photo

Jason Spezza addresses his NHL future, following this season

Mike Armenti   ·   11 février 2020
When the Toronto Maple Leafs inked veteran forward and Toronto native Jason Spezza to a 1-year, $700k deal for the 2019-20 season, very few people in Leafs Nation disliked the move. In fact, only head coach Mike Babcock seemed to take exception to the signing, electing to bench the 36-year-old for his homecoming game and on 9 other occasions before being relieved of his coaching duties at the 23-game mark, after posting a 9-10-4 record to start the season.

HOCKEY - QUIZ
In 2001, who became the first player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame without having won a Stanley Cup, played in the final, won a trophy or been named to a star team?
DINO CICCARELLI
GLENN ANDERSON
LARRY MURPHY
MARCEL DIONNE
MARK MESSIER
MIKE GARTNER


Since Sheldon Keefe took over behind the bench, Spezza has suited up for 31 of the team's 33 games under the former Marlies head coach, sitting only on the 2nd half of a pair of back-to-back games. This was most likely an attempt to help load manage the veteran forward, but due to his level of performance over that span, Spezza has managed to stick in the lineup.

His success this season has prompted the question - will Jason Spezza return for an 18th NHL season? The answer, of course, is a resounding yes. “Yeah, I think so,” he said Monday. “If I can contribute down the stretch and the team has success, I don’t see why not.”

A veteran of over 1100 career NHL games, Spezza is no longer the 90-point producer he once was. However, his presence as a utility man in the Leafs lineup seems to be of benefit to both the team and the player, as Spezza has already produced more goals in his 44 games this season than he did in his 78 and 76 game seasons with Dallas in 2017-18 and 2018-19.



With 9 goals and 21 points this season, Spezza is proving that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank, despite being the sixth-oldest active player in the NHL. And what's more, this young Leafs team absolutely loves Jason and everything he brings to the table, from his leadership and work ethic to his vision and poise and everything in between.

Young superstar winger Mitch Marner explains just how the whole locker room feels about Spezza when recounting his huge 3rd period tally against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday evening.

“The bench blew up. If there’s any video footage or anything of our bench, I’m sure every guy was jumping around going wild. It’s like we all keep saying: ‘That’s just vintage Spezza coming back out to play right now.”’

When Sportsnet's Chris Johnston asked Spezza if he has looked back on his year and thought to himself, ‘Hey, what if this is the last time I’ll play in this rink?’ Spezza's answer shouldn't shock anyone.

“Not at all, to be honest,” he said. “I’m just enjoying coming to the rink every day, trying to get better day to day. … I can’t say I’ve been too nostalgic at all, kind of going in and out of places. I hope to have a good year and keep going.”

In what is truly becoming a young man's game, Spezza has embraced the challenge and seems to be one of the few exceptions. The 36-year-old sits behind only Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Justin Williams, Mikko Koivu and Ilya Kovalchuk as the elders of the NHL, but that hasn't stopped him from giving it all he has, every single shift .

“I love the intensity of it, I love the challenge of trying to get ready, I love the challenge of being 36 and trying to reinvent myself a little bit,” Spezza said during training camp. “I like hanging out with the guys, the banter in the room, the practices. I don’t know if I’m a little bit crazy, but I like the grind of it. I kind of appreciate the grind.”

Spezza has had a remarkable season thus far, despite having to overcome the early-season adversity he faced under Mike Babcock and, in my opinion, he may be playing himself right into a contract extension with the Leafs. If it happens to work out that way, it will be very well-deserved for one of Toronto's favourite sons.

HOCKEY - QUIZ
In 2001, who became the first player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame without having won a Stanley Cup, played in the final, won a trophy or been named to a star team?
DINO CICCARELLI
GLENN ANDERSON
LARRY MURPHY
MARCEL DIONNE
MARK MESSIER
MIKE GARTNER
   LATEST VIDEOS   
   VIDEO
video
Nick Suzuki loses a bet to Brendan Gallagher and has to show his dancing skills
   VIDEO
video
When you don’t want the outdoor hockey season to end
   VIDEO
video
Jeremy Roenick finds good ways to stay in good shape
   VIDEO
video
Relive the moment : on April 9th 2002, Saku Koivu receives an unreal standing ovation when coming back from his battle against cancer
   LATEST ARTICLES   
   HOCKEY
video
Colby Cave’s family provides update
   HOCKEY
video
Official in California says summer will be long over before sports returns to the state
   HOCKEY
video
Colby Cave's wife makes heartbreaking statement on her husband's condition
   HOCKEY
video
Coach Smith gives update on Sens who tested positive for COVID-19