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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

One and two year wonders

Let's start this post by recognizing that playing any amount of time in the NHL is an accomplishment that 99 per cent of people who play hockey will never achieve. For some reason, whether it be injuries, timing or just plain good/bad luck, the careers of some NHLers are like shooting stars - burn bright, but only for a short period of time.

This post features two such players: Daren Puppa and Ken Hodge. Puppa played 15 NHL seasons, which is a significant length of career. His time in the NHL is noted for two fantastic seasons in which he was named a Vezina Trophy finalist; unfortunately he would be plagued by injuries most of his career. Ken Hodge, on the other hand, had one spectacular season as a rookie, earning a Calder Trophy finalist nomination and finishing second in rookie scoring, ahead of many of his rookie peers that would go on to Hall of Fame careers. The 1990-91 season would be Hodge's high point, scoring 59 points, which would in the end represent two-thirds of his career NHL point totals.

In looking through the 1990s, I found two other Calder Trophy finalists that had similar burn-bright and fade-quickly careers:

Jim Carey: the Washington Capitals goalie finished second in Calder Trophy voting in 1995, behind winner Peter Forsberg and ahead of Paul Kariya. Carey posted a 18-6-3 record, 2.13 goals against average and earned four shutouts in the lockout shortened 1994-95. His sophomore season was even better, winning the Vezina Trophy and being named a first team all-star. By his third season, Carey had lost the starter's job with Washington and he was out of the NHL by 2000.

Jim Campbell: a right winger with St. Louis, Campbell finished third in the 1997 Calder Trophy race, behind winner Bryan Berard and runner up Jarome Iginla. He scored 23 goals and 43 points in 68 games as a rookie. Like Carey, Campbell would improve in his sophomore season, scoring 20 goals and 51 points. Also like Carey, Campbell would fade, appearing in over 10 NHL games only twice over the next six seasons, and was out of the NHL after the 2002-03 season, save one game with Tampa Bay in 2005-06.

Card 248 - Daren Puppa

Goaltender Puppa was selected 74th overall by Buffalo in the 1983 draft. He would play two more seasons of college hockey at RPI before turning pro for the 1985-86 season. Puppa would get into 10 games with the Sabres over his first two pro seasons, but played primarily with Rochester in the AHL, winning the Calder Cup and being named a first team all star in 1987.

For the 1987-88 season Puppa appeared in 17 games with the Sabres, with the following season seeing him lead the team in games played with 37, winning 17. A severely broken arm in January of that season, along with a crowded crease that include goalies Jacques Cloutier, Tom Barrasso, Clint Malarchuk and Darcy Wakaluk combined to limit Puppa’s action that season.

After recovering from his broken arm, the 1989-90 season would be the best of Puppa’s career. He led the league with 31 wins, posted a 2.89 goals against and .901 save percentage, was named a second team all star, played in the all star game and finished second in Vezina Trophy voting behind Patrick Roy. Unfortunately Puppa return to sharing starts with Clint Malarchuk the next season, and would eventually be pushed out of the Sabres crease by an unorthodox European goalie named Dominik Hasek.

Late in the 1992-93 season he was traded to Toronto with Dave Andreychuk and a first round pick for Grant Fuhr and a fifth round pick. Puppa played eight games with the Leafs, winning six, but was left unprotected in the off-season expansion draft. He was selected by the Florida Panthers, only to be taken a day later by Tampa Bay in the second phase of the expansion draft; this phase allowed the three teams previously introduced into the NHL in the 1990s (Tampa Bay, Ottawa and San Jose) to select up to two players from Florida and Anaheim’s rosters.

Puppa became the Lightning’s starter and in 1995-96 posted a 29-16-9 record, .918 save percentage (second in the league) and was a Vezina finalist. The Lightning were an emergent team, and Puppa’s goaltending helped guide the team to its first playoff berth in 1996. The promising times in Tampa Bay were short-lived for Puppa, who would play in only 50 games over the next four seasons due to an ailing back, leading to his retirement after the 1999-2000 season.

In 15 NHL seasons Puppa played in 429 games, posting a 179-161-54 record, 3.04 goals against and .897 save percentage. He currently works in the Tampa Bay area as a real estate agent and also works in goalie coaching and public speaking.

YouTube clip: recounting the terrible arm injury that cost him most of the 1988-1989 season.

