Each and every individual on the face of this Earth, without a doubt, has at least heard the good old saying of a ‘one-hit one-wonder.’ This is especially true for die hard sports fans that may already be well aware of these so called sports related ‘one-hit wonders’ in regards to a player on a specific team.
Whether it pertains to a professional athlete who plays the game of their life, exceeds expectations for the duration of a week or month, or even manages to play above their head for an entire season, the expression ‘one-hit wonder’ is certainly applicable and synonymous with a select few of pro athlete who have been fortunate to play the game at the highest level.
Other sports such as the NFL, MLB, and the NBA have what are considered to be ‘busts’ more so than one-hit wonders. This is because a majority of these so called prospects/rookies never reach the highest level in their intended sport and subsequently never are able to experience or achieve one exceptional season, stats wise.
From the four major North American sports, Hockey has thus far had a higher quantity of one-hit wonders whom never live up to the excellence.
In Hockey, for every top hockey player who competes on every shift, puts forth their best effort on a consistent basis, and has a proven track record, there is a player that has one good season or playoff series and consequently falls off the map.
Without a further ado, here is a compilation/collection of the top ten one-hit wonders in NHL history. Their brief stints in the league will never be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame or have their last name raised to the rafters, but these select few have unquestionably capitalized on their 15 minutes (or so) of great play.
15. Andrew Raycroft
To kick this list off at number fifteen, we’re going to begin with former Canadian goaltender, Andrew Raycroft. Andrew Joseph Ernest Raycroft played his first full NHL season in the 2003–2004 NHL season, compiling a 29-18-9 record with a 2.05 goals against average and a .926 save percentage with three shutouts.
His Boston Bruins would end the season as the second seed in the Eastern Conference en route to the Stanley Cup playoffs. For his efforts, Raycroft was the winner of the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) in 2004. Once NHL play resumed after the 2004–05 NHL lockout, Raycroft struggled to regain his form from the year before.
He would become the team’s third-string goalie which meant being a healthy scratch for the majority of the season.
During the eventful offseason of 2006, Raycroft was dealt to Toronto in exchange for the rights to then Finnish goaltending prospect, Tuukka Rask. Later on it was revealed that the Bruins would have released Raycroft regardless, which would have meant that any team could have claimed him at no cost.
He finished the regular season 46th in the goals against average category and had the 53rd best save percentage as the Leafs failed to qualify for the postseason in the 2006–07 NHL season.
Raycroft would make stops in Colorado, Vancouver, Dallas, as well as stints in Italy (Hockey Milano Rossoblu), and Sweden (IF Björklöven), before officially announcing his retirement on April 9, 2014.
14. Gary Leeman
Next on this list is another Toronto Maple Leafs player, Gary Leeman. Leeman was the second player in Toronto Maple Leafs history to score 50 goals or more in one NHL season (Rick Vaive was the first).
Drafted 25th overall as a standout defenceman in the WHL, he converted to a winger upon his transition to the NHL. Best known for his speed and gritty play on the ice, he managed to score 51 goals in 1989-90 playing on the “Hound Line” with Wendel Clark and Russ Courtnall.
Leeman bounced around the league as he would also play for the Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues, among others, in 667 NHL regular season games.
13. Joé Juneau
Not your average Joé.
Joé Juneau, a two-time All-American, was an Olympic hero that held out for contractual reasons before coming to an agreement with the Boston Bruins’ terms. Juneau would make the jump to the NHL without spending a single game in the minor leagues throughout his fifteen year NHL career.
While on the Bruins, Juneau, the team’s primary left winger, had his finest NHL season in his rookie year of 1992–93, as he totaled an absurd 102 points on a dynamic line with Adam Oates and Cam Neely. He still holds the NHL record for assists in a single season by a rookie left winger with an astounding 70 assists recorded. He didn’t win the Calder that year, as he was unluckily a rookie in the same year as Teemu Selanne.
He had Bruin fans thinking of bigger and better things ahead, but he would turn out be another journeyman.
Juneau suited up for four different teams after the Bruins before serving as a third-liner in Montreal for the three remaining seasons of his career. During the rest of his 13-year career, Juneau would not come close to 75 points, let alone reach the 100 points mark.
12. Blair “B.J.” MacDonald
As the Oilers top right winger in the inaugural year, Blair MacDonald became the primary beneficiary of the playmaking ability of Wayne Gretzky’s perfectly set up passes.
That was short-lived, however, as it lasted until the likes of young and talented players such as Glenn Anderson, Mark Messier, and particularly Finnish star Jari Kurri took over in Edmonton.
As a result, MacDonald would tumble further down the Edmonton Oilers’ depth chart and was shipped out to the west coast where he would have a tumultuous tenure playing for the Vancouver Canucks.
