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Spezza says play will turn boos to cheers

Wednesday, 09.29.2010 / 3:00 AM / 2010-2011 Season Preview

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Spezza says play will turn boos to cheers
After a tumultuous 2009-10 season in Ottawa, Jason Spezza is looking to turn the page and turn boos into cheers in the process.
Jason Spezza is prepared to wipe the slate clean in 2010-11 following the most tumultuous season of his career with the Ottawa Senators.

A 70-point producer for four straight seasons, Spezza entered the 2009-10 season brimming with expectations, but the reality proved to be harsh. In addition to recording his lowest point total in five seasons during an injury-plagued, 60-game regular season, Spezza admitted disappointment at the cascade of boos raining down on him at Scotiabank Place during the playoffs and then having to deal with summer speculation he might be traded.

"I just want to clear up a lot of the talk going on," Spezza said during his celebrity golf tournament over the summer. "At no point did I ever demand a trade to (General Manager) Bryan Murray.

"At the end of the year, I was pretty emotional and upset," Spezza said. "I was upset at losing, I was upset at the response I got (being booed at home). I see it in the newspapers every year. They talk about me, and I said, if you want to move me you can move me -- if you think it's best for the team."

However, Spezza isn't going anywhere and coach Cory Clouston couldn't be happier.

"Jason is excited, he's in good shape and he's worked hard over the summer," Clouston told NHL.com. "He's excited to get things going, as is the team."

When asked if he felt Spezza was right to be upset with the fans who booed him during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Clouston was philosophical.

"Fans can do whatever they want," he said. "They pay the money and have the right to cheer and boo as they see fit and I support that. As professionals, we just have to go about our job and do the best we possibly can and give our best effort."

"We feel we have great fans here in Ottawa," Clouston continued. "I've enjoyed my time here; they've made me feel welcome and Jason, 99 percent of the time, enjoys the fans, too. Jason understands and knows this is sports and he's in the spotlight. On some nights things don't go well for him and he may hear it from the fans, but that's part of the business and part of pro sports. He's a mature guy and knows what he has to do. The bottom line is he wants to come here and help us win games."

Spezza is hoping to give the fans something to cheer about this season.

"Hopefully, my play will speak for itself," he said. "Everybody knows where my head is at. The guys on the team know. I'm excited to be back and I think we've got a good club."

Spezza failed to score a goal in the opening 10 games of 2009-10 and had just 1 goal and 13 points through 20 games. But he found his niche during the second half of the season, notching 20 goals and 22 assists over the final 32 games, including an eight-game goal-scoring streak.

"He was completely healthy when he began producing (and after overcoming his knee injury)," Clouston said. "At the start of the season he had some nagging injuries that didn't allow him to play the way he wanted to and how he felt he needed to."

There also was the added adjustment to a new linemate, Milan Michalek, after four seasons alongside Dany Heatley and captain Daniel Alfredsson.

"I think Jason wants to continue to evolve as a player and I thought he had a real strong finish," Clouston said. "We're hoping and expecting him to start where he left off last year and improve in all areas."

Clouston said there never was a time he felt Spezza had lost his focus.

"I don't have to do anything to keep him focused," Clouston said. "I think he's a pretty focused guy. We try and create an environment and atmosphere here that allows players to have success. It's our job to come to the rink and be prepared and focused, whether it be a practice or game. That's not going to change."

For now, Spezza has every intention of playing out a contract that expires following the 2014-15 season and doing whatever he can to assist his teammates along the way. In November 2007, he inked a seven-year contract extension worth $49 million.

"I signed here for seven years because I like the city, I like the team, I like my teammates," Spezza said. "There's obviously going to be bumps in the road. I think it's important to have communication between players and management, and that's what we had. It just became a little more public, and a little bigger deal than it should have been."

Spezza, who didn't plan on rehashing last season once training camp began, is looking forward to a healthy and prosperous season.

"Me, more than anyone, I've put up with a lot, and been able to overcome a lot, too, through my career here," he said. "I want to be a guy in a spot where I'm going to be there for a long time and we can build around. You put a lot into hockey. I'm trying every night, trying to become a better player."
"Hopefully, my play will speak for itself. Everybody knows where my head is at. The guys on the team know. I'm excited to be back and I think we've got a good club." -- Jason Spezza
He's also taking a stab at fatherhood as he and his wife welcomed a baby girl, Sophia Donna, on June 8.

"Fatherhood is great," Spezza told the Ottawa Sun. "It slows the pace down a little bit. It's a big adjustment as anybody who has kids knows, but we're in a good routine."

Now it's up to Spezza to rediscover that comfort zone on the ice and become the player every Senators fan knows he has the potential to be.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at:
@mike_morreale

Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

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