Looking To Be More Than A One-Hit Wonder
Tuesday, 09.08.2011 / 12:13 PM / News
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In music, they're known as "one-hit wonders" -- artists that have one hit record but never replicate that kind of success again.
The NHL has had its own version of one-hit wonders -- guys who were in the right spot at the right time for a season, but found out that doing it again wasn't as easy. The poster boy for hockey's one-hit wonders is 1980s forward Warren Young, who had 40 goals playing with Mario Lemieux in 1984-85 and never came close to that total again (he finished his career with 72).
Every year, a number of players come out of nowhere to put up numbers no one expected of them. The challenge for those who did it last season is to show in 2011-12 that they've got what it takes to repeat (or at least come close to) the numbers they put up in 2010-11.
Here’s a look at seven players who will try to replicate their surprising showings from last season:
James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs -- The Leafs are one of the two teams that have yet to make the playoffs since the 2004-05 work stoppage, and inconsistent goaltending is a big reason why. Toronto has been unable to come up with a No. 1 goaltender who can provide the kind of night-in, night-out consistency that a winning team needs. They hope Reimer can be that goaltender.
Reimer, a fourth-round pick in 2006, spent 2009-10 with the AHL Toronto Marlies, going 14-8-2 despite missing time with an ankle injury. He was expected to spend another season with the Leafs' top minor-league team, but was recalled in late December, beat Ottawa on Jan. 1 in his first NHL start, and jumped ahead of Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson in the Leafs' pecking order. Reimer was the Leafs' No. 1 goalie by March and ended the season with a 20-10-5 record, a 2.60 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage.
The Leafs thought enough of Reimer to sign the restricted free agent to a three-year contract before he could hit the market. He'll enter training camp as Toronto's No. 1 goaltender, and the Leafs' hopes of ending their playoff drought will rest squarely on his shoulders.
Michael Grabner, New York Islanders -- Grabner started the season by being claimed on waivers by the New York Islanders after the Florida Panthers threw him over the side just three months after acquiring him from Vancouver. He ended it in Las Vegas, where he was one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy after leading all rookies with 34 goals.
It took the Isles a little while to figure out how to use Grabner, but his season took off after he won the Fastest Skater competition during All-Star Weekend. Despite averaging just 15:04 of ice time -- less than any other skater with 22 or more goals -- Grabner became a terror, using his speed to get numerous breakaways. He was second in the NHL with six shorthanded goals (Frans Nielsen, his usual PK partner, was tops with seven), and finished tied for eighth in the League in goals despite scoring only twice on the power play.
The Islanders expect Grabner to continue to blossom -- they rewarded him with a five-year, $15 million contract. Given that he turns 24 just before the season starts and can expect to see more and better-quality ice time, there's no reason Grabner shouldn't equal or exceed last season's performance.
Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks -- The Hawks had to do some major juggling last summer to stay under the salary cap, and one of the players who left was Cup-winning goaltender Antti Niemi, who wound up in San Jose after Chicago walked away from his arbitration award. The Hawks signed veteran Marty Turco to replace him; Crawford, a 2003 draft pick who had spent five seasons in the AHL, won the backup job.
But when Turco struggled at the start of the season, Crawford took the starting job and ran with it. By February, the roles had been reverses, with Crawford now No. 1 and Turco as the backup. Crawford finished with a 33-18-6 record, a 2.30 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and four shutouts.
Crawford's performance earned him a three-year, $8 million contract, and he'll begin the season as the No. 1 goaltender as the Hawks try to rebound from last spring's first-round loss to Vancouver.
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers -- Giroux proved last season that his superb spring in 2010, when he scored 10 goals and 21 points to help the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final, was no fluke. Philadelphia's first-round pick in 2006 had a breakout season, going from 16 goals to 25, 31 assists to 51 and 47 points to 76 -- and improving from minus-9 to plus-20 while scoring the first three shorthanded goals of his career. His 76 points were the most on the Flyers and left him tied for 11th in the NHL scoring race.
Giroux didn't match his playoff heroics of the previous spring, but he did have 1 goal and 12 points in 11 games, though the Flyers didn't get past the second round.
Giroux will face a lot more pressure this season. The Flyers completely revamped their forward lines by dealing centers Jeff Carter to Columbus and Mike Richards to Los Angeles. They need Giroux, who's still just 23, to take another step forward to make up for the departures of their top two centers.
Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets -- Ladd, the fourth player taken in the 2004 Entry Draft, owned two Stanley Cup rings (with Carolina and Chicago) before he was able to put up one 20-goal season.
Ladd earned rings with the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes and 2010 Chicago Blackhawks as a third-liner who could score a little. But he blossomed as an offensive force last season after the Hawks dealt him to the Atlanta Thrashers. Given more offensive responsibilities, Ladd broke out with 29 goals and 59 points, by far the best scoring numbers of his career. He was also named team captain in November.
The Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg this summer, and one of the first things management did was sign Ladd to a five-year contract worth $22 million. That's an indication of how much Ladd is valued -- and how much management expects of him, both on the ice and in the dressing room, where he'll be counted on to help teammates make the adjustment to their new home.
PA Parenteau, New York Islanders -- The Islanders have been one of the NHL's most successful bargain shoppers in the past couple of years, and Parenteau is another example.
Parenteau was a seven-year minor-leaguer who had played only 27 NHL games during that span when the Islanders signed him last summer. He had averaged more than a point a game in his last five seasons in the AHL, but was regarded as too slow by the Rangers, for whom he scored 3 goals and had 8 points in 22 games in 2009-10.
But Parenteau clicked with John Tavares and Matt Moulson, fitting in on the right side and playing a full NHL season for the first time at age 27. He scored 20 goals and added 33 assists for 53 points in 81 games while proving that he could perform at the NHL level.
Late in the season, the Islanders re-signed Parenteau to a one-year deal and doubled his salary to $1.2 million -- rewarding him for his accomplishments but at the same time challenging him to prove that he could do it again.
Teddy Purcell, Tampa Bay Lightning -- Purcell also spent time yo-yoing between the AHL and the NHL before getting a chance to play. The Los Angeles Kings signed Purcell as a free agent from the University of Maine in 2007 and were impressed enough by his AHL performance (83 points in 67 games with Manchester) to give him a 10-game look-see in 2007-08. He split the '08-09 season between the minors and the big club, then became a full-time King in 2009-10 but was largely limited to a bottom-six role.
He got a break when he was traded to Tampa Bay late in '09-10, and another when Guy Boucher was hired as coach last summer. Purcell blossomed under Boucher, getting more consistent ice time and responding with 17 goals, 34 assists and 51 points -- surpassing his combined career totals in all three categories while averaging a career-high 14:06 of ice time per game. His 51 points were fourth on a team that got within one game of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final -- and he contributed 6 goals and 17 points in 18 playoff games.
The Lightning rewarded the 25-year-old with a two-year contract worth $4.725 million. His challenge in 2011-12 is to build on his breakout season and prove he merits top-six ice time.
Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist