The following is an excerpt of my forthcoming (2030) book Hockey – A History of All Things Puck (All Rights Reserved)
Teemu Selanne “The Finnish Flash One” (10 time All-Star…4 time All-NHL Team – 2 times 1st Team…1 Scoring Championship ’98-99…637 goals…1340 points…1.06ppg…77 goals as rookie…102 game winning goals – 2nd All-Time…1 Stanley Cup)
Sweeping statement time: Teemu Selanne is one of the fifteen best Hockey Players of All-Time. He is one of the fifteen best hockey players without question or reproach.
I will kindly ask you to refrain from lighting torches and burning me as a hockey heretic until after you have heard me out. Believe me when I say that I categorically mean to prove to you, dear reader, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
As of 2011, Teemu Selanne is the best active player in hockey. Statistically speaking, the Finn is still in incredibly fine form. Consider the following and try to put a year on each of the represented seasons:
#1) 79 games played…40 goals…68 assists…108 points…1.36ppg.
#2) 75 games played…47 goals (led league)…60 assists…107 points…1.42ppg
#3) 80 games played…40 goals…50 assists…90 points…1.125ppg
#4) 73 games played…31 goals…49 assists…80 points…1.09ppg
There are four great seasons…in these years: ‘94/95, ‘98/99, ‘05/06 and ’10/11. The first and last season are 17 years apart and are astounding similar. No player has been more productive during their career for longer than Teemu Selanne (Gordie Howe still reigns as most productive over 40+ years) and no one has been more consistent in modern times.
Here is the kicker, or piece de resistance: these do not include the best statistical seasons of Teemu’s career. His best statistical seasons: ‘92/93 (76 goals / 56 assists / 132 points), 96/97 (51 goals / 58 assists / 109 points), ‘97/98 (52 goals), ‘06/07 (40 goals / 50 assists / 90 points).
Selanne began his career as a Winnipeg Jet and immediately went on a rookie record tear, scoring 77 goals and yet shockingly losing the scoring title because Alexander Mogiliny scored 86 goals that year. From that point on Selanne could have had gone the way of many of the other great goal scorers of his time. The Finnish Flash would streak down the ice with the best and score nearly every single game. His speed and finishing ability was and is among the best ever. He could have been Bure or even Mogiliny – a guy who coasts for five or six years on his scoring skills alone. There, however, is where Selanne diverged from his European peers for a few important reasons: he has mostly stayed away from major injures, been remarkably durable, and completely reinvented himself.
Selanne, unlike Bure or Mogiliny, discovered a true grit deep within himself. He never just wanted to score 500 goals and walk away from the game a debate. Everything Selanne has done since he left the Jets has been with a singular focus: winning the Stanley Cup. No player has embraced “the Secret” quite as hard as Teemu Selanne.
Watching him become the consummate team player over the course of his career has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of the NHL for me over the past fifteen years. It was sort of shocking to see a 77 goal scorer do a near 180 and become a fantastic leader who made all his teammates better. When he first went to the Mighty Ducks people felt he would team with Paul Karyia and a Cup was in the bag. It took a few more cracks before Selanne gave me one of the most touching moments with Lord Stanley. When he finally accepted Lord Stanley (after another shockingly consistent 40 goals / 80 point campaign) wearing a brand new hat pulled down low over his grizzly surfer hair and beard, face soaked with sweat, he looked like a man who had finally climbed Everest after fifteen tries. This was why he played the game all those years; why he sacrificed and made himself a complete player instead of a one-way scorer. Upon getting the Cup, Selanne went to speak, stopped, choked up, looked skyward and then just succumbed fully to the moment. He looked away and quickly had to pull his hat down over his streaming tears. Honest, overwhelming and a truly beautiful hockey moment. For him, like so many other, there were simply no words that could possibly express what he was feeling at that moment.
All we have to attempt to understand is the raw emotion left behind on his face. The tears and the overwhelmed expression are Selanne’s gifts to us. They say more about his career than his record 77 goals as a rookie. His Stanley Cup is a testament to the fact that he has never shied away from pressure, nor cracked under it (the opposite, he thrives on it – as evidenced by his 102 game winning goals, good enough for 2nd All-Time). Selanne has been good for nearly two decades and submitted 35-40 goal / 85-95 point seasons with a dizzying array of teammates. The man can thrive with just about anyone.
Yet…there is a case against Selanne: in his prime he played for Annaheim, Colorado, San Jose and Annaheim again all in the pursuit of Lord Stanley. The hopping around can be somewhat explained as his early Ducks teams never captured a Cup due to their unfortunate rise during a particularly competitive era ruled by the Detroit, Colorado, New Jersey triumvirate. After that, Selanne employed a strategy of jumping from contender to contender – basically whomever appeared most promising – all in a chase for a ring, each time just missing out. It could be argued that he never brought exactly what was needed to put those teams over to top, but in truth he hit Colorado (with whom he had his worst season ever and quickly left) after they peaked and San Jose before their best years.
Selanne thrived with whomever he played with during a talent rich period and the Ducks lack of success was more indicative of their shaky goalkeeping and suspect D. Was Teemu still finding his niche at the time? The short answer is yes. His first stint with the Ducks was during his transition from scorer to all-around dynamo. Selanne and Kariya never meshed like they should have but both were still developing their games and may have played off one another better later on in their careers.
Like Jagr, Selanne was a little bit of a mercenary, albeit for a very different (some might go as far as “opposite”) reason: Jagr was all about money; Selanne only wanted a Cup. One other plus for the Finnish Flash – he never jumped ship to a bad team for a huge payday, unlike contemporaries Jagr, Bure and Mogiliny. His bridges also remained unburned either because all he wanted was to do everything he could to help his team win or he was simply a fun guy to play with . Who would not want to play with a fast, streaking, Finnish bolt with incredible finishing touch? Selanne has scored more goals than any other Finnish player in NHL History and has netted more than 600 in his career. It is not surprising then thatAnnaheim was very happy to have him back as the final piece on a deep team that would go on to win the Cup.
Selanne has been so consistent for so many seasons that he long ago became underrated, possibly the most underrated guy of his era. In many ways he is like another foreign athlete who conquered an American Pro Sport: Dirk Nowitzki. After being so good and consistent for so long, people began to underestimate him. In 2011 he won his first NBA Title. Like Selanne he reached the Pinnacle and will continue to deliver his good, if not great seasons.
What more can we expect from Selanne? I believe him to be one of the top-15 players of All Time, a man who played the game hard for a very long time and who fought and scrapped and showed so much more of himself than we initially believed he had in him. Teemu Selanne is a remarkable player and his shining moment stands out amidst a sea of them, simply because he truly earned it and as fans, we feel it could not have happened for a better guy.
 Goalies need to be judged separately from positional players: what they do is almost a different sport. They must have their own Pantheon and should have a separate section in the Hall of Fame. We should never talk about the best players in hockey and ever include goalies; it should be a different conversation started with the sentence “The best goalies in hockey history are…”(For the record, as we have already covered: Tretiak, Dryden, Roy, Sawchuck, Brodeur).
 Selanne has also played with some great linemates, among them: Joe Sakic, and Paul Kariya.
 Given his playmaking ability and genial manner, both are extremely likely.
 Shockingly competitive category, as there are two Finnish players with more than 600 goals: Jari Kurri and Selanne. You can add emotional heartbreaker Saku Koivu to the list as well.