Photo: Washington Capitals
Throughout their 42-year history, the Capitals have had their fair share of one-hit wonders, players who have tremendous seasons and become a household name one year, only to regress and fall into anonymity. Jim Carey was one such player.
Drafted by the Capitals in the second round (32nd overall) of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, Carey made his NHL debut in 1994-95, when he posted an impressive 18-6-3 record in 28 games played to go along with a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.13 and a save percentage of .913 and four shutouts. Only 20-years old, he finished as the runner-up for the Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year) and third in Vezina Trophy (Best goalie) voting. With the promising play of fellow netminder Olaf Kolzig, Carey was forced to share playing time with the former first round pick. His arrival and subsequent rookie season came with much fanfare, as he earned the nicknames “The Mask”, “Ace”, and “Net Detective” after popular movies starring his namesake, actor Jim Carrey.
Entering his second season in the District, Carey seemed to have the starting job locked up. In 71 games played, he compiled a record of 35-24-9, a GAA of 2.26, save percentage of .906, and nine shutouts. Due to his strong season, he was awarded the Vezina Trophy, after the season, becoming the first goalie in franchise history to win the award and he finished eighth in Hart Memorial Trophy (league MVP) voting. Despite Kolzig’s promise, it seemed the Caps had found their netminder of the future.
After impressing in his first two years in the NHL, Carey’s career took a nosedive the following season posting an abysmal 17-18-3 record with a .893 save percentage, 2.75 GAA, and one shutout in 40 games with the Caps before he was traded to the Boston Bruins along with Anson Carter, Jason Allison, and 1997 third round pick (later used by Boston on Lee Goren) for Bill Ranford, Adam Oates, and Rick Tocchet. In 19 games played with the Bruins, he posted an even worse 5-13-0 record, a .871 save percentage, and a 3.82 GAA.
After that, Carey played just 10 more games for Boston posting a 3-2-1 record, .893 save percentage, 2.70 GAA, and two shutouts before signing with St. Louis in the 1998 offseason. He would play a meager four games for the Blues, with a record of 1-2-0, .829 save percentage, and 3.86 GAA. He would retire after the season at the age of 24.
Carey is a perfect example of how quickly things can turn for an NHL player. If the Caps would have signed him to a big-money extension after his Vezina-winning season, they would’ve been paying him an exorbitant amount of money for mediocre results. Imagine if Carey would have stayed. Olaf Kolzig would never have gotten his chance to prove himself and the Caps may not have made it to the 1998 Stanley Cup Final. Luckily, they made the right decision.
By Michael Fleetwood