3
Photo Credit: © Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

So it’s come to this, I’m writing about Jason Spezza getting scratched

Following the Leafs means you’ll never be short on overblown storylines, and today we’ve got a dandy on our hands with Mike Babcock’s decision to scratch Jason Spezza. For those of you who want to hit the eject button on this post right now, I won’t blame you. Thank you for your click, you’ve helped feed my baby. For those of you want to know what’s going on, I apologize about the ridiculousness in advance, but we’ll go through the timeline.

MY GOD!!! Spezza isn’t in the lineup, time to panic…

Here comes the reasoning…

Okay, that’s kinda BS, but whatever he’s the coach and it’s the fourth line. Of course that didn’t stop people like yours truly from dumping gas on the fire with tweets like this…

I don’t think I’ve said anything too ridiculous, and you’ll find more ridiculous takes on twitter, but I’d prefer to throw myself on the bus on this one.

Anyways, my case is purely about letting the dog have his day, and this is a guy who grew up a Leafs fan getting to start opening night for his hometown team in front of his family and friends in what could be his last season. I thought let him have his moment.

At no point did I think it was worth debating the merits of one 4th line player over another, and idea of Spezza, Shore, Gauthier, and Timashov platooning is pretty tolerable.

Nevertheless the debate rages on and the early calls for the firing of Mike Babcock have begun.

 Reconciling all of this nonsense

I am not the biggest fan of Mike Babcock despite a strong appreciation for what he accomplished early for the Leafs, and the acknowledgement that he’s still one of the better coaches in hockey and hard to replace. His philosophies don’t necessarily sit well with me, but his record is solid. Choosing to sit Spezza isn’t the most pleasant optics around a guy who was excited to potentially close out his career as a Leaf, and letting him not start against the team that he played most of his career with also seems a little odd, but none of this should be out the realm of what a coach can decide to do when he’s not happy with the player’s performance, and training camp decisions certainly led us to believe the Babcock and Spezza relationship was off to a rocky start.

Do I feel for Spezza? Yes

Would I have played Spezza no matter what? Yes

Can I get over Mike Babcock’s decision without turning it into something bigger than it needs to be? Also yes.

The fact that all of this is playing out on opening day, really rejects the NHL’s argument that hockey is not a soap opera, as the drama around the Leafs will eventually consume us all, as this overblown story on day one proves.

As for how it’s playing out publicly:

Disappointment is fair. And it could mean we hear more of this throughout the season, but it’s encouraging that the communication is there and that Spezza isn’t being scratched without knowing it’s coming.

The double edged sword for Spezza is that if he wants to play out his career with the Leafs, he’s going to need to push to stay in the lineup, and while there are plenty of teams that he could easily have a bottom six role on, this is the one that guarantees him a trip to the post season. It will be up to him if that’s worth it.

As for Babcock, I’m not ready to give him a free pass on everything he does, but he’s also in a position where he needs to show his worth as a coach right away too. There aren’t any shortages of articles listing him as being on the hot seat, and if this is what he thinks he needs to do to get the results he needs, he’s going to be a bit more ruthless and definitely less sentimental about how gets into the lineup.