Toronto Maple Leafs: Is Jason Spezza Even an Upgrade on Frederik Gauthier?

DALLAS, TX - MAY 1: Jason Spezza #90 of the Dallas Stars handles the puck against the St. Louis Blues in Game Four of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the American Airlines Center on May 1, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - MAY 1: Jason Spezza #90 of the Dallas Stars handles the puck against the St. Louis Blues in Game Four of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the American Airlines Center on May 1, 2019 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs have remade their roster in the last month.

Back at the start of July, it was expected to be a quiet time for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Instead, Kyle Dubas made an absolutely blockbuster trade, acquiring Alex Kerfoot and Tyson Barrie.  He also made a few smaller deals, and signed about ten free agents.

One of those free-agents was Jason Spezza, the former star of the Leafs provincial rival, the Ottawa Senators.

Toronto Maple Leafs and Jason Spezza

The only thing weirder than seeing Spezza in the blue and white would be if he was joined by Daniel Alfredson – it’s definitely going to take some getting used to.

Regardless of the optics of signing the former franchise player of your most hated rival, this has been heralded as a great move by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Spezza is 36 and at the tail end of his career, and even though he’s a borderline hall of famer, it’s worth asking how much he brings to the team at this point in his career.

The former #2 overall pick (after Ilya Kovalchuck) is the highest scoring member of his draft class, and will possibly move into first place in games played by the end of the upcoming season.

Spezza has 915 career points, including a career high 34 goal 92 point season in 2007-08.   Of course he won’t be hitting those heights anymore, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping he still has something to offer, despite coming off a pair of 8 goal 26/27 point seasons.

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Last season Spezza played under 11 5v5 minutes per game, and he scored at a paltry 1.05 points per 60 (much, much worse than Frederick Gauthier, even worse than Marleau). (Image from evolvinghockey.com stats from naturalstattrick.com, ).

On the bright side, his possession stats were positive relative to his team, but overall, the Stars were soundly beaten in pretty much every department when he was on the ice.

Never known for his defense, it’s a bit of a mystery what the Leafs see in Spezza. Granted he doesn’t cost anything, and there’s basically no risk, but it’s still a mystery.

The facts are this: at this point in their respective careers Frederick Gauthier appears to be the superior player – he scores more, and is way, way better on defense.

Now, Spezza is still actually pretty awesome on the power-play where a player’s speed isn’t much of an issue, and there’s tons more space, but would the Leafs really get a player specifically for the power-play? With the roster they already have?

It’s not out of the question, but it would seem to be a weird move, if that was the case.  How much utility does a second line PP specialist have, if he brings nothing at 5v5, even assuming he’s spectacular with the extra man?

Maybe the Leafs want his veteran presence to make up for losing Hainsey and Marleau?  That makes as much sense as anything.  Then again, the Leafs should have a lot more to offer Spezza than Mattias Janmark and Devin Shore, his most common linemates last year.

Again, I reiterate: there’s no risk here, and the Leafs are under no obligation to use him, plus, while it’s likely he does, there is no guarantee he makes the team.

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What Spezza does provide is depth.  The Toronto Maple Leafs have large host of sub-million dollar players all competing for playing time, and injuries already occur.

With Guathier, Spezza, Shore, Agostino, Wilson, Moore, Petan, Aberg, Bracco, and Mikheyev the Leafs have ten players for four spots.  That’s a good situation to be in.

But is Spezza better than Gauthier at this point in their respective careers?  Probably not.