His best season in the NHL transpired in the 1979–80 season, where MacDonald topped out at 46 goals and 94 points alongside Gretzky, before being replaced.
11. Rob Brown
Rob Brown had his best statistical season while playing on a very talented Pittsburgh Penguins team lead by the great Mario Lemieux. Rob Brown set a career high in 1988-89 with a line of 49 goals, 66 assists, and 115 points in only 68 regular season games played.
Having been Brown’s second year in the NHL, he appeared to be on an upward trajectory.
Unfortunately, that was not the case as the talented Rob Brown’s poor play on the ice was a byproduct of his refusal to take training seriously. This shed light on his individual stats which plunged to all time lows being in the teens. It was his ego, not necessarily his skill that would lead to his NHL demise.
10. Manny Legace
Manny Legace, the backup goalie to Chris Osgood, was given the duty of spot starts from the years 2000-2004, playing admirably to warrant consideration for the starting role in 2005-06.
Legace outplayed Osgood to take over the starter’s job, and by year’s end, his career year helped the Detroit Red Wings secure the best record in the Western Conference. Legace’s magical regular-season run lost steam in the playoffs, as the Edmonton Oilers would go on to defeat the Red Wings in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
Legace’s services would not be retained by the Red Wings and he would ultimately sign a contract and end up as a member of the St. Louis Blues.
Although Manny Legace did experience some short-term success with the Blues organization, statistically speaking, he never was able to replicate his onetime magical 2005-06 season in Mowtown.
9. Ville Leino
Every season a number of players in the final year of their initial contract come out of nowhere to post unanticipated results. In other words, they have a “career year.”
In the salary cap era, the task of every NHL GM is to avoid a specific player who had a season that was an outlier and determine whether or not he will regress back to his poor play in the seasons ahead. A cautionary tale involves the Finnish forward Ville Leino.
The 2010 Philadelphia Flyers playoff hero, Ville Leino put up a respectable 53 points in 81 regular season games before putting up 21 points in 19 games in the playoffs. This led to him signing a six-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres worth a $27 million in the 2011 offseason.
The challenge for those who did it the previous season is to prove that they still have what it takes to build on the numbers they put up the year before and sustain this performance on a consistent basis.
The much maligned Leino failed to live up to his albatross of a contract, as he was unable to register a single goal during the 2013-14 season. In the summer of 2014, the Buffalo Sabres placed Leino on waivers for the purpose of a buyout and he’s currently playing for Medveščak-Zagreb in the KHL.
8. Steve Penney
Although this next individual did not win a Vezina, he did manage to capture the spotlight.
Steve Penney, the rookie Montreal Canadiens goalie at the time was the talk of the Hockey world for the duration of the 1984-85 regular season, and moreover the Canadiens long playoff run.
He was given the improbable task of leading the mediocre Montreal Canadiens into the 1984 Stanley Cup Playoffs after only four regular-season games (lost all four) under his belt.
Penney channeled his inner Jacques Plante to backstop the Habs through the first two rounds with upsets over the Bruins and the Nordiques before falling in six games to the Islanders dynasty for the conference finals. Throughout the eventful run, he would be victorious nine times while recording three shutouts as well.
Penney was unable to duplicate his magical run in the 1985 playoffs and he also suffered an injury to his knee early in the 1985-86 season. Penney would then lose his starting role later that season to a guy by the name of Patrick Roy.
In time, his games played were limited as he became the fulltime backup to the greatest goaltender in NHL history, Patrick Roy, who helped the Canadiens capture the 1986 Stanley Cup. Penney was traded to the Jets in the NHL offseason, manned the crease for 15 more games, and had wound up retiring from the NHL by the age of 27.
7. Frank McCool
Next on this list is the former Toronto Maple Leafs player Frank McCool. Frank McCool also went by the nickname “Ulcers” for the reason that McCool was discharged from the army due to his apparent stomach ulcers.
While Toronto’s full time goaltender Turk Broda was serving in World War II, Frank McCool grasped the vacant goaltending spot left by Broda’s departure.
McCool played in all 50 games of the 1944-45 season and would lead the Maple Leafs to a series victory over the Canadiens and beat the Red Wings in game seven to claim the Stanley Cup.
By season’s end, McCool would be awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie and he also set an NHL record with three consecutive shutouts in the playoffs against the Red Wings to begin the Stanley Cup Final.
The following season, McCool would miss the first part of the NHL season due to an ongoing contract dispute with the Maple Leafs. Once both parties had agreed upon the terms to a new contract extension, McCool would proceed to play 22 games prior to Turk Broda’s arrival from serving his country.
