25 Greatest One-Hit Wonders in NHL History
Everyone knows what a one-hit wonder is, and there is not a person walking on this earth that doesn't have an image immediately pop into their mind when they hear the expression. For me it has to be Rob van Winkle, or "Vanilla Ice" as he was known on the streets. Allegedly.
All the warning signs were there, the hijacked hook from Queen's "Under Pressure," the goofball outfits, the haircut and the stripes in the eye brows. It's easy to laugh at it now, but for a good six months, that guy was getting boy-band tail. It's still a catchy tune, and, admittedly, I probably still know all the words, but the great equalizer of time and good judgement limit Mr. van Winkle's musical submissions to clearly one hit.
Timing was everything for Mr. Ice, as hip-hop music had not yet reached the mainstream. A catchy beat and a non-threatening (almost laughable) white guy gangster became Billboard's first No. 1 hip-hop single. Once the music stopped, and there was no real follow up, the cash cow died, Madonna stopped calling and the iconic "One-Hit Wonder" cement was allowed to set and dry.
The sports world has its share of one-hit wonders, too. Whether it is someone who plays out of their mind for a game, a week or a season, the term "one-hit wonder" can certainly apply to an athlete who finds their groove for a finite period.
The stain of performance-enhancing drugs has shed some light on a few of these statistical spikes in the world of Major League Baseball. The NFL and NBA have had a handful of players who emerge from nowhere to steal the temporary spotlight.
The same can be said for the NHL and its headline makers. The hockey world has had its share of what I like to call "performance-enhancing teammates," guys who have enough skill to turn a traffic cone into a 40-goal scorer.
For every star who brings their "A-game" on a night-to-night basis there is a third- or fourth-liner who scores the goal of his life or drops a hat trick on a Vezina candidate. Goalies are the streakiest of all NHL creatures and even the most inconsistent backstop can look like Roy for a game or two.
Here's a collection of 25 of the NHL's greatest one-hit wonders. They may never make it to the Hall of Fame as an inductee, but they certainly capitalized on their 15 minutes (or so) of excellence.
Lars Eller may one day be a great NHL player, but for one night in Montreal, he was possessed by the spirit of Maurice Richard. Fans were so pumped about the hat trick from their great Dane that someone hurled a marital aid onto the ice. Seriously. I couldn't make that up if I tried.
Eller's four-goal, five-point night was capped off by the above extra slick spin-o-rama penalty shot goal against hapless Chris Mason to seal the 7-3 rout.
During Pat Hughes' 10-year career, he managed to get himself three Stanley Cup rings playing for some of the best teams in hockey—Montreal (1979) and Edmonton (1983, 1984). Hughes had a relatively unremarkable career other than having the good fortune of having some of the best teammates in the history of hockey.
On the night of February 3, 1984, the most prolific scorer was not Gretzky, Kurri, Anderson or Messier. Pat Hughes found the twine five times against the Calgary Flames. That haul would constitute over 18 percent of Hughes' goal total that year.
Joe Juneau hit Boston with a ton of hype. An Olympic hero after holding out for contractual reasons, Juneau dropped 102 points in his rookie season. His 70 assists are still an NHL record for a rookie left wing. Juneau benefited from playing on a line with Adam Oates and Cam Neely, but he still had Bruin fans excited for the future.
Juneau wouldn't sniff 100 points during the rest of his 13-year career. His sophomore season was solid, but he was traded to the Washington Capitals and would never have another serious statistical season.
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During the Chicago Blackhawks' curse-ending Stanley Cup run in 2010, they were only expected to go as far as their young Finnish backstop could take them. Niemi posted a solid regular season before his signature playoff run, but he became clutch in the postseason.
For all of the heroics from Patrick Kane's overtime winner, the Hawks owe just as much to their ex-goalkeeper in Niemi. He was left to walk after the Blackhawks couldn't afford to keep him after an arbitration ruled he deserved a raise.
Niemi makes the list mainly because of the stark contrast in playoff success. While he was money for the Hawks in 2010, he seems to fit right in with San Jose and their traditionally early playoff exits.
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Not so cleverly named "Ace" for his Hollywood namesake, Jim Carey burst on the NHL scene in 1994, going 18-6-3 in half a season for the Washington Capitals, making the All-Rookie Team.
