SUN Hockey Pool

Winners 'n' losers

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

With harsher penalty standards in the new NHL, if obstruction isn't gone, it's certainly on the decline. That has led to less clutching and grabbing and more scoring. That's great news for fans and some players. But other players are having a nightmare adjusting to the new era.

Today, Sun hockey writer Steve Macfarlane examines which players have benefitted and which ones are looking totally lost.

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WINNERS

1. PAUL KARIYA

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

The 'new' NHL has given the 31-year old Kariya a new team, a new partner and new hope for his career.

As the league gradually began accepting tackle football tactics on the ice over the last decade, the diminutive winger's speed-and-skill-based style suffered. Kariya struggled through an injury-plagued 2003-04 season during which he tallied 36 points (11 goals and 25 assists) in 51 games with the Colorado Avalanche -- his worst points per game average since joining the NHL as a fourth-overall draft pick in 1993.

Signing as a free agent in a new city for the second time in three years, the longtime Anaheim Mighty Duck has enjoyed a revival.

Teamed with fellow speedster Steve Sullivan, the 5-ft. 11-in., 180-lb. Kariya is averaging more than a point per game and could reach the 30-goal plateau for the first time since 2001-02.

                           

Games Goals Assists Points

2003-04 51 11 25 36

*2005-06 82 29 58 87

* Projected based on current pace

2. TEEMU SELANNE

ANAHEIM MIGHTY DUCKS

Selanne was an 80-plus point player with the Ducks in the late '90s but, like former linemate Paul Kariya, had difficulties staying healthy. After joining Kariya as a free agent in Colorado in 2003, Selanne's career appeared to be all but over. Selanne, playing on a wonky knee, endured his worst season statistically.

The former 50-goal scorer was a healthy scratch late in the year and during the playoffs.

The work stoppage gave Selanne an opportunity to have knee surgery without consequences and the revised rules have given the 35-year-old a chance to see if he could recapture the blazing speed that helped him to a 76-goal rookie season with the Winnipeg Jets in 1992-93.

So far, so good. Making a return to the Ducks as a free agent -- signing a one-year, $1-million deal -- Selanne is on pace for more than 40 goals and is skating pain-free.

                           

Games Goals Assists Points

2003-04 78 16 16 32

*2005-06 82 41 37 78

* Projected based on current pace

3. SIMON GAGNE

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Gagne has quickly evolved into a dangerous NHL goal scorer.

When the Flyers drafted the winger 22nd overall in 1998, they knew Gagne had great offensive potential to complement his defensive abilities.

Little did they know how well his skills would flourish in the post-lockout league.

Gagne was tied for the NHL lead in goals with 18 (in 18 games) heading into last night's schedule.

Part of the 25-year-old's sudden success as a sniper is due to the open ice more easily found in today's game. Credit slightly smaller goaltending equipment as another factor in the Flyer finding the corners.

New linemate Peter Forsberg, though, also has something to do with Gagne's breakout season.

Forsberg, who leads the league with assists, joined the Flyers as a free agent and has had a re-emergence of his own.

Gagne was in danger of becoming a defensive grinder in the obstruction-filled days of the NHL but is now reaching his potential.

Should the crackdown continue, Gagne will be a star for years to come.

                           

Games Goals Assists Points

2003-04 80 24 21 45

*2005-06 82 82 46 128

* Projected based on current pace

4. JASON SPEZZA

OTTAWA SENATORS

Spezza has been brought along slowly by the Senators but is now centering the top line with flankers Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson.

And the playmaker is on pace to shatter his previous NHL totals.

The speedy second-overall draft pick in 2001 benefitted from a year in the AHL during the lockout. Like the Flames' Chuck Kobasew -- who is having a solid campaign in Calgary -- Spezza gained confidence while toiling in the minors.

Spezza won the American Hockey League scoring title and was named MVP while racking up 32 goals and 85 assists in 80 games with the Binghamton Senators. His 117 points were four short of the league record.