Card 249 - Louie DeBrusk

A left winger, DeBrusk was drafted 49th overall by the New York Rangers in 1989. He played two seasons with London in the OHL before being traded to Edmonton as part of the package that landed the Rangers Mark Messier.

DeBrusk turned pro for the 1991-92 season, playing 25 games in the NHL, scoring two goals and three points while recording 124 penalty minutes. He played a bottom-six forward/enforcer role for the next five seasons, bouncing in and out of the Oilers’ lineup. 1992-93 saw DeBrusk score a career-high eight goals and 10 points, along with 205 penalty minutes.

In 1997 he signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay, playing 54 games over his one season as a member of the Lightning before a summer 1998 trade to Phoenix for Craig Janney. Over three seasons in the desert he would yo-yo between the NHL and minors, playing a career-high 61 NHL games in 1999-00.

After an entire season in the AHL, DeBrusk signed with Chicago for the 2002-03 season, playing four games for the Hawks. He would retire briefly before playing with Hartford in the AHL on a tryout basis; DeBrusk would retire for good during the 2003-04 season.

Over 11 NHL seasons, DeBrusk played in 401 games, scoring 24 goals and 41 points while recording 1161 penalty minutes. In retirement he has worked in broadcasting as a commentator for both Hockey Night in Canada and the Edmonton Oilers. His son, Jake, currently plays for the Boston Bruins.

YouTube clip: fighting Marty McSorley four seconds into a game, one of six times the two fought. There are many notable aspects to this fight including the fact it lasts almost two minutes before the linesmen jump in, both combatants are sporting wicked mullets, and the arena DJ playing Louie Louie by The Kingsmen.

Card 250 - Glenn Anderson

A right winger, Anderson was drafted 69th overall by Edmonton in the 1979 draft. Playing for the University of Denver when drafted, Anderson would spend the 1979-80 season with the Canadian National Team, representing Canada at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.

In 1980-81 he made his NHL debut, appearing in 58 games for the Oilers, scoring 30 goals and 53 points. In the seven following seasons (1981-88) Anderson would be a key contributor to the stacked Oilers dynasty. In that time he:

  • Scored 35+ goals each season, including a career-high 54 in 1983-84 (third in the league) and 1985-86;

  • Scored 100+ points three times, including a career-high 105 in 1981-82;

  • Led the league with nine game winning goals in 1985-86; and

  • Won four Stanley Cups.

The 1989-90 season would be Anderson’s final one in Edmonton, but he went out on top, winning his fifth Cup, and scoring 22 points in 22 playoff games. Before the start of the following season, he and teammate Grant Fuhr were sent to Toronto in a seven player swap. In two full seasons with the Leafs Anderson scored 20+ goals each season, making it to within one game of the 1993 Cup Finals, scoring 18 points in 22 playoff games.

Late in the 1993-94 season, Anderson was traded to the New York Rangers for Mike Gartner. Reunited with former Oilers teammates such as Mark Messier and Kevin Lowe, Anderson won his sixth Stanley Cup, contributing six points in 23 playoff games. The following season he signed with St. Louis; his most notable statistic during his one season as a Blue was leading the 1995 playoffs in penalty minutes with 49, despite playing in only six games.

Anderson’s final NHL season of 1995-96 began in Germany before signing with Vancouver as a free agent in January 1996. Before he could suit up for the Canucks, he was claimed off re-entry waivers by Edmonton. Anderson would play 17 games where his career began before being claimed again off waivers, this time by another former team, St. Louis. 15 games with the Blues to round out the season, plus one additional season in Europe and that would be the end of Anderson’s pro career.

In 16 seasons Anderson played in 1129 games, scoring 498 goals and 1099 points. He played in four all star games (1984-86, 88) and ranks third all-time in playoff overtime goals with five, tied with Patrick Kane and Corey Perry. Anderson was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008 and had his number retired by Edmonton the following year. Also, let's appreciate that on the front of this card Anderson is sans moustache, but on the back his cookie duster is displayed in all its glory.

YouTube clip: getting slashed by Billy Smith in Game 1 of the 1983 Cup Finals. Anderson would get his revenge the following year by running Smith in Game 1 of the 1984 Cup Finals.