He would win the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalkeeper the following season before his career flamed out. Traded to Boston halfway through the next season, Carey could never regain his form. He was out of the league before his 26th birthday.
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Coming to the NHL in 2008, Fabian Brunnstrom had the attention of the Red Wings, Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Canucks before deciding to sign with the Dallas Stars. He made his debut in October 2008 by becoming the third player in NHL history to score a hat trick in their first career game.
While Brunnstrom would finish his rookie year with a respectable 29 points in 55 games, his opening-night feat accounted for 15.8 percent of his career goal total in 104 career games.
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Part of what can make a one-hit wonder frustrating is when that player can parlay their short-term success into a mega-contract.
Buffalo watched 2010 Philadelphia playoff hero Ville Leino put up a respectable 53 points in 81 games before signing him to a six-year deal worth $27 million.
Leino responded to his lottery-sized contract by posting less than half of his previous year's total with a stellar 25 points in 71 games. The slippery Finn has some time to try and earn some of that cash, but until he does, he will remain on this list.
With a Stanley Cup ring and a place in the NHL record books, one would figure Jeff Reese to be an accomplished former NHL goaltender. A closer look at Reese's career will tell you otherwise.
His ring was earned as the goalkeeping coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning. His NHL record is for most points by an NHL goaltender in a single game with three assists during a 13-1 win against San Jose.
OK, so this is hardly the greatest fight in NHL history, but it has two purposes. First, it features one of the best one-punch knockouts in NHL history. Second, it is about the only impressive fight of Aaron Downey's NHL career.
Don't get me wrong, Downey was a decent enforcer, but he never had another fight like this one.
Blair "B.J." MacDonald was the original recipient of Wayne Gretzky's perfectly timed passes to the right wing. Then Jari Kurri showed up and ruined everything. For MacDonald that is.
The right winger peaked at 46 goals and 48 assists alongside Gretzky before being replaced by the Kurri. MacDonald would eventually plummet down the Oilers' depth chart and be traded off to Vancouver and virtual obscurity.
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The backup goalie is not unlike the backup quarterback in the NFL. He can often times be the most popular player in town, especially if the starter isn't playing particularly well.
Manny Legace had a similar career arc. He was given the opportunity for spot starts from 2000-2004, playing well enough to earn the starting nod in 2005-06.
Legace outplayed Chris Osgood to earn the starter's role and tore it up all year, posting career numbers and helping Detroit to the top seed in the Western Conference. Legace's magical regular-season run expired in the playoffs, as the Red Wings lost in the first round to Edmonton.
Legace's services would not be retained by Detroit and he signed with rival St. Louis. He would have some brief success with the Blues, but statistically, he would never match his magical 2005-06 season in Detroit.
While hockey hasn't really had many issues with performance-enhancing drugs, there have been several "performance-enhancing players" that might have made other NHL players look like fool's gold at times. Rob Brown would absolutely fall into this category.
Playing in Pittsburgh with Mario Lemieux and an uber-talented Penguins squad, Rob Brown dropped some career numbers in 1988-89 with 115 points. It was Brown's second year in the NHL and it would be the peak of his scoring, as his stats would nosedive every year after.
Nicknamed "Ulcers" because he was discharged from the army due to his stomach ulcers, Frank McCool took over goaltending duties while Toronto's full time keeper, Turk Broda, was serving in World War II. McCool played every game for the 1944-45 season and helped the Leafs defeat Montreal and Detroit to win the Stanley Cup.
McCool would win the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie and set an NHL record by shutting out the Red Wings in the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final.
McCool would haggle with the Leafs over his contract and missed the first part of the following season. After agreeing to terms, he would play the next 22 games before Broda returned from his service. Rather than attempt to play for another team, McCool and his ulcers chose to retire after one-and-a-half seasons.
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The odd tale of Johnathan Cheechoo spiked when he was the winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2005-06 as the league's leading goal scorer. While it could be speculated that Cheechoo's success came about as a result of the Joe Thornton trade to the Sharks, he continued to nosedive after the Richard Trophy season.
Cheechoo's free-fall would continue into the minors, as he currently skates for the Peoria Rivermen.
