Rewriting history

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

The new NHL hasn't just opened up the game, it's blown it open, to the point that long-standing NHL benchmarks that were once thought unreachable are now back in the crosshairs.

It's not quite a quarter of the way in yet, so there's a lot of hockey to be played, but with the goals coming fast and furious, it's never too early to wonder:

- With 16 goals in 15 games, Philly's Simon Gagne is on pace to become the first player since Brett Hull in 1992 to score 50 goals in 50 games. In fact, he's flirting with Wayne Gretzky's seemingly untouchable 50 in 37. Gagne is on pace for 50 in 40 right now.

- Daniel Alfredsson is on pace for 164 points: That would move him into the top 10 all time (currently eight Gretzkys and two Lemieux) and give him the most since Mario's 199 in 1989. Last season the Art Ross went to Martin St. Louis, who had 94 points.

- Peter Forsberg is on pace for 140 assists (which would put him second all-time behind Gretzky's 163 in 1985-86). Gretz has the top eight single-season assist records. The only other players to notch 100 assists in a single season were Mario Lemieux (114 in 1988-89) and Bobby Orr (102 in 1970-71).

- The Ottawa Senators are on pace for 404 goals, which would make them the only team other than the 1985-86 Oilers (426) to reach 400. The Oilers did it five times in the '80s. Calgary got to 397 in 1987-88.

- It's not all good. With two wins in their first 16 games, the St. Louis Blues are on pace to challenge Washington's all-time record for fewest wins in a season (eight in 1974-75).

Net worth

With Jersey's Martin Brodeur just back from injury, and slumping badly before that, he's no longer a shoo-in to be Canada's starter six weeks from now in Turin. Nobody really seems to be an automatic. Roberto Luongo has good numbers (.921 save percentage), but he plays for a loser in Florida, where he's never had to deal with the pressure of backstopping a favourite. Jose Theodore is winning like crazy, but his .887 save percentage is cause for concern. Manny Legace has been brilliant, but has never won anything as a starter. Manny Fernandez has the best numbers in hockey (1.81 and .943), but could he bring Dwayne Roloson with him to Italy?

PENNYWISE, POUND FOOLISH

Darryl Sutter doesn't make many mistakes, but losing Craig Conroy was a doozy. Even though Conroy was a cornerstone of Calgary's Cup run, Sutter let him get away because the asking price (Conroy signed for $12.6 million over four years in L.A.) was too high. Then, along comes the 24% rollback and Conroy's making $2.4 million a year with the Kings, just barely above the $2.2 million he was making in Calgary.

LIGHTNING BOLTED

Tampa coach John Tortorella is a passionate guy. He's quick to defend his players - remember the post-game tirade after Eric Boulton's elbow - but he's not afraid to let them have it, either. He made Dave Andreychuk, captain and future Hall of Famer, a healthy scratch in Montreal because the 23-year veteran had just two goals in his first 15 games. "I guess this sends a message,'' said St. Louis. "That everyone is the same on this team.''

OLD-TIME HOCKEY

On the heels of Mark Messier and Brett Hull retiring, Father Time is nipping at the heels of Chris Chelios, who turns 44 in January. He's playing on Detroit's third defence pair, about 16 minutes a night and has but two assists in the first 17 games (four fewer than Dan Cleary). Detroit's doing fine and Chelios is a good leader and solid penalty killer, not a liability, but he took two misconduct penalties last weekend, frustrated at having to tame the ferocity that was once his trademark.

HEADS UP

With expanded offensive zones, endless power plays and composite sticks, it's turning into a shooting gallery out there and Boston GM Harry Sinden is scared that someone's going to get hurt. "On five-on-threes they have all day long to shoot,'' he told the Boston Herald. "They're going to kill someone standing in front with a shot. I'm telling you, I'm worried sick about that. I'm afraid it's going to happen.''

LAST, BUT NOT LEAST

With Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Boston in their division, the Sabres are up against it almost every night. They miss Miro Satan and Alex Zhitnik, rookie Tomas Vanek isn't scoring and former Oilers Jochen Hecht and Mike Grier are having limited impact. They appear headed for their fourth-straight last-place finish in the Northeast. The good news is that surgery on goalie Ryan Miller's thumb has gone so well he'll be back at practice in the first week of December, rather than Christmas, as feared.

SPLITS HAPPEN

Some splits are best for both sides, like Jeff O'Neill and the Hurricanes. And sometimes a breakup breaks both sides, like Tampa and Nikolai Khabibulin. While the Stanley Cup champs are fighting to keep their heads above the playoff cut line, Khabibulin has one of the worst GAA among all NHL starters (3.83, .854) on one of the worst teams. The Hawks won two in a row this week, marking the first time they accomplished that simple feat in 40 games, dating back to February of the 2003-04 season.

STEVIE Y TO COACH?

There used to be concern that because superstar players earned so much in their careers, they didn't have to become coaches afterwards. So the benches were overrun with plumbers who only knew defence. The times might be a-changing. First Gretzky takes over Phoenix, then Ray Bourque signs on in Boston and now Steve Yzerman isn't ruling it out. "Coaching never used to interest me,'' he said. "But as I've gotten older it's something I'm less opposed to.''

AND ANOTHER THING ...

Former Oiler would-be tough guy Dennis Bonvie is plying his trade with Wilkes-Barre of the AHL. He took on Philly Phantom Josh Gratton 84 seconds into their last game ... Who's going to play more games this year, Rick Nash (three so far) or Keith Tkachuk (two)? ... Pens coach Ed Olczyk says the addition of Perry Pearn to the Rangers has something to do with their turnaround: "He's a tremendous hockey mind. I'm sure he's brought a lot to that team.''

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BIG GAMES THIS WEEK

TODAY

SABRES AT SENS: Last time they met it was 10-4 Ottawa.

MONDAY, NOV. 14

FLYERS AT LIGHTNING: Defending Cup champs against a leading contender.

TUESDAY, NOV. 15

CAROLINA AT OTTAWA: Most unher-alded power in the NHL against odds-on favourite to win the Cup.

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 16

DETROIT AT CALGARY: Darren McCarty against his old team in a followup to last year's Conference quarter-final.


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