The 22-year-old's skills are a big reason the Sens lead the league in goals for -- Alfredsson, Heatley and Spezza are all among the top 10 in points.

Heatley, a Calgary product, has also laid to rest any doubts about his ability to overcome injury and personal strife to succeed in his new city.

                           

Games Goals Assists Points

2003-04 78 22 33 55

*2005-06 82 25 116 141

* Projected based on current pace

5. JAROMIR JAGR

NEW YORK RANGERS

It's difficult to dismiss point totals of 74, 77 and 79 as disappointments.

Unless those numbers are coming from someone like Jagr.

Capable of being the most dominant player in hockey, Jagr spent the last few seasons as if he was a gifted student who doesn't feel the need to study for exams. He coasted to those 70-plus points seasons without the passion that was evident when he was putting up numbers in the hundreds during campaigns with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the mid- and late-90s.

It looks like the new guidelines have led to Jagr's renaissance. Looking like he's enjoying the game, the 33-year-old Czech has led the New York Rangers to a surprisingly good start. Reunited with his Pittsburgh pal Martin Straka, Jagr was tied for the league lead in goals prior to last night's slate.

The game's prime example of a prima donna will continue his pace as long as he's happy.

                           

Games Goals Assists Points

2003-04 77 31 43 74

*2005-06 82 70 43 113

* Projected based on current pace

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LOSERS

1. KRZYSZTOF OLIWA

N. JERSEY DEVILS

Fighters are a dying breed in the NHL and the former Calgary Flames enforcer was one of the first casualties.

After no longer fitting into Calgary's plans. Oliwa joined the Devils but his tenure was short-lived once the product returned to the ice.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello placed the heavyweight on waivers late last month, claiming the game has outgrown players like Oliwa.

It is cruel irony at its best.

                

GP G A P PIM

2003-04 65 3 2 5 247

2005-06 3 0 0 0 0

2. BRETT HULL

PHOENIX COYOTES

Hull complained for years about what a disgrace the NHL had become with all the clutching and grabbing and defensive trap systems slowing down the game. Then, just when the league reformed itself into what Hull has always wanted, he discovers that style of game has passed him by.

One of the best goalscorers in NHL history, Hull joined the Wayne Gretzky-coached Coyotes with hopes of flourishing under the new guidelines.

But just five games into the season, after contributing just a single assist and watching his ice time dwindle, Hull accepted the fact he could no longer compete with the young stars of the league and called it a career.

                          

Games Goals Assists Points

2003-04 81 25 43 68

2005-06 5 0 1 1

3. SCOTT HANNAN

SAN JOSE SHARKS

The 26-year-old defenceman appeared to be reaching his peak while helping the Sharks to the Western Conference final in 2004. He replaced Rob Blake on the gold-medal winning Team Canada entry in the World Cup of Hockey and was touted as a potential premier blueliner in the league..

What a difference a year makes.

This season, the 6-ft. 1-in., 230-pounder had an unsavory minus-10 rating through 18 games and admits his start has been a little unsettling.

                       

GP G A P +/- PIM

2003-04 82 6 15 21 10 48

*2005-06 82 5 9 14 -55 82

* Projected based on current pace

4. MIKE PECA

EDMONTON OILERS

One of two big-name free agents brought to Edmonton in the off-season, Peca hasn't been able to live up to the massive hype.

Head injury aside after a nasty check from Columbus Blue Jackets star Rick Nash, the historically solid two-way checker has had trouble adapting to the speed of the game. The 31-year-old centre is on pace to record fewer than 30 points this season.

                        

GP G A P +/- PIM

2003-04 76 11 29 40 17 71

*2005-06 82 5 24 29 -10 58

* Projected based on current pace

5. SERGEI FEDOROV

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

Fedorov has just two assists in seven games this season. His early-season struggles with a groin injury caused Ducks GM Brian Burke to cut costs by shipping the $6-million man and a fifth-round pick to Columbus for two relative unknowns.

                           

Games Goals Assists Points

2003-04 80 31 34 65

*2005-06 82 0 23 23

* Projected based on current pace


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