Jason Spezza's Ottawa return includes mixed emotions

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Photo via @ottawasuncom on Twitter
Photo via @ottawasuncom on Twitter

Oh the amazingness of tabloid newspapers never ceases to amaze. Behold the above cover of the Ottawa Sun featuring Jason Voorhees from the film “Friday the 13th” to commemorate Dallas forward Jason Spezza and his return to Ottawa for the first time since a summer trade.

And if there was a question as to whether he was going to be booed in his Thursday night return? A horror movie villain certainly adds to fan anger. Or scares children readers.

And then there was this little delicious morsel from the Dallas Morning News.

“It’s been challenging. It’s not easy to move teams when you’ve been in one spot for so long. But I think it’s made me a better player,” he said. “There’s been a learning curve, probably a little more than I expected. But I guess that’s been being a little naïve in moving teams for the first time — you expect everything to fall into place, but it takes a little bit of work.”

OK, not exactly an ‘I hate Ottawa’ quote. But moving to Dallas made him a better player? Goo.

Regardless of what he probably meant – sometimes a player needs a change – it’s not like a fan hears the whole quote or understands the context. So that just happens to be more ‘boo’ fodder … on top of Spezza’s trade request last summer.

Does Spezza think he will be booed? He gave the type of canned answer that most returning players say upon arrival at a former team – after he asked to leave. From the Morning News again.  

“Hopefully, they appreciate I gave everything when I was here and tried to do all I could to help us win.”

Maybe they will. But this isn’t a conquering hero who won a Stanley Cup and was not exactly offered a contract a la Mark Messier in New York with Vancouver.

Spezza wanted to leave Ottawa, forced the Sens’ hand with a no-trade clause and ended up in the furthest thing from a rabid Canadian market – the American South. Also, when he was with Ottawa, there was always a sense that he could have done more. There was the hype of No. 2 overall draft expectations. He was a good All-Star type player for many years, but never simply a great one that fans adored like that guy Alfie.

Said Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun:

Named the captain after Alfredsson departed for the Red Wings as a free agent on July 5, 2013, Spezza was always a lightning rod for criticism with the Senators. The fans loved him when he scored points but they couldn’t stand his penchant for bad giveaways.

While he scored a lot of points and got many of the accolades that went with that role, Spezza just wishes the Senators had brought home a Stanley Cup during his time here because he certainly feels there were times this team had the talent to get that job done.

But all-in-all, Spezza was a terrific player for Ottawa. He was a point-per-game guy with 687 in 686 games – a difficult feat for most players in the post-offensive 80s.

Again, he never won a Cup. Never picked up a major award. Was the captain by default after Alfie, and then … he was gone and did it on his terms. Is this Martin St. Louis who felt scorned by his general manager for not selecting him for Team Canada and then somehow thought Tampa fans should give him an ovation? Not at all.

This also isn’t Ryan Suter who left Nashville for Minnesota for more money and was shocked at the derision every time he touched the puck in his first game back in the Music City – though who would turn down a job for more money closer to family in any profession? 

Essentially Spezza’s situation isn’t exactly WWE villainish. But he’s not exactly Luke Skywalker after blowing up the Death Star.

Also in the Sun:

“I had some good talks with (GM) Bryan (Murray),” said Spezza. “In the long run, it’s best for the organization to move on and me to move on. It gave me a second chapter in my career to challenge myself and take a different approach to trying to win.

Says Garrioch on his reception:

It’s the departure that makes you wonder what kind of reception he’s going to get as a result. People booed Dany Heatley loudly and threw his jersey on the ice in 2010. Alfredsson was welcomed back with open arms after a video tribute.

Another example? Mike Fisher wanted a trade and ended up Nashville. His return included applause and a tribute. He played 675 games in Ottawa and amassed 348 points. Maybe that was because in Ottawa they blamed his wife for the move, not the player. Oh well. 

Our prediction. Boos with a smattering of cheers. The kind of lukewarm responses dedicated for a lukewarm player with a lukewarm tenure. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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