The Toronto Maple Leafs got some good news on Friday.
If you recall, Neal Pionk nearly ruined the season of Rasmus Sandin with a viscous kneeing penalty (that the league deemed “not really that bad” according to their light suspension) and Spezza, like the hero he is, came to his teammates defense.
Unfortunately for Spezza, Pionk was kneeling down trying to sweep the puck with his hand when Spezza came at him full steam, and turned what should just have been a minor charging penalty into a headshot.
Obviously the NHL has to be harsh on retaliations, but clearly Spezza wouldn’t have hit him in the head if his head wasn’t at the level of Spezza’s knee.
Spezza will now be available for tomorrow’s game. (stats naturalstattrick.com).
Toronto Maple Leafs and Jason Spezza
Spezza currently has 981 points, tied with Nick Backstrom of the Capitals for 10th among active players and 96th all-time.
His 66 points as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs places him 196th in franchise history, just ahead of the legendary Peter Holland. (Quanthockey.com).
Since joining the Leafs three years ago, Spezza has completely re-invented himself.
The former Senators Star appeared to be in decline and was signed by the Leafs without much fanfare. He wasn’t even in the lineup in his first game because Mike Babcock is a psycho with no human feelings or emotions. (Otherwise, why sit a legend in his debut with his hometown team and his family in the crowd?).
However, since then Spezza has been a regular on one of the best fourth lines in the NHL.
In fact, since joining the Leafs 138 games ago, Spezza has scored at a rate of 2.23 points per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time. That is 1st line production from the fourth line.
No one will ever mistake Spezza for a grinder or defensive forward, but the Leafs are coming out ahead with him on the ice – he is at least 50% or better in all three seasons with the Leafs at Corsi, Goals-For and Expected Goals for Percentages.
When you think of a fourth line in the modern NHL, you no longer assume it’s going to be a grinding checker who fights. Jason Spezza is partially the reason why.
The Leafs will get a much bigger boost by his return than a team would normally get from the return of a fourth liner. Let’s hope they win the Stanley Cup too because that would put Spezza from a probably hall of famer to a sure-fire lock for the Hall.