Why did we have a lockout again?

JORDAN HEATH-RAWLINGS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

The only fireworks I watched on Canada Day were the explosions set off across the NHL landscape.

Apparently we lost a year of hockey to a lockout ... why, exactly?

If you had told me, back in the days of the old NHL, that Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Daniel Briere, Brian Rafalski, Ryan Smyth and Jason Blake were free agents, and asked me to predict where they would sign, I would have paused for half a second and given you a list of teams that looked roughly like this:

Rangers, Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Flyers and Avalanche. Those are the big-market-big-money teams, and back in the old NHL they had their pick of the free agent crop.

Three years (but only two hockey seasons) later, not much has changed. It's enough to make Gary Bettman commit seppuku, which would in turn be enough to make every hockey fan smile.

In the meantime, all we can do is look at the fantasy impact these players will have on their new teams and remember the (two seasons of) revamped NHL, where teams like the Oilers would sign free agents like Chris Pronger.

- Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, NYR: One of these guys will be a fantasy stud, and the other will produce merely satisfactory results. Which one is which will depend on who plays with Jaromir Jagr. Watch the Rangers carefully in the preseason and don't make the wrong choice. Unless your pool gives a premium to goals -- in that case, take Drury every time.

- Daniel Briere, PHA: Briere will almost certainly take Peter Forsberg's spot next to Simon Gagne on the Flyers top line. He'll produce, and the Flyers will be a much better team, but will he reach 95 points again, now that he's on a weaker team with slower players and a nice, fat eight-year contract in his pocket? Don't bet on it.

- Brian Rafalski, DET: Yes, he'll be the No. 2 option behind Nicklas Lidstrom. But even the No. 2 option in Detroit allows more offensive freedom than the No. 1 role in New Jersey. The fact that the Red Wings are counting on him to replace some of Mathieu Schneider's contribution means one thing: Coach Mike Babcock will ask Rafalski to load it up and blast away on the power play, which bodes well for his fantasy value.

- Ryan Smyth, COL: Unless Joe Sakic suddenly falls off or suffers a serious injury, Smyth has a shot to top 40 goals for the first time. Sakic knows exactly how to use a linemate like Smyth -- stickhandle into the zone, get the puck on net and let Smyth bang home those dirty goals.

- Jason Blake, TOR: Simply by virtue of being the Leafs' big free-agent signing, Blake will go about two rounds early in most fantasy drafts. He might not hit 40 goals again, but he's fast, has a touch around the net and loves to kill penalties. Blake and Rafalski both have very young legs for 33-year-olds, having spent years playing light schedules in college (Blake) and overseas (Rafalski). If there's chemistry with Mats Sundin, Blake could top 30 goals for only the second time in his career. He's a nice option if your league counts short-handed goals, too.

The Extra Points is 24 hours' fantasy sports column. E-mail: theextrapoints@gmail.com


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