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What He’s Done: In his first 14 NHL seasons, Jason Spezza scored 316 goals and added 546 assists, good for 862 points in 922 games. During his three full seasons with the Dallas Stars, he has scored at least 15 goals and 50 points every year, including his 33-goal, 63-point season in 2015-16.
Where He’s At: Through 12 games this season, Spezza has five assists and is still looking for his first goal. His ice time has dropped from an average of 16 minutes, 10 seconds, last season to 12:58 this year. On Monday, he played only 11:13 against the Vancouver Canucks.
Why He’ll Improve: A new coach in Dallas means a new role for 34-year-old Spezza. He’s no longer seeing time on the first power-play unit or with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin at even strength, where Alex Radulov has slotted in.
The Stars are having success in the early going but that has been driven almost entirely by the top unit, which is getting the lion’s share of ice time. As the season wears on, Ken Hitchcock is going to need to roll his lines or run the risk of burning out Benn, Seguin and Radulov. That’s where Spezza should come in.
As Dallas’ second-highest paid player behind Benn, Spezza is in the third year of a four-year deal that carries a cap hit of $7.5 million per season. Now 34, he’s reaching the age where a drop-off in production is expected, but he has been a natural scorer throughout his career and is versatile enough to play center or wing.
Once Hitchcock learns to trust Spezza, expect to see him play a bigger role in the Stars offense this season.