Any fans of music know that there are some artists who seemingly come out of nowhere to have one mega-hit song, but could never replicate the same success in any of their subsequent works. Every NHL team has had players who have been so-called “one-hit wonders”, or players who had a significantly better season than any other in his career. In some cases, a player might have two great years but the rest of his career is not up to the same standard. In this piece, NoVa Caps’ Diane Doyle highlights the “one-year wonders” who have played with the Washington Capitals over the years.
The standard for inclusion in this piece is that the player would had to have played at least one season for the Capitals, with 20 or more goals, and that season had to be his best of his NHL career, although this article includes one forward who just missed the 20-goal mark. This article only discusses the “one-hit” wonders who played the forward position, although the Caps have had several defensemen in their history who have had a career year on offense, that was more akin to that of a forward.
Rolf Edberg – Rolf Edberg, a center, had played professional hockey for various Swedish teams prior to signing with the Capitals as a free agent before to the 1978-79 season. That season he scored 14 goals and recorded 27 assists for 44 points. During the 1979-80 season, he scored 23 goals and had 23 assists for 46 points, in what would mark the height of his NHL career. The following season (1980-81), he scored just eight goals with eight assists in 45 games in what would be his last season in the NHL.
Picture courtesy HHOF
Ryan Walter – Ryan Walter was actually one of the Capitals’ stronger players during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and was the team captain from 1979-80 through 1981-82. However, he had one uncommonly good season in 1981-82 in which he scored 38 goals and had 49 assists. This was in comparison to his typical goal scoring output of between 20-30 goals per year. That season, his performance numbers were boosted by a 20.77% shot percentage (compared to his career average of 15.3%). He never again topped 30 goals a year and was traded after the season in the famous trade that brought defenseman Rod Langway and others to Washington.
Chris Valentine – Chris Valentine arrived onto the NHL scene during the 1981-82 season, during which he scored 30 goals and had 37 assists for the Capitals. These totals came in only 60 games, as he started the year with their American Hockey League affiliate Hershey Bears, with whom he had scored 12 goals. However, he spent the bulk of the next two seasons (1982-83 and 1893-84) with the Bears, usually playing 2/3 of the season with the Bears and the other third with the Caps. After that, he left North America and with it, any other chance of playing in the NHL, in favor of playing with a team in Germany. Valentine’s career goal total was 43, of which nearly 70% had been scored in 1981-82.
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Bobby Carpenter – Bobby Carpenter was one of the more notable players with the Capitals throughout most of the 1980’s and was generally a productive scorer. During the 1984-85 season, he scored 53 goals and had 42 assists for a total of 95 points. That season was, far and away, his best in the NHL. The number of goals he typically scored during his time with the Caps was about 30 goals. His shooting percentage in 1984-85 was 20.38%, which was significantly more than his career percentage of 12.1% which, admittedly, was pulled down by lower shooting percentages during his last few years in the NHL.
Chris Simon – During the 1999-00 season, Chris Simon(above) scored 29 goals and had 20 assists for 49 points overall, with Simon’s 29 goals exceeding his previous career high of 16 goals. For the remainder of his career, his highest goal total was 14 goals, which came during the 2001-02 and 2003-04 seasons. His 29 goals in 1999-00 were produced with a 14.4% shooting percentage, which while higher than his career average of 11.6%, was not outlandishly high by comparison. His goal scoring stats were likely lowered by injuries and suspensions.
Brian Willsie – During the 2005-06 season, Brian Willsie scored 19 goals and recorded 22 assists for 41 points overall. This was nearly double the productivity from his previous career-high of 10 goals in 2003-04, also with the Caps. He left the Capitals following the 2005-06 season and never came close to scoring 19 goals again. The following season, he had 11 goals with the Los Angeles Kings, his last full year in the NHL.
Tony White — During the 1975-76 season, Tony White scored 25 goals and had 17 assists and was the team leader in goals. The following season, 1976-77, he had just 12 goals and 9 assists. The 1976-77 season was the last season he was a full time NHL player. After that, he spent time with AHL teams, such as the Hershey Bears and the Springfield Indians, as well as the Oklahoma Stars in the CHL. Eventually, he wound up playing in professional leagues in Germany.
(Author’s note: Tony White was omitted from the original draft, but thanks to reader Tom Coleman, White has now been added. Thanks Tom!)
Tom Rowe — During the 1978-79 season, Tom Rowe scored 31 goals and had 30 assists for 61 points overall. His best season prior to that was 13 goals the prior year, 1977-78. He played one more year with the Caps and scored 10 goals with 17 assists. His best year after that was in 1980-81 when he played with the Hartford Whalers.
By Diane Doyle