*Sigh* I miss the tap-ins off a Kariya feed.
[Ed. Note: On Saturday, Teemu Selanne will be making his triumphant return to Winnipeg since being traded during the 1995-1996 season. As a tribute to Teemu, Anaheim Calling will be spending the days leading up to his homecoming in the 'Peg taking a look back at what got him to this point in his career. Already covered: Teemu and the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, his years with the Jets, and the trade that brought him to Anaheim. Now the lore of the original Wonder Twins.]
If Arthur still wrote here, he'd probably be the person who would write this post. With his style of writing, he could convince a Tea Party convention that he was standing next to John Hancock when the Constitution was signed. I mention that, because I think that's what it was like to watch Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne play together. There was something uncanny about it. They were called the dynamic duo, but It's not really a fitting name. There wasn't a Batman/Robin relationship. It was more equal than that. I suppose you could say they were the Twins before the Twins were. They played a beautiful game. It was more like poetry really.
Kariya and Selanne were two of the best Ducks to ever play together, despite their relatively limited team success. The Ducks were notorious for being a one-line-team from mid 1996-mid 2000. You know why? Simply because they were. Not only were they a one-line-team, that one line lacked a true number one center. Kariya and Selanne were Jarome Iginla, before Jarome Iginla.
The Ducks paraded around a couple of has-beens in their attempt to solidify that line. Oddly enough, they never tried to get a has-been center, just has-been wingers, most notably Tomas Sandstrom and Jari Kurri. Both players were in the twilight of their respective careers and sometimes had trouble keeping up with the faster, younger, Kariya and Selanne. That's what it was like for the Kariya and Selanne show. They were great, but the team wasn't. It was the best show on ice for half a decade, but only resulted in 2 playoff appearances, and one playoff series victory.
In the first five seasons Selanne was a Duck, he scored 482 points in 394 games to produce at a 1.24 P/G pace. Kariya produced 384 points in 313 games for a 1.23 P/G pace. Come on, that's a little sexy, right? Of course, points only tell part of the story. Kariya and Selanne weren't just prolific point producers; they were the greatest scoring duo since Gretzky and Kurri. I know, because Gretzky said so!
As Wayne said, the thing that shines brightest about the play between Kariya and Selanne is the propensity towards sharing. When Selanne gave the puck up to Kariya he knew one of two things was going to happen. Kariya was going to get a scoring chance, or Kariya was going to get him the puck for a scoring chance. That was it. Nothing else could happen. It was a level of trust that is rarely seen in today's NHL. It was what allowed them to be so productive. Everyone will point to their speed as the key element of why they were so productive, but I think there were two more important factors. First, they always knew where the other one was. Second, they were both ninjas.
Kariya used to make so many no look passes you'd think he was playing the game with one of those Star Wars target sights in his visor. He always knew where Selanne was, and Selanne always knew how to find Kariya. It as pure instinct. On top of that, they both knew how to get lost. They had this knack for just appearing out of nowhere. All Ducks fans have seen Selanne float to the soft spot in the D and settle into it. Now imagine there are two guys on the line who know exactly how to find that spot. They both always know where the other is, and they have the skill to thread a needle with a puck. It was pure magic.
When people ask me why I love hockey so much, I reply, "because anything can happen." A play that unfolds in the first 30 seconds of a period is exactly like one that happens in the middle frame. A good shot is a good shot, no matter when it happens. When Kariya and Selanne were on the ice, it seemed as if anything was possible. It was edge of your seat hockey. It was a borderline phenomenon. Eventually Kariya to Selanne wasn't just part of the play-by-play; it was how you described the events of the game. You could leave the room to get a soda while the Ducks were down a pair and come back to find a tie score. If you asked someone what happened, you'd get this response: Kariya to Selanne. If you never witnessed it, here are some highlights.
Unfortunately, it wasn't all good times. The Ducks had trouble protecting the Dynamic Duo. In their five seasons together, Kariya played in 81 less games. Who knows how much higher the point totals could have gotten if plays like this weren't allowed to happen.
Still, the plays that did happen were worth fare more than the price of a ticket. I remember going to Disneyland one time and they had a deal on tickets, $17 a piece to sit in the upper middle area of the upper bowl. I had to beg my dad to get them after he had already saved for months to get us into Disneyland. It was worth it though. Almost anything was worth it to see them play. If they had played on the East Coast, they would have stayed together. The market could have supported it. Sadly, the wins dried up in Anaheim because the Ducks didn't have the depth to create a winner. Then, that day happened...