Rather than attempt to play elsewhere, McCool chose to retire after only appearing in one-and-a-half seasons with the Maple Leafs.
6. Jim Carey
Jim Carey, not to be mistaken with the Hollywood actor who goes by the name Jim Carrey, first emerged onto the hockey landscape roughly two decades ago.
Nicknamed the “Ace,” Jim Carey had a stellar record of 18-6-3 (undefeated in his first seven appearances) for the Washington Capitals in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season, on his way to being named on to the NHL All-Rookie Team.
Upon the completion of the 1995-96 season, he would lead the league in shutouts, receive the Vezina Trophy as recognition for being the league’s best goaltender, and be named to the NHL First All-Star Team.
When he was traded to the Boston Bruins midway through the 1997 season, Carey never was able to sustain his remarkable play on the ice and became a backup netminder to Byron Dafoe.
After one last attempt to salvage his career with a brief stint on the Blues, he called it quits ahead of his 26th birthday, and his once promising career comes to an abrupt and unexpected end
5. Warren Young
Warren Young was a player who was very fortunate to be in the right place at the opportune time. Playing alongside linemate and first round pick Mario Lemieux for one season did wonders for Young until he would plummet back to reality.
The subsequent seasons that followed revealed that playing at such a high level and sustaining his results was no easy feat, since he would neither play with Lemieux nor ever again come close to the 40 goals he registered with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1984-85 campaign.
After having appeared in a total of 236 career games, he would hang up his skates for good in 1988 and would finish his NHL career with only 72 goals.
4. Jacques Richard
Jacques Richard had a lot going for him. He had a dominant junior career playing for the Quebec Remparts and was selected second overall in the 1972 NHL entry draft.
For the NHL teams that he suited up for until the 1980-81 season, Richard was never able to realize his potential or live up to the high expectations placed upon him (some scouts believed he had equal, if not more, potential than teammate Guy Lafleur) before his NHL début.
That is, until, one season later in his career when everything clicked and he developed into the player he was expected to become. In 1980-81 he found himself on a line with the Stastny brothers. The dynamic duo along with the resurgent Richard had great chemistry. Richard found his scoring touch and went on to score an impressive 52 goals and 51 assists.
Unfortunately for the Quebec Nordiques and Richard himself, reality set in the next season as he would regress from an exceptional 103 points to a pedestrian 41 points.
3. Wayne Babych
Wayne Babych had two solid back to back seasons with the Portland Winter Hawks of the WCHL and was chosen third overall in the 1978 NHL amateur draft by the lowly St. Louis Blues. Over the course of an NHL career that spanned thirteen years, Wayne Babych would go on to record a total of 192 goals.
The 1980-81 campaign was an outlier, as Babych netted 54 goals on the season and would continue to struggle to barely crack the 20 goal mark in any of his eight additional seasons.
2. Scott Bjugstad
As a member of the Minnesota North Stars, Scott Bjugstad — a Minnesota native who was in just his second full season — managed to reach the forty goal plateau for the first and only time in his nine year career. He would go on to score 43 goals and register 76 points during the 1985-86 NHL season.
The following year saw an unparalleled drop-off, as he only found the back of the net for a minuscule four goals and he was given a diminished role on the team.
For the remainder of Bjugstad’s career outside his one great year, that spanned an additional 237 games, he happened to accumulate 68 points, 33 of which were goals. Although Bjugstad would never again go on to regain his short-lived success, ironically, he still to this day, runs an online on ice hockey shooting program in his name.
1. Jonathan Cheechoo
When one takes a minute to think of NHL one-hit wonders, the first name that in all likelihood springs to mind is Jonathan Cheechoo. After all, he went from a prolific goal scorer to becoming the poster child for NHL one-hit wonders.
It all began in his third season as a member of the San Jose Sharks. Cheechoo was entering the year having already compiled a total of 37 goals in 147 NHL games to date. Not a horrible way to begin a hockey career but it was a stretch to presume Cheechoo would breakout and lead the league in goals.
In late November of the 2005/06 season, after the acquisition of Joe Thornton, a former first-overall pick who is considered to be one of the best passers in the game, Cheechoo and the Sharks offense soared to new heights.
After a slow start to the season, Cheechoo averaged almost a goal per game on his way to a league-high 56 goals on a line anchored by Thornton.
After the conclusion of the 2005/06 NHL season, Jonathan Cheechoo was the recipient of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy.
Cheechoo’s production dropped to 37 goals the next season and then to 23 goals in the season that followed. His last year in San Jose saw him score only 12 goals.
Once traded to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Dany Heatley, he would register a measly five goals in 61 games played and he has yet to appear in another NHL game to this very day.
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