Card 251 - Ken Hodge

A forward, Hodge was drafted 46th overall by Minnesota in 1984. He would play three seasons at Boston College and three full seasons with Kalamazoo in the IHL, save five games with Minnesota in 1988-89, scoring two points.

Hodge’s career would benefit from an August 1990 trade to Boston for a draft pick (which would become three-time Selke winner Jere Lehtinen). Playing on the team where his dad, also Ken Hodge, was twice a first team all star, Hodge junior would score 30 goals and 59 points in 70 games in his true rookie season. He was named to the all-rookie team, and finished third in Calder Trophy voting. As covered in a previous post, the 1990-91 season was stacked with great rookies, and Hodge would finish ahead of Mike Richter, Rob Blake, Jaromir Jagr, Mats Sundin and Mike Ricci in Calder voting.

Hodge would find his breakout season hard to follow, which was foreseeable given that his shooting percentage in the 1990-91 season was 21.9%, good for fourth in the league, but hardly sustainable. In 1991-92 he played in 42 games, scoring six goals and 17 points. Before the 1992-93 season he was traded to Tampa Bay, playing in 25 games for the Lightning, scoring three goals and nine points in his final NHL season.

From 1993-96 he played in the AHL & IHL and from 96-98 he would head across the pond to his dad’s home country of England, playing two seasons with Cardiff, winning a league title in 1997. In a four season NHL career, Hodge Jr. played in 143 games, scoring 39 goals and 87 points. He currently runs a hockey skills camp and has done analysis for Boston College hockey games for radio and NBCSports.

YouTube clip: scoring against Chicago during his final NHL season, and in Tampa Bay’s first regular season game in franchise history.

Card 252 - Adam Oates

Undrafted after three seasons of college hockey at RPI, which including winning an NCAA title and being named a Hobey Baker Award finalist, Oates signed with Detroit as a free agent in 1985. He would split his first pro season between Detroit and the AHL, playing in 36 NHL games and winning a Calder Cup with Adirondack.

In Oates’ next two seasons he put up respectable points totals of 47 and 54, but his breakout came during the 1988 playoffs, where he scored 20 points in 16 games as the Wings lost in the Wales Conference Finals to the eventual champion Edmonton. Oates carried the momentum into the following season, scoring 16 goals and 78 points.

Alas, in June 1989 he was traded to St. Louis with Paul MacLean in exchange for Tony McKegney and an aging Bernie Federko. In his first two seasons with the Blues Oates scored 102 and 115 points while being named a second team all-star and finishing fifth in Byng voting in 1991. This increased productivity would lead to Oates demanding a contract renegotiation part way through the 1991-92 season, which included a threat to quit the team. The Blues chose to trade Oates, shipping him to Boston for Stephane Quintal and Craig Janney.

In his first full season in Boston Oates accumulated career-highs in goals (47), assists (97, leading the league) and points (142). He also lead the league in game winning goals with 11, finished second in Byng , fourth in Hart and 10th in Selke voting. Joining the Bruins just as the powerhouse was in decline through the mid 1990s, Oates scored at a point-per-game pace or better, and for four straight years from 1994 to 1996 would finish runner up for the Byng Trophy.

Never shy in voicing his opinion, Oates made his frustration with the Bruins’ lack of success known late in the 1996-97 season and shortly thereafter was traded to Washington in a six-player blockbuster deal. In his first full season with the Caps, Oates recorded 76 points and helped the team make the Cup Finals, scoring 17 points in 21 playoff games.

Throughout his late 30s he continued to produce, leading the league in assists in 2000-01 and 2001-02 while captaining the Capitals. In March 2002 he was traded to Philadelphia for three draft picks; the Flyers would go on to win their division that season, but dropped their Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals match up to Ottawa in five games. Oates’ final two seasons included stops in Anaheim and Edmonton before retiring at the end of the 2003-04 season.

In 19 NHL seasons Oates played in 1337 games, scoring 341 goals, 1079 assists (8th all-time) and 1420 points (18th). He finished third in league scoring three times (1991, 93 & 94) and was top five in assists 10 times. Oates played in five all-star games and was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.

From 2009-2012 he was an assistant coach in Tampa Bay and New Jersey and from 2012 to 2014 he was head coach in Washington. He currently runs a player development organization, the Oates Group.

YouTube clip: Oates' video from being named one of the Top 100 NHL players of all-time.

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