Wednesday, July 19, 2023

The story behind the best player to play exactly one game for your favorite team (Western edition)

This week’s dog days of summer project is to try to find the best player who played exactly one game for every NHL team. Yesterday we covered the Eastern Conference, coming up with a list that included a 300-game winner, a celebrity divorcee, a member of the legendary 1972 Team Canada squad, and a pro wrestling legend’s dad. It was an eclectic group, is what I’m saying, and today should be more of the same. Let’s head west and seek out the best one-and-done players in each team’s history.

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks have got some fun names on their list. Remember Trevor Gillies, the mustachioed Islanders enforcer who went wild against the Penguins in 2011? He played one game for the Ducks back in 2005, racking up 21 PIM in 2:40 of ice time. The Ducks’ one-game club can also claim recent Sabres’ signing Dustin Tokarski, as well as the record-holder for the longest Stanley Cup suspension in Aaron Rome.

We’ll give the nod to journeyman blueliner Ian Moran, who endured “Get a Brain” jokes long enough to have an 11-season career, almost all of it split between the Penguins and Bruins. (Fun fact: The Pens traded him to Boston for the draft pick that they turned into Paul Bissonnette.) He signed with the Ducks in 2006, dressed for one game, and spent the rest of the next two seasons in Europe and the AHL before retiring.

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes would absolutely dominate the "stars who were acquired but played zero games" list, but they don’t give us much to work with as far as one-gamers. That said, we can at least turn to a guy who was once traded one-for-one for an MVP. That would be David Aebischer, the Swiss goalie who won a Cup as a rookie with the 2001 Avalanche, played in two Olympics, and was traded to Montreal for Jose Theodore in 2006. He signed with the Coyotes the year after, and started their third game of the 2007-08 season. One loss to the Blue Jackets later, he was waived and demoted, and headed back to Europe.

Calgary Flames

First things first: Shoutout to Jarrod Skalde, who qualifies for this exercise for three different teams thanks to one-game stints with Calgary, Dallas and Philadelphia. We’ll be nice to Flames fans and not go with Morgan Klimchuk, the first-round pick from the Jarome Iginla deal that didn’t quite pay off. And while Gerry O'Flaherty was a solid 70s scorer, his one Flames game came for Atlanta, so we’ll look elsewhere.

That probably leaves us with Mark Lamb, Calgary’s fourth-round pick in 1982 who made his debut midway through the 1985-86 season before heading back down to the minors. The Flames would let him walk as a free agent that summer, and he’d go on to bounce around the league for another decade, most memorably in a five-year stint with the Oilers, where he’d win a Cup in 1990. Later, he’d get Selke votes while captaining the expansion Senators before ending his career with the Flyers and Habs.

Chicago Blackhawks

On the goalie side, the Hawks could give us the very start of Carter Hutton’s career and (presumably) the very end of Anton Khudobin’s. For skaters, we could use old-school veterans like Rick Lanz if we need a defenseman, or Jeff Jackson if we need a soundbite. But instead, I’m going to draw on the full power of an Original Six team to go way back to the earliest days of the NHL itself. Our Hawks picks is a Hall-of-Famer named Barney Stanley, who made his name in other pro leagues but got into a single NHL game with the Hawks.

Maybe my favorite part of the story is the identity of the coach who put him in the lineup: Barney Stanley, who apparently looked at this underperforming team and figured that if you needed something done right then you had to do it yourself.

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