Justin Cuthbert and Julian McKenzie react to Jason Spezza's retirement, and his failed pursuit of a Stanley Cup.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Big news over the weekend was Jason Spezza retiring after 19 seasons, I believe? The 38-year-old, he played three years with the Maple Leafs at the veteran minimum, wanted desperately to win the Stanley Cup. I mean, this guy, it burns a little bit hotter with Jason Spezza compared to most NHL players. It was almost as though you could see the man's heart break when he talked about moving on from the game over the weekend.
I don't know if it was the right move, honestly. I mean, I think the Leafs have to be pretty cutthroat and firm with their decisions. There's no room for sentiment here. You can't just throw money at him because he's a great guy who you feel bad for her that he hasn't won. But I thought he could still play, and I think he did a pretty good job for the Leafs for a while.
But he will transition into a management role. They don't really know what he's going to be doing just yet other than learning from Kyle Dubas, which is interesting because Kyle Dubas is bringing him along here. But I don't know if Dubas is for sure going to be here much longer than a year, based on what might happen next year.
But anyway, he's a part of the Leafs management crew and he will stay with the Leafs management crew, I think, even beyond the current regime because he's given up a lot to the franchise, means a lot to the franchise, means a lot to the current players that are in that dressing room.
Did it break your heart to see Jason Spezza walk away?
JULIAN MCKENZIE: It didn't break my heart necessarily, but I am intrigued at the fact that-- and maybe it's because of the people who are romanticizing about it in the market that he happens to play in-- did we forget that Jason Spezza spent the bulk of his career being an Ottawa Senators great--
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I think he forgot a little bit.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: --and also played for Dallas?
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I think he forgot a tiny bit. I mean, he did talk about it, but, like, I mean, these years-- I think these years were more like 10 years to him. Like, it really, emotionally, physically, everything that went into these last three years, I think, took its toll a little bit. And it's weird how he identifies as a Leaf now over a Senator. You're right.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah, because, like, look-- look, I'm sorry, but dude never got out of the first round with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played for his-- it's home-- he's a Toronto guy, right?
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Oh yeah.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: He actually is a Toronto guy. So fine, it means something to him for him to play for his hometown team. And I'm not going to take that away from him. But, like, my-- when I think of-- when I think of memories of Jason Spezza, it's him deking a Canadiens defenseman and going upstairs, I think I on Jose Theodore, like, in the early 2000s as an Ottawa Senator.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: One of my favorite goals ever.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: He got-- an amazing goal. I remember watching that, just, like, on SportsNet, just being like, damn, like, that's-- Jason Spezza's born different. He is special.
The number two overall pick of the 2001 NHL entry draft behind Ilya Kovalchuk, as an Ottawa Senator. Like-- and I get that a lot of Senators fans, they definitely do have that sour taste in their mouths about how he left the franchise and ends up going to Dallas. Which, I wonder how Dallas Stars fans feel about Jason Spezza retiring, if they've given him any second-- I'm sure they did give him second thoughts. He did spend a decent amount of time there.
But it is kind of funny to see people, you know, just show all this-- a lot of Leafs fans just a lot of gratitude a lot of love for Jason Spezza. Deserved, but let's not forget that, like, him, Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, they were a thing. The Ottawa Senators were really good once upon a time, and Jason Spezza was a big reason why they were good. They were in that cup in the 2000s against the Anaheim Ducks. Unfortunately, they lose that one.
But, like, Jason Spezza has been around the game for a long time, has done a lot of great things, and not just as a Leaf. I just-- I'm not trying to be the hater here, I'm just-- I'm just saying, like, there's-- Jason Spezza is a great player, and you can-- if you go on Google and you search hard enough, you can find him in other jerseys than in blue and white.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah. I guess the cushier position is with the Maple Leafs now. I'm not sure the Ottawa Senators are rolling out the red carpet to just add anyone to hockey operations, because I don't think the budget necessarily compares, although this is a bit of a transition time, I think, for the Senators.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: The Sens should, however-- on top of that, though, the Sens should take the opportunity-- I know Ian Mendez has probably said something similar-- they should take this opportunity now to kind of just, if they're not going to give them a front office job, at least do some kind of thank you, something--
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah, I didn't see anything. I mean, I'm sure there was probably something from the Senators, but I didn't see anything.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Like-- like, this is a golden opportunity to do that. Bury the hatchet, whatever hatchet might be there. Let the past die, bygones be bygones, all that.
Jason Spezza, when it really comes down to it, will go down as one of the best Ottawa Senators to have ever played for that franchise. Perhaps not on the level of a Daniel Alfredsson, but Jason Spezza should be recognized as such for the way that he established himself as an NHL star with that franchise.
With all the stars that have walked through the doors in Kanata and walked out and gone to other franchises and perhaps achieved success elsewhere, Jason Spezza's star shines very brightly-- a guy they drafted-- a guy they drafted and saw success with. He deserves the recognition from the franchise that chose him second overall.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: He was a legend when I was a kid, playing, I guess, exceptional status-- I think that he was exceptional status. Anyway, he played for Brampton, but had to play for Mississauga because he was drafted a year early. Like, there was a lot of, like, circumstance around his junior career.
But, like, he basically played for both rivals, Brampton and Mississauga. Mississauga didn't last very long. They're now the Steelheads, but they were the IceDogs back then. And there was, like-- they'd always play on New Year's Eve. And it was this bloodbath. There'd be fights all the time. And Spezza was always in the middle of it, playing on either side.
It was a very-- he was a legend in minor hockey in the area that he grew up. And I guess he gets to stay in this area by joining the-- the Maple Leafs' front office.
But yeah, I mean, it makes sense because I think he means-- I mean, these past years, I think he's become very, very important to the franchise somehow. He will always mean more to the Senators, I think.
But I feel like he's become a pretty indispensable part of the operation in Toronto over these last three years because they've brought in a lot of people to fill that mentorship role. Patrick Marleau-- remember all the-- him hanging out with-- his kids hanging out with Matthews and Marner and all that great stuff? And Joe Thornton came in a year ago.
But none of them have done what Jason Spezza has done in terms of, like, rubbing off on the young guys. If anything stood out from this last disappointment is how much it hurt the players to have not done it for Spezza. I think that was a big difference in the reactions to it and a big difference between Marlowe and Thornton previously.
But I do think that Spezza understands this team, understands what Matthews and Marner might need, understands what might be missing, what they didn't have, what he needed to do or what he felt he had to do at certain times when no one else was there to do it.
So I think he can help Kyle Dubas in the short term. I don't know if he's going to be a brilliant general manager in his career. But it makes sense for Kyle Dubas to want to have him stick around.
And honestly, after taking $700,000 and earning over-- just over $2 million over three years when he could have earned more elsewhere, they probably owe him a little bit of money too. And he's going to get that in a management role.
He did come up five points short of reaching 1,000 for his career, which is sort of emblematic of Spezza's entire career, right? "Almost." That's how it feels, like, for Jason Spezza, which-- which is heartbreaking. So I guess the heartbreak on his face makes some sense.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: I guess at least. And hey, whatever money he gets from the Leafs, it's not going to count on the salary cap at the very least. So if they want to pony up a little bit more extra money to get-- to get another goalie, why not?
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Yeah, $5 million assistant to the GM to make up for taking far, far less. I mean, that should be one of the advantages of big market. Just saying.