Being the "other guy" in the Wayne Gretzky trade can do some serious damage to a player's psyche.
Jimmy Carson was the highly touted "replacement" for Gretzky, scoring 55 goals in just his second year in the league. Carson's production dipped in Edmonton and he demanded a trade out of the city and the large shadow of 99.
He would land in Detroit a shell of the player he was in Los Angeles. Two years removed from his 55-goal season in 1987-88, Carson could only find the net 21 times in 1989-90. Carson's production would creep back up as he got comfortable in Detroit, but he would never approach the level he was at in L.A.
Though he had a fairly solid career, Bobby Carpenter would never match his fourth season in the NHL. He was the first American-born first-round draft pick and became the first American to reach the 50-goal barrier. Carpenter hit the ice flying with back-to-back 32-goal seasons to start his career.
The odd thing about Carpenter's career is the significant fall off in production after his peak 54-goal, 97-point season. He would hit 50 points only three times in the 13 years after his career season.
No player came out of nowhere faster and then disappeared faster than John Druce. Perpetually shuttling back and forth between Washington and their AHL affiliate in Baltimore, Druce was called up for good in 1990 when Dino Ciccarelli went down with a knee injury.
Fourteen goals in 15 playoff games helped the Capitals to the Conference semifinals and earned Druce a spot on the big roster. He would only score three more playoff goals in his last eight NHL seasons.
Fernando Pisani's second year in the league nearly matched his regular-season goal total with 14 goals in 24 games. Pisani and the inspired play of his Edmonton teammates knocked off the mighty Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs.
Though the Cinderella Oilers would fall short against the Hurricanes, Pisani and his Oilers would struggle to match the success of the 2005-06 season over the next few years.
Over the course of a 13-year career, Wayne Babych scored 192 goals. Ironically, over a quarter of those were tallied in one season. Babych dropped 54 goals in 1980-81 and would have no more than 20 goals in any of his eight other seasons.
Steve Penney was called into action after four regular-season games (all losses) to lead the Montreal Canadiens into the 1984 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Penney channeled the spirit of Jacques Plante to lead the Habs through the first two rounds. He would win nine games, recording three shutouts along the way.
Penney was unable to match his success in the playoffs that year. He would lose the starting role later the next season and would be a backup to some guy named Patrick Roy who won the Stanley Cup in 1986.
Another player who benefited from performance-enhancing teammates was Chris Kontos. A right-place, right-time situation was tailor made for Kontos, who received the best teammate ever in Wayne Gretzky.
Kontos played inspired hockey in the spring of 1989, scoring nine goals in 11 games, helping knock off Gretzky's former team and defending Stanley Cup champion Edmonton in the first round of the playoffs. Kontos would get to the playoffs one more time in his career and score once in five games.
Mel Hill earned the nickname "Sudden Death" by scoring three overtime goals in one series, two of which were double-overtime, including one in a Game 7. Hill's Bruins would knock off the Rangers, then defeat Toronto in the 1939 Stanley Cup Final.
Hill would play seven more years in the NHL, but he would never match the significance of his 1939 playoff performance.
Ken Hodge Jr.
Boston originally signed Ken Hodge Jr. for the publicity of a second-generation Bruin. Papa Bruin Hodge Sr. played nine years with the Bruins, twice lifting the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972. He twice topped the 100-point mark and hit the 50-goal mark once.
Ken Jr. looked like he was well on his way to continuing the Hodge legacy with 30 goals in his rookie season. However, he would only find the net nine more times in his short-lived NHL career.
Jacques Richard had the junior career, the name and certainly the mustache of a man hell-bent on breaking some scoring records. Unfortunately for the teams that paid him up until 1980-81, Richard was never able to top the 50-point mark.
Then, for one season, it all fell into place and he became the player he was supposed to have been for the Quebec Nordiques. Unfortunately for Richard and the Nords, reality set in a year later and he dropped from 103 points to 41.
Scott Bjugstad broke out in his second year with the Minnesota North Stars with 43 goals and 33 assists in 1985-86. He followed his big year up with a whopping four goals while fighting to stay in the NHL.
Bjugstad would never recover his scoring touch, but now, ironically, he runs a hockey shooting camp.