Spezza knocks naysayers

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

If people want to think the Senators' best days are behind them, that's fine with Jason Spezza.

The Senators centre rallied to his team's defence yesterday when it was suggested the club's window of opportunity to win a Stanley Cup had closed.

After another early defeat last spring and the ensuing departure of big defenceman Zdeno Chara, flashy winger Martin Havlat and veteran centre Bryan Smolinski, some observers think the Senators, the pre-season pick the last few years by many to win the Cup, are in decline.

IGNORING 'CRITICS'

"They're not talking about us (as Cup contenders) as much as in the past," Spezza said yesterday. "That doesn't bother us ... we're not listening to the critics who say we're not as good as last year. The chance (to win a Cup in Ottawa) is gone for guys who are off the team like 'Z' (Chara), but we're still here with a good team, we still have a chance."

Spezza said he thinks the Senators have never been better equipped to take advantage of the "new," more wide-open NHL. He points to the addition of mobile, puck-handling defencemen Joe Corvo and Tom Preissing, who replace Chara and Brian Pothier on the blue line.

"We had a good team in the past," he said, "if anything, we suit the new game better than in the past."

Spezza also thinks young players like himself, linemate Dany Heatley -- a 50-goal scorer last year -- and Patrick Eaves -- getting a chance to play his first full NHL season -- will be that much better as well.

"We're still a young team. I think we were the second-youngest team in the playoffs.

"Myself, Heater (Heatley) and Eaves are going to be better. We learned a lot from the loss (to the Sabres) last year.

"People keep looking at the teams from the past, but this is a different team now. Those teams that lost to the Leafs, there are only five or six guys left."

Spezza also levelled a blast at people who said the Senators were fine piling up one-sided wins in the regular season, but couldn't grind it out in the playoffs.

ENJOYS BIG VICTORIES

"They were saying it's a bad thing to win by three or four goals in the regular season ... I think that's a load of crap," said Spezza. "There's nothing wrong with winning by three or four goals. We're always going to be an offensive team. I don't buy that we have to change the way we score goals.

"Look at the goals we scored in the playoffs. They were gritty goals."


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