So the obsession with grit and leadership continues unabated, eh? Alrighty then.
Just to be clear: We don't have a problem with Jason Smith. The free agent brings valuable characteristics to the Senators (see above), although the salary ($5.2 million over two years) is a bit on the high side (yes, in spite of everything that's going on -- come on now, he's a 34-year-old stay-at-home blueliner). But...
(You knew that was coming, didn't you?)
1) Where the bloody (expletive) is the puck-moving defenceman that the Senators desperately require? Things with Meszaros have yet to be settled, and do you really want to put all your eggs in that basket? Same goes for Brian Lee -- he's just a kid and can't be expected to shoulder that load. The lack of a definitive defensive system in Ottawa already puts Lee at high risk for stunted development. They need someone who's fully developed with the skills and mindset to pick up from Redden's massive regression, and move the team forward (both literally and figuratively) at the blueline.
Pea Soup wasn't able to seduce any of the noted offensive defencemen available to the nation's capital, and we're left to ponder the reasons why. Obviously in the case of UFAs, it's their call (see puck-moving redhead, Brian Campbell). Campbell could've viewed Chicago as being on the way up, meanwhile Ottawa appears to be moving in the opposite direction. Alternatively, we could also suspect that Murray's hesitancy to throw the cash at a lengthy contract left him out in the cold. News flash to the GM: Don't know if you've noticed, but guys looking to drop 3.5 or less for a few years on a defenceman are signing Jeff freaking Finger*. Just saying.
As for guys like Dan Boyle, I loved the media's perplexed speculation as to why he didn't choose the Sens when he waived his no-trade clause. "Who wouldn't want to play in their hometown of Ottawa?" Yeah, you should have asked that same question of then-Baltimore Oriole Erik Bedard whenever he was on a rehab stint, and the Ottawa Lynx served as the O's farm team -- the guy's face would turn greener than escarole. Not everyone is willing to deal with that type of pressure. Furthermore -- and this kills the fragile Canadian psyche, which is why I love to point it out -- not all NHLers want to play in this country. Big money, low-key environment...San Jose, anyone? The Sens couldn't afford to make the trade regardless, so it's a moot point.
2) While guys like Smith are being signed, secondary scoring still remains a huge issue. I heard one media member claim last week that "a top six position (is) Nick Foligno's to lose at camp this year." WHAA? We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Foligno is a top-six winger on a team where Mike Fisher is your No. 1 centre. And if that's the case, welcome to 10th place overall, Ottawa.
3) Is anyone else bothered by the idea that Ottawa perpetually has to turn to outsiders for leadership? Grit is one thing -- we know the majority of this core is on the softer side. But the leadership -- particularly when you consider the amount of time the core has been together -- for Christ's sakes...what's the real issue here?
In talking with others about the situation, a couple made mention that Smith may be the one to "set Spezza straight" -- in other words, provide the tough love required for No. 19 to eventually hit the next level as an elite NHLer. But just a quick note here: Jason Spezza is now 25 years old, and has been in the league for 5 seasons. Shouldn't he be capable of maturing without such a desperate push? If he can't, what does that say about him as a player? It's quite possible that Spezza could always remain "young-at-heart", but what was once perceived as impish rambunctiousness has now morphed into borderline frat-boy-at-a-community-college territory. It's time to grow up, Peter Pan. Whether or not Jason Smith helps to accomplish that remains to be seen.
*twiddling thumbs and looking at the floor*
So yeah -- other than that, we don't have a problem with the signing. We just wish some of the other issues would have been resolved first.
*My favourite status update on Facebook right now: "(Name) has a finger for you, Cliff Fletcher, and it isn't Jeff."
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