Veteran Jason Spezza, who inked a one-year minimum deal with his hometown Maple Leafs this summer, won’t be joining his ‘mates on the ice Wednesday as Toronto kicks off its season against the team that drafted him nearly two decades ago.
Instead, Spezza will be watching from the press box as a healthy scratch during the Leafs’ home opener against the Ottawa Senators.
Head coach Mike Babcock gave a bit of a flimsy explanation following the team’s morning skate, saying the wants to continue to get the 16-year NHLer “more reps” and “a little more time” on the penalty kill before throwing Spezza into the regular season lineup.
Babs on why Spezza will be rocking a suit instead of a jersey for Toronto's home opener pic.twitter.com/9tJBwuJkKT
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Nick Shore, who has 15 goals in 236 NHL games, will draw in the lineup over Spezza. Babcock said he expects to get Spezza in for Friday’s less-sentimental clash in Columbus against the Blue Jackets.
For how negligible a fourth-line role is on a team with this stacked of a top-nine, it’s not hard to see that scratching a well-respected veteran like Spezza for (likely) the only Leafs home opener he’ll ever have the chance to suit up for — against an Ontario rival and his former team, no less — isn’t totally about getting a member of the 1,000-game club “more reps” on the PK.
This looks more like a power move directed at his general manager, but maybe I’m just overthinking it. Yeah, that’s gotta be it.
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