July 7, 2014

Jason Spezza brings Stars added depth up the middle

He is expected to take the pressure off of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.

Last season, Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin and captain Jamie Benn accounted for 26 percent of the team’s scoring and, at times, could have used help carrying the offensive burden.

It’s a situation newly acquired center Jason Spezza has experienced during his 11 years in the NHL, all with the Ottawa Senators before a trade brought him to Dallas on July 1.

“I have been in that situation where I’ve kind of had a more prominent first line that just scores and everyone else is just checking,” said Spezza, who was introduced Monday at American Airlines Center. “It can work, but it’s a better situation for everybody when there is depth in the lineup and you get scoring from all over, so those guys feel the burden a lot less and [it] takes some of the hard minutes away from them at times.”

With the arrival of Spezza and free agent Ales Hemsky, coach Lindy Ruff has top-line talent to fill his second line. Seguin, Benn and Spezza were among the league’s top-30 scorers last season, with Spezza netting 66 points.

“That doesn’t happen very often other than with two or three teams in the league,” general manager Jim Nill said. “Somebody mentioned about him kind of being kind of the second line. I really look at it, I think it’s a 1A and 1B.”

The Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings demonstrated depth down the middle and matchup problems, especially at center, something Spezza believes the Stars are close to having.

“I think you want to create depth on a team to have success,” Spezza said. “I think I can bring some more offense other than just Seguin and Jamie.

“I think it’s important for a team not to lean on the same guys every night. That’s kind of why they acquired me and I can hopefully fill that void.”

Spezza, a self-proclaimed sports nut who is a big Dallas Cowboys fan, watched a lot of Western Conference hockey last season and knows what he’s getting into with Ruff’s up-tempo style of play.

Nill frequently boasts about the close-knit locker room the organization has developed, and Spezza said the Stars’ chemistry was evident even on television.

“And it seems like the team played like a team, too,” Spezza said. “And that’s noticeable when you watch a team play because they use their depth and they use everybody, and everybody seemed to contribute.”

As the former captain of the Senators, Spezza said he feels he can fit into a situation like that with ease, potentially for several more years than just the one left on his contract. Nill said he has begun preliminary talks with Spezza’s agent about an extension.

“I think if you’re a leader, you lead and if the team needs you to wear a letter, you wear a letter,” Spezza said. “But I think naturally, I think I’m a leader and you don’t need a letter on your jersey to lead.”

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