Kariya doesn't point to the feeble power play to explain the Ducks' low standing or make excuses about the continued absence of his oft-injured center, Steve Rucchin. He looks in the mirror. "I always try to see what I'm not doing that could help us win," says Kariya. "In terms of being captain, I wonder what I'm not doing that would help other guys be ready or help them perform better. There's not a guy in the league who wouldn't want to play for a contender. It's my job to make us that contender."
Kariya's role models are Steve Yzerman, the Detroit Red Wings captain who led his team through the Dead Wings era and came out the other side with two Stanley Cups, and Joe Sakic, who survived execrable Quebec Nordiques teams that morphed into champions as the Colorado Avalanche. Anaheim has played in only three playoff series in Kariya's seven seasons, has lost its last eight postseason games and hasn't earned a playoff berth since 1999. Still, Kariya believes in Murray's coaching, the draft and happy endings.
"Lots of people would love to see him in Toronto or New York or Montreal, an Original Six city, a hockey hotbed," says Brendan Shanahan of the Red Wings, who has known Kariya since they played for Canada in the 1996 World Cup, "but he doesn't bite when that stuff is mentioned. He's 100 percent loyal to the Ducks. That's one of the nice qualities about him."
Kariya is committed to turning Anaheim around. If he has to settle the puck better on the power play, he will settle it. If he has to be the more demonstrative captain that former coach Craig Hartsburg implored that he be, he will work at being assertive. If he has to whack a teammate in practice, he will slice and dice like a Veg-O-Matic. Maybe trying to engrave his initials on Trnka was out of character, but the stuck Duck would rather fight than switch.