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4 NHL players who should benefit from their long layoffs

A decade into his NHL career, the “Finnish Flash” was flickering.

Teemu Selanne completed the 2003-04 season — the last of the Dead Puck Era — with 16 goals in 78 games for the Colorado Avalanche. That summer he represented Finland at the World Cup of Hockey and scored one goal for the tournament bridesmaids. At 34, the first-ever Rocket Richard Trophy winner was skating with a left knee made of slush.

That World Cup final contest between Finland and Canada was the last high-level game many NHLers took part in for about 13 months thanks to an owners lockout that torpedoed the 2004-05 season. When the NHL resumed in October, 2005, Selanne was playing like he was 23 again, having used the time off to undergo reconstructive surgery and put in 10 months of rehab.

What a difference a forced break can make.

Seven NHL teams haven’t played a game since early March, meaning even if the league fires back up on Jan. 1, 2021, a whole bunch of players will go roughly 10 months without real action. Another eight clubs played a few qualification-round contests before getting bounced from the amended 2020 playoffs, creating another glut of guys who got a whole lot of downtime to rest and recover.

While it’s hard to imagine any night-and-day situations like Selanne’s — the resurgent right winger scored 40 goals the first year after the lockout, 48 the next and played until he was 43 — a few players spring to mind as candidates to discover a sporting silver lining in this otherwise awful pandemic experience.

Here, then, are four guys who could pop in 2021 — whenever we drop the puck.


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