Bust or Boom? Analyzing the Possible Teemu Selanne—Paul Kariya Reunion

John PhenAnalyst IIIAugust 9, 2010

ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 13:  (L-R) Teemu Selanne #8, Ryan Whitney #19, Steve Eminger #7 and Bobby Ryan #9 of the Anaheim Ducks celebrate Eminger's goal against the Boston Bruins in the third period at the Honda Center on January 13, 2010 in Anaheim, California. The Ducks defeated the Bruins 4-3.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images


ESPN reported earlier this week that the Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne would return for his 12th season with the Anaheim Ducks. Much speculation had been made around Selanne, and the status of his return seemed to hinge on the organization's direction for the new season.

"I informed them that if they re-build, I'll then do something else," Selanne said. "With the guys that the team has acquired, I'm convinced that we can still succeed."

The Ducks made quite a few moves inking Andy Sutton, Toni Lydman and resigning Saku Koivu.

"I made the decision to continue my career," he told the magazine. "In fact, it has been clear for a long time. Negotiations are now ready to begin."

Teemu Selanne who turns a youthful 40 next year has not shown much decline, where many of his peers are losing a step, or losing their scoring touch, Selanne keeps producing. In 54 games last season, Selanne potted 21 goals and scored 48 points, a terrific performance for his age and the games played. Selanne is poised to return to his role on the second line for the Ducks and challenge for a playoff spot in the stacked Western Conference. Clearly the offseason moves helped convince Selanne to return and continue his terrific career.

Speaking of convincing, Selanne told the ESPN that he's made a pitch to ownership on behalf of ex-teammate and dynamic duo partner Paul Kariya.

"I've talked to Paul and the Ducks," said Selanne. "Paul has been waiting for my decision and I hope things move forward," he said.

In Anaheim, Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne formed one of the most potent scoring duos in the NHL. In 1998, Selanne became the first European player to be named NHL All-Star Game MVP, after scoring a hat trick. Selanne also took the the NHL goalscoring titles in both 1998 and 1999.

After a brief and overall regrettable stop with Western Conference rival San Jose, Selanne rejoined his ex-teammate Paul Kariya in Colorado. His play and numbers continued to decline as the once promising pair failed to recapture their previous magic. He would go on to miss the NHL lockout season with a knee injury and played overseas in limited action.

On the surface, this move seems to make sense as the Ducks are hopeful that the magic can be recaptured from this pair's awesome on ice chemistry from a decade ago.

But what does Paul Kariya have left in the tank? Kariya was once a whirling dervish of a player, skated like the wind and had a terrific scoring touch. For the fledgling team, Kariya was the face of the franchise that needed drawing power in a tough LA sporting landscape.

An in-depth look at this transaction may raise some flags for Ducks faithful, as Kariya is 35 and obviously no longer the 100-point player he used to be. Couple his declining skills with the fact that many Ducks fans are still angry about the manner in which Kariya bolted to Colorado at a discount despite lying to fans about wanting to come back and promising them a Cup, things will definitely be interesting in how they play out.

Kariya has put up 120 points in 161 games over three seasons at a .745 points per game clip. While those numbers can't be easily dismissed, they are well below his career average.

Furthermore, he is still ruthlessly booed whenever he visits his old stomping grounds in Southern California. For those who say that this is simply a PR move of some sort are not paying attention.

From a hockey standpoint however, there isn't much to not like about this move should it happen. At a low enough cap hit, Kariya will only help the Ducks on a second line that would be pretty darn scary on many nights.  Kariya can still scoot and still is one heck of a skater and does not need to do it himself anymore. One can debate about his decline and what the reasons are behind it, from absorbing some huge hits during his career or the wear and tear of 17 NHL seasons.

Myself? I like to point at probably the dirtest and single most horrific play in recent NHL history that occurred on Feb. 1 1998, in a game between the Blackhawks and Ducks. Kariya took a blatant cheap shot from Gary Suter just after scoring. Gary Suter, with no regard to safety for his fellow NHLer, or sense of fair play cross checked Paul Kariya square in the jaw.

This play still makes me sick to my stomach just watching it. Despicable and cowardly doesn't even begin to cover it.

Many fans and experts point to that moment in his career that started his decline. Despite those claims and beliefs, Kariya still remains close to a point a game average with 784 games played and 740 points since that cheapshot.

Kariya has to know that this situation has the chance to be a highly volatile one should he return to the Ducks. He will know and understand the considerable fence mending that needs to occur between himself and the fanbase. For a Modano / Turco like price tag however, and playing alongside Koivu and Selanne, a return of 60 points on the ice is definitely not unreasonable and should be enough to win back some hearts.

What would it take for Duck fans to forgive?