Torts tees off on Spezza

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

What is it with John Tortorella and star centres?

As coach of the Lightning, he nearly chased Vincent Lecavalier out of Tampa Bay.

Now, as a TV analyst, he has a new target in the Senattors' Jason Spezza.

Tortorella, working as a colour commentator on TSN's hockey broadcasts this season, fired a shot Spezza's way during the network's NHL season preview show Wednesday night, at one point saying Ottawa's centre should just "shut up and play."

Speaking about Spezza's giveaway to Pittsburgh's Tyler Kennedy last Saturday that cost the Senators a 4-3 OT loss in Stockholm, Tortorella maintained turnovers like that are a reason Spezza has a lot to learn if he's going to be one of the NHL's top players.

"If Jason Spezza doesn't learn how to be a pro, (the Senators are) going nowhere," said Tortorella. "He can score. He's a helluva player."

Then, showing the clip of Spezza turning over the puck, Tortorella took direct aim.

"There's a turnover right there ... let's go to that clip right there. Those are the types of plays that have got to come out of his game," said Tortorella. "If they're going to win, and they're probably going to make the playoffs, I believe they'll make the playoffs, but if they're going to do something in the playoffs, he has to understand that it's not all about offence. It's about maybe getting a puck out at a certain time in a key game."

Tortorella even questioned the way Spezza does interviews.

"And the last thing -- just shut up and play," said Tortorella. "I watch his interviews and it's like he has three Stanley Cup rings already. You haven't won squat. Play. Learn how to be a complete player and that team will go."

Spezza said Tortorella's opinion won't affect him.

"I didn't watch it for a reason and I don't really care," said Spezza. "Those guys get paid to do analysis. All I really care about is what (coach Craig Hartsburg) is telling me in here and what the guys expect of me. What everybody else says and does, doesn't really matter. It doesn't really reflect on what happens in the room with everybody else and with my coach."

Spezza said he is working on becoming a more responsible player who can be counted on in all situations and that's why an opinion like Tortorella's doesn't make any difference.

"Tortorella is a commentator. I'm not too worried about what he has to say," said Spezza. "I'm working on things with Craig and I think the guys in the room see. That's all I really care about.

"You just have to watch the games. I made one mistake, but aside from that I played pretty solid defensively. It's two games. It doesn't matter what you do in the first couple of games. You've just got to try to be consistent about it. I'm killing penalties, taking some draws and if I do those things, the game will come around."


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