I dont think the cross check really hurt his career that badly. Heck he scored 81pts in 2002-2003. I think his stats year to year are more indicative of the way the NHL has changed over the course of his career that and team roster changes.
It's also indicative of the big ass contract he got after Sakic signed his. 10M$ has a way to make you a tiny bit lazier and unmotivated.
I agree with Foppa and Vic. I think people here are not remembering how promissing Kariya looked. At age 21-22 people thought of Kariya exactly how we feel about Kovalchuk now... the next superstar of the league. The question inherently has bias since we all know Kariyas injury problems, but at age 21 this was not an issue.
Kariya is a character guy, winning the lady bing a couple times too. He is a true leader and does not play dirty. I've watched about every Kovalchuk game and, though is more of a a physical presence than Kariya, he is also a dirtier player. He slashes alot and keeps that stick high.
On a PP, I'd say Kovalchuk is more affective, man can he shoot from that point. But 5-5, its Kariya all the way. Im not saying he was better defensively, but I think he was more affective all over the ice.
Kariya was good from behind the net, and is the fastest player blueline to blueline i've ever seen.
I'd take Kovalcuhuk,he's more apt to take a crosscheck to the face and come back the same player,Kariya could'nt.But......................Kariya was as good a player as him at that age no doubt imo. Too bad...................great player.....the league needed him.I still hold out hopes he'll re-assert himslef and come back a dangerous player.The skills are still there..................they have'nt gone anywhere at all.Play Paul!!!!!!!!
Kovalchuk is much better suited for today's game. Kariya is more skilled, but is just too weak. Kovy can fight through hooks and holds where Kariya can't. I will never forget how good Paul Kariya was/still is, but Kovalchuk is better, and can play in today's game.