Spezza won't let us down

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

DENVER -- Just give the kid a chance. That's all he's really asking for.

Jason Spezza wants to dig for gold with Team Canada at the Turin Olympics in February and he deserves that opportunity from GM Wayne Gretzky and his staff.

While Senators winger Dany Heatley and defenceman Wade Redden are considered to be locks to hear their names when the Olympic team is announced next Wednesday, Spezza, 22, is fighting for his spot against fellow young stars Eric Staal and Sidney Crosby.

If the decision was left up to former Senators coach Jacques Martin, then Spezza probably wouldn't have a chance. But this is a group consensus, with Gretzky having the final say.

There are a lot of reasons for Team Canada to take Spezza to Turin.

Let's take a look at a few:

THE BIG ICE: Spezza has improved his skating, matured during the lockout and might thrive on the large Olympic surface. He can move the puck, is smart and, with the extra room, opponents are going to have a tough time defending against him. Yes, he has a tendency to give the puck away, but the games at the Olympics are going to be wide-open skating affairs, with limited physical play against the other countries involved.

CHEMISTRY WITH HEATLEY: Nobody should need a lesson in this department -- it just makes sense. Spezza has lined up alongside Heatley since the first day of camp and is a big part of his success. "We're good together because I am a guy who can dish the puck and (Heatley's) got the great shot," said Spezza. "Hopefully, they look at the success that we've had together this year in Ottawa and they realize we could be dangerous together over there. It can't hurt." Since Daniel Alfredsson isn't going to change his Swedish citizenship, Gretzky can't take the entire trio. But two out of three isn't bad.

HEART: Spezza wants to be there. He wasn't invited to the club's orientation camp last summer, but he has made it a goal to play on the Olympic team. All he wanted was to be considered and his play has pushed him into that position. Spezza is going to be disappointed if he doesn't get the chance, but it will only make him work harder to show the Team Canada staff they made a mistake. Putting him on the team is the right thing to do, because he'll make an impact.

FLAIR FOR THE DRAMATIC: Spezza isn't afraid to be the guy in the spotlight. He seized the No. 1 centre spot in Ottawa after Radek Bonk was dealt away in the off season and has loved every minute of it. The guy thrives on pressure. He isn't afraid to make a mistake and while that leads to giveaways at times, it can also pay off in a major way. There are times you would swear he's got eyes on the back of his head, but that's because Spezza is blessed with what every scorer needs and that's good vision. That's what made Gretzky an exceptional player and separated him from the rest. Spezza is the kind of guy who would live for an Olympic shining moment.

YOUTHFUL EXUBERANCE: Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux are gone, but not forgotten. They helped carry the torch for this country on the international hockey stage for a long time, but both realized it was time to step aside. While Joe Sakic and Rob Blake will be leaned on heavily to provide leadership, sometimes the inexperience and innocence of youth can take you a long way. Spezza has played at world junior championships and it's safe to assume he's going to be a big part of Vancouver 2010. He wouldn't be intimidated or in awe walking into the Canadian dressing room surrounded by some of the best talent in the world. He'd thrive on it and he'd want to show he belongs in the room by doing what it takes on the ice.

All he needs is the chance.


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