Welcome to Last Word on Hockey’s One Hit Wonder series. Each day, we will take a look at a new team’s three biggest one-hit wonders. These are players that had one great season or playoff run but never did anything like that again. Join us every day for a new team! Today we take a look at the New Jersey Devils One-Hit Wonders.
The New Jersey Devils Top Three One-Hit Wonders
The first up on the New Jersey Devils One Hit Wonders list is David Clarkson. Clarkson played junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League. He played for the Belville Bulls before playing for the Kitchener Rangers. During his time in junior hockey, Clarkson had decent numbers. Clarkson went undrafted and signed as a free agent by the Devils on August 12, 2005. He was assigned to the AHL and played there for a season and a half before being a late-season call up during the 2006-07 season.
Clarkson made his NHL debut on March 15, 2007, against the Carolina Hurricanes and from there he stuck with the big club. A game later Clarkson scored his first NHL goal in a loss. He finished out the season with the Devils including three playoffs. His NHL career was well underway and his style of play led to him getting a permanent role on the team. During 2007-08, Clarkson represented the Devils in the Young Stars Game at the 56th NHL All-Star Game SuperSkills Competition. There he recorded one goal and two assists.
After signing a new three-year deal with the Devils in the summer of 2010, Clarkson started to produce at a higher rate. In the second year of his deal is when Clarkson put up the best numbers of his career. During the 2011-12 season, Clarkson was a force for the Devils. He recorded career highs in points, goals, and assists. That season Clarkson tallied 46 points (30 goals and 16 assists). His points were fifth-most on the team and his goals were third-most on the team.
It truly was a career year for Clarkson. He also was a major contributor to the Devils reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. In 24 playoff games, Clarkson had 12 points (three goals and nine assists). That was the last season the Devils made the playoffs and the Stanley Cup Final. After that, it was all downhill.
After The Wonder
Things did not start off great for Clarkson. The 2012-13 season began with a lockout. Clarkson went overseas to play in Austria with EC Red Bull Salzburg. Once the lockout was over it appeared Clarkson picked up where he left in the previous season. He recorded 15 points in 12 games before the wheels came off. He went into a slump recording only nine points in the remaining 36 games. The Devils failed to make the playoffs.
As an unrestricted free-agent, Clarkson left New Jersey and signed a seven-year, $36.75 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Clarkson never lived up to the contract he signed with Toronto. From the beginning, he just never fit in. During a pre-season against the Buffalo Sabres, Clarkson left the bench to enter a fight and received a 10-game suspension. That season he only finished with five goals and 11 points in 60 games.
In the middle of his second season, Toronto traded Clarkson to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He only played in 26 games for the Blue Jackets as injuries and healthy scratches held him back. The following year, he failed his physical and was not invited to training camp. He was placed on long-term injured reserve being ruled out for the entire season. This ended his professional career unofficially. However, he has never laced up a pair of skates again. His contract has been traded to the Vegas Golden Knights and back to the Maple Leafs.
Brian Gionta was drafted 82nd overall by the Devils in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. A smaller player, Gionta grew up playing hockey in Rochester, New York. From there he played college hockey at Boston College from 1997 to 2001. Gionta won a national championship as captain of the Eagles in the 2000-01 season. He was a solid player for the Eagles posting 50 or more points in all four seasons in college; not to mention, posting 33 goals in his junior season and senior seasons.
From there Gionta joined the Devils during the 2001-02 season. He was of a member of the 2003 Stanley Cup-winning team. Unfortunately for Gionta, the NHL lost the entire 2004-05 season because of a lockout. Gionta was forced to play in the AHL with the Devils affiliate at the time the Albany River Rats. Having success in the minors led to Gionta and the Devils to have a very successful 2005-06 season.
Gionta served as the right winger for the Devils prolific scoring line known as the “EGG Line,” with Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez. During his time with the Devils, Gionta was one of the more effective offensive players. Gionta recorded 89 points (48 goals and 41 assists), numbers he would never see again in his career.
He was the first Devils player to record 40 goals in a season since Elias and Alexander Mogilny reached the mark in the 2000-01 season. In that same season, Gionta broke Pat Verbeek‘s franchise record for most goals in a season. At the time, his point total was the most in franchise history as he played in all 82 games. Gionta and the Devils won 11 straight games to win the then Atlantic Division and swept the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. In total, the Devils went on a 15-game winning streak before losing in the second round to the Carolina Hurricanes.
After The Wonder
You really can classify Gionta as a typical one-hit-wonder because of the success he had in the NHL. But for one season in the NHL, Gionta put up numbers he would never see again. The best he could muster was 60 points with the Devils in the 2008-09 season. After that, he signed a five-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens. Before the second season with the Canadiens, he was named captain of the historic franchise. In the first two seasons, he recorded 46 points before his numbers dipped because of injuries and the lockout.
After his time with Montreal, he signed with his hometown club the Buffalo Sabres for three-years. Age and injuries caught up with him in Buffalo as well. At the end of his career, Gionta signed a one-year deal with the Boston Bruins in February of 2018 before retiring in September of that year. Gionta was a solid NHL player that had a ton of success but never could duplicate that one season he had with the Devils.
Aaron Broten was drafted 106th overall by the then Colorado Rockies before the team relocated to New Jersey in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft. Broten grew up playing high school hockey in Minnesota and showed early he was offensively gifted. He translated that success into college hockey playing at the University of Minnesota. During the 1980-81 season, Broten was the NCAA Ice Hockey scoring champion leading the nation with 106 points. After the season he joined the Rockies for two games. The following season he split time between the Central Professional Hockey League and the NHL.
After that, he played four games in the CHL before sticking around with the Devils full time. Broten was one of many young players on the Devils at the time. The Devils were not one of the better teams in the league and it took a long time for them to gel. Broten found some success at the NHL. Again, the Devils were not good, but at times he was the best player on the ice. However, once the right pieces were in place, the Devils found success and so did Broten.
Broten’s best season came in the 1987-88 season. That year Broten set career highs in points (83) and assists (57) and tied his career for goals (26). He was the second-leading scorer at the time only behind Kirk Muller. The Devils were finding success and it showed on the ice especially in the second half of the season. Broten, along with the rest of the young nucleus, propelled the Devils to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. His production carried into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. His 16 points (five goals and 11 assists) were fourth on the team in scoring as the Devils made it to Game 7 of the Wales Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins.
After The Wonder
After the 1987-88 season, Broten’s production went down. His point totals were nowhere near the output from that of previous seasons. Not to mention his games played went down. After his time in New Jersey, he would play for the Minnesota North Stars, Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, and Quebec Nordiques. Despite playing 12 seasons in the NHL, Broten’s best season was that magical run with the Devils. Broten retired in 1992 from professional hockey.
That does it for the New Jersey Devils one-hit wonders, stay tuned for the New York Islanders one-hit wonders.
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