Monday, November 10, 2008

NHL One-Hit Wonders

I was talking hockey with a pal at work the other day, and for fun I asked him to name each of the players that has scored 70 goals in an NHL season. He, being a good hockey fan easily named all eight guys right down to Mogilny, Selanne and the often overlooked, Bernie Nicholls. Yes, Nicholls tallied 70 goals on the nose during the 1988-89 season no doubt aided by his new teammate the Great One. After naming all these players, I thought aloud that Nicholls, I believed never scored even 50 goals in any other season. Indeed, his next highest output was 46 in 84-85. This difference of 24 goals between his best and second best goal scoring years had to be one of the largest ever…off I went to check.

It turns out that Nicholls is merely tied for the fifth highest differential from best to second best seasons. The chart that follows shows all the players with at least a twenty goal difference.
There you have it, Scott Bjugstad is the biggest One-Hit Wonder in NHL history, notching 43 in 1985-86 and never again scoring more than 11 goals. He played 317 games in the NHL with a career total of 76 goals…43 of them in that one season. What was the cause for this huge aberration? That year, the North Stars boasted four fine centremen in Neal Broten, Brian Bellows, Dennis Maruk and Keith Acton, so Bjugsatd as second line right-winger behind Ciccarelli still had talented players on his line. More importantly perhaps was his power play time, as Bjugstad scored 14 extra man markers, second on the squad behind Dino. He had 1 PPG the year before and zero the year after his outburst. Did he get more power play time because he was scoring more or vice versa? Either way, this season stands as the greatest ‘flash in the pan’ in NHL history.

Second on the list is Wayne Babych with a high of 54 goals in 1980-81 and a next best of 27. His career was progressing nicely with 27 and 26 goals in his first two seasons before his big year at age 22. For some reason, this was it for him. He played 3 more years with St.Louis, then bounced between three teams in two years before hanging it up at 28 years old.
Third on the list of one-hit wonders is Tom Webster who tallied 30 for Detroit in 1970-71 and had only 3 other goals in his NHL career. He did however only skate in 34 other games as he played the bulk of his career in the WHA. He would actually notch 53 in one WHA season, and top 40 in two others. Alas, as far as NHL careers go, his gap of 27 goals from his best to second best, is tied for second all-time.

Next, is Jacques Richard who’s 52 and 27 goal seasons give him a difference of 25. In fact, if I ever do a study on largest gap between a player’s points in his best to second best year, he may be up even higher. In his 1980-81 season of 52 goals he also had 103 points, never before or after had he more than 43. This difference of 60 points must be one of the tops all-time. I’ll get back to you on that one.

Other notes from my list;
Rosaire Paiement’s differential can also be attributed to his jumping to the WHA.
Gerry Heffernan was wartime fill with the Canadiens, and was back playing Senior hockey once the war ended.
Chris Valentine scored 30 as a rookie with the 1981-82 Capitals, and never really got a fair chance to repeat that. After his next two seasons were spent mainly in the AHL, he bolted to play in Germany for twelve highly productive seasons.
Church Russell played three years with the Rangers, scoring 20 goals in 1946-47 and zero goals in his other 36 games.
Some names I expected to be high, but did not make the list are;
Gary Leeman, Goal difference of 19; Warren Young, 18; Ron Sedlbauer, 17


Fredrik Vilborg said...

I remember reading on Bjugstads 90-91 Pro Set card that he actually was playing on Broten and Ciccarellis line that one magical go round.

Great blog by the way.

Fredrik Vilborg said...

Or maybe it was the 91/92 Pro Set-card, for some reason i dont have it anymore. =)

Ross said...

now you got Jason Blake...nice pickup dumb Maple Laughs....

Muzyka said...

This is a late response obviously, but I got to some back-reading of your blog.

Fascinating how this formula includes Selanne so high up there with his deft 76-goal rookie season. Yet his consistency into his later years (especially now at the age of 40!) makes him a sure-fire Hall of Famer and hardly a "One Hit Wonder".

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