GM Bryan Murray likely will feel more comfortable being a buyer, and he’s on record stating he’d like to add a top-six forward. But if the Sens go through a rough patch and lose touch with a wild-card spot, then perhaps he holds off. If Ottawa does decide it’s a buyer, Moulson absolutely would be among the names on their wish list.”
A single point back of the second wild-card spot in the East, the Sens are entrenched in the mix at this stage. With nine contests before the Olympic break, the club would have to flounder badly for Murray to shelve his ambitions of adding a top-six skater before March 5 (if not earlier). And while a proven producer like Moulson would undoubtedly see better numbers after leaving an anemic Buffalo offense, Spezza could be the greater beneficiary from such a move. He might even return to the point-per-game (almost) pace enjoyed earlier this season and in previous campaigns.