Jason Spezza has had a pretty stellar NHL career over the past 15 years. The 2017-18 season, however, has not been one of best.
With the veteran center currently mired in a 14-game goal drought the Stars announced on Monday afternoon that Spezza will be a healthy scratch for Monday afternoon’s game against the Boston Bruins.
“Coach’s decision” was the reason given by the Stars.
He has just one assist in his past seven games and only five assists during the current goal drought.
Spezza has shown some signs of slowing down offensively over the past few seasons but he still remained a highly productive player that was, at the very least, a lock for at least 60 points over 82 games. That is still first-line production in the NHL.
That offensive production has completely fallen off of a cliff this year.
Entering play on Monday he had just five goals and 11 assists in the Stars’ first 44 games, a pace that would only give him nine goals and 29 total points in a full season. That would be by far the worst offensive output of his career. The only times in his career he failed to record at least 50 points were the 2002-03 season (when he had 21 points in 33 games as a 19-year-old) and the 2012-13 season when he was limited to only five games (he had five points in those five games).
It’s not a surprise that Spezza isn’t producing points the way he did a few years ago for no other reason than he’s 34 years old. It’s only natural to expect a slow down. But the way his production has almost entirely disappeared is the surprising thing. His ice-time has been reduced significantly this season, but there are still some underlying signs that he is doing some thing well enough to warrant playing time. When he has been on the ice during 5-on-5 play the Stars are outscoring their opponents by a 20-14 margin and he is one of their best possession players with a 56.6 Corsi percentage.
There is still some value there and it should at least provide some optimism that maybe he can turn things around this season and that his skills have not completely diminished.
General manager Jim Nill said on Monday that he expects Spezza to be back in the lineup on Tuesday when the Stars visit the Detroit Red Wings.
“I think he knows he can be better too and we need more from him,” said Nill, via Scott Burnside of Stars.com. “I think we got a really good thing going here and he’s a big part of it, he’s one of our leaders and we want him at his best,”
Spezza still has one year remaining on his contract that pays him $7.5 million per season.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.