Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Remembering some of the NHL’s greatest one-hit wonders

I love a good one-hit wonder.

Honestly, I don’t even really need the “good” qualifier. One-hit wonders are one of my favorite genres of music, and they don’t even have to be all that good. My playlist is clogged with these things, especially from the 80s and 90s.

Some people would make the argument that this is because I’m “old” and “uncool” and “have bad taste in music.” None of that rings especially untrue. But those people can criticize me as much as they want. I get knocked down, but I get up again. You can’t steal my sunshine.

I also love a good one-hit wonder story when it comes to sports, especially the NHL. A lot of fans seem to want to look down on a player who only managed one memorable season as if the rest of their career was a disappointment. But the odds of even making the big leagues are so slim that it seems like getting all the way there, and then having it all come together for one magical season, is a story worth celebrating.

That’s what we’re doing this week at The Athletic. Today we’re looking at the NHL, with features on players like Guillaume Latendresse, Dave Hindmarch, Joe Juneau and Kjell Dahlin. I’m going to cover a few of my favorites, with a twist: I’m going to raid my awful playlist and try to find a musical one-hit wonder that best matches the NHL version.

Can we make beautiful music together? Not really, no, but we can find a few hits. Let’s do this.

Jim Carey

The player: Carey was an American goaltender who debuted for the Capitals with a very good rookie showing in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. He seemed set for big things, and we didn’t have to wait long.

The season: In his first full season, Carey played 71 games for the Caps, winning 35 while also leading the league in shutouts. He won the Vezina and was voted a first-team All-Star. He even finished eighth in Hart Trophy voting.

The one-hit wonder: “Informer” by Snow.

Why it fits: Two reasons. First, because Carey’s more famous namesake pretty much ended Snow’s career with one of the most vicious parodies in music history. Good lord, Jim, the man has a family. There was no coming back from that.

But more importantly, Carey’s Vezina season is Snow-like in that it doesn’t hold up well in hindsight. Sure, he won a lot of games, ranking second in the league, and he was third in goals-against average. But his .906 save percentage was well outside the top ten, so even by what would be considered basic metrics, he wasn’t close to being the best goalie in the league.

Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that Carey’s success didn’t last. What was shocking was how quickly it all fell apart. The Penguins lit him up in the playoffs — one version of the story says that they realized he couldn’t go side-to-side and made sure to make cross-ice passes before shooting — and the book was out. One season later, he was traded to the Bruins. A season after that, he played 10 games. A season after that, he was back in the minors before being cut altogether. By the end of the 1998-99 season, just three years after his Vezina win, his NHL career was over.

Ken Hodge

The player: No, not that Ken Hodge. The two-time Cup winner and first-team All-Star who scored over 300 goals for the Hawks, Bruins and Rangers wasn’t a one-hit wonder. But his son was. Ken Hodge Jr. was drafted by the North Stars but only managed to crack the NHL for five games before he was traded to the Bruins for a fourth-round pick in 1990. (Fun fact: The Stars used the pick on franchise mainstay Jere Lehtinen.)

The season: Hodge Jr. stepped into the Boston lineup almost immediately. He didn’t score as a Bruin until his 10th game, but once the goals started coming they didn’t stop. He had two goals on the season’s final night to hit the 30-goal mark, an impressive enough total that he finished third in Calder voting, ahead of Hall of Famers Rob Blake, Mats Sundin and Jaromir Jagr.

The one-hit wonder: “She’s So High” by Tal Bachman.

Why it fits: Both Bachman and Hodge Jr. did some solid work in their career. But when dad is a legend, it can be tough to live up to expectations.

Hodge Jr. went on to cap off his strong season with a decent playoff run. But he followed that year up with just six goals in 1991-92, spending half the year in the minors, and was traded to the expansion Lightning (whose GM, Phil Esposito, had been a longtime teammate of his father). Even on an expansion roster, Hodge Jr. couldn’t regain his touch; he scored two goals in 25 games and never saw the NHL again.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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