OTTAWA – Jason Spezza addressed the media for the final time this season and said that while things didn't go the way the Ottawa Senators had hoped in the playoffs, the future still looks bright.
"We're disappointed," Spezza said about 36 hours after his team's season ended with a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. "We felt like we had a really good chance to beat the Rangers and we feel that they're a team that's going to have a lot success going forward in the playoffs, and that could've been us. So it's a little bit tough to look back at this point, but we definitely made a lot of strides as a team and did a lot of good things."
The Senators' No. 1 center credits coach Paul MacLean for providing the team with a true identity.
2012 PLAYOFF STATS:
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 5
SOG: 21 | +/-: 2
"I think we know what type of team we are now," Spezza said. "[MacLean] and his staff have come in and really made us a team and given us a good direction on what we have to do to get better. We understand that the bar is going to be raised going forward, because we've proven that we can be a good team. Now we have to go through the summer and push ourselves, so that when we show up here in September, it's not going to be 50-50 or low expectations – we're going to come in here trying to win."
Spezza experienced a resurgence in his game under MacLean. He scored 84 points in 80 games – his highest total since 2008-09.
"I think I had a good season. I think I pushed myself," he said. "I'm leaving with my head high and can honestly say I gave everything that I had. Whenever you lose you feel like you could have done more, but I feel like I made some changes in my game and combined it with what MacLean wanted me to do. I stayed relatively healthy, which has been a tough thing for me the past couple of years."
Despite his improved offensive totals, Spezza was still the target of criticism, particularly during the postseason. He had five points in seven games but took heat from critics who felt he should have shot more often.
"I think I understand my position on the team, and I think with it comes a lot of scrutiny," Spezza said. "I can look myself in the mirror and know I [left] it all out on the ice. I'm growing as a player, and I think it takes time. But I think I'm getting better every day. Because I'm always pushing myself, I can block out the criticism that comes. There's only one team that doesn't get criticized and that's the team that wins. It can be tough sometimes, but as a player you have to realize that comes with the territory, and you have to believe in yourself."
Added Spezza: "I'm still proud of this team and what we did this year. I'm looking forward to next season already."