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 Winnipeg Jets One-Hit Wonders.
For the purpose of this article, we will also be including players who played for the Atlanta Thrashers.
Winnipeg Jets One-Hit Wonders
Ondrej Pavelec took over as the starting netminder for the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise in the 2009-10 season appearing in 42 games and posting very mediocre personal stats. However, Pavelec can’t take all the blame, as he played behind a Thrashers team that finished 23rd overall that season. However, in his second season, he got noticeably better, appearing in 58 games, posting a goals-against-average of 2.73 and a save percentage of .914. He also recorded four shutouts. That season would prove to be the second-best of his career, and the last one he would play in Atlanta before the club ultimately moved to Winnipeg.
The first three years in Winnipeg were a rollercoaster for Pavelec. He declined from his last season in Atlanta, slightly improved during the 2012-13 season, then declining again in 2013-14 before he pulled it all together and put gathered the best season of his career during the 2014-15 season.
The Jets walked into the 2014-15 season with a goalie tandem of Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson. To this point, the Jets nor Pavelec had participated in a playoff series. However, that drought would come to an end that season. The Jets would end up making the playoffs for the first time since relocating from Atlanta and the tandem of Pavelec and Hutchinson proved to be the biggest reasons why. Pavelec turned in the best season of his career posting a record of 22-16-8 with a goals-against-average of 2.28 and a save percentage of .920. He also recorded five shutouts. Three of those came right in a row as Pavelec set a Jets’ franchise record going 187:05 minutes without allowing a goal.
Outside of the wins, every other stat would be his personal best of his career. Not only that, but it would also mark Pavelec’s first and only playoff berth of his career. However, Pavelec and the Jets lost four straight to the Anaheim Ducks.
After the Wonder
The 2015-16 season was not as kind to Pavelec. Pavelec suffered a knee sprain which kept him out for almost three months. During that time, Connor Hellebuyck was called up and was lights out for the Jets posting a 2.34 goals-against-average and a .918 save percentage to go along with two shutouts. That would spell the beginning of the end for Pavelec, as the next season, Hellebuyck took over the crease limiting Pavelec to only eight games with the Jets and 18 more for their AHL affiliate Manitoba Moose. Pavelec would sign with the New York Rangers for the 2017-18 season, becoming Henrik Lundqvist‘s backup. He appeared in 19 games with the club and would retire during the off-season.
Michael Hutchinson‘s road to the NHL was a long one. He bounced around in the ECHL and AHL from 2010-2014 until he finally made three starts for the Jets in 2014. Hutchinson played magnificently in those games, posting a record of 2-1 with a goals-against-average of 1.64 and a save percentage of .943. His play between their then AHL affiliate St. John’s IceCaps, as well as the terrific play in the three games he played in the NHL, earned him the backup job for the 2014-15 season.
Much like his partner, the aforementioned Pavelec, the 2014-15 season is where Hutchinson really shined. Despite being just the backup, Hutchinson was a key part of the Jets’ success that season. Backup goaltenders are becoming such an important part to any team’s roster. The tandem of Pavelec and Hutchinson clearly showed that. For his part, Hutchinson posted a record of 21-10-5, with a goals-against-average of 2.39 and a save percentage of .914 in 38 appearances. He also recorded two shutouts.
He and Pavelec helped carry the Jets to their first playoff berth, as was mentioned while speaking of Pavelec. His play essentially made him look like a 1B option to Pavelec. You want to be able to trust your backup goaltender to get you a win whenever you put them in between the pipes, and that is exactly what Hutchinson was giving the Jets during the 2014-15 season.
After The Wonder
Since the 2014-15 season, Hutchinson has seen his play decline. His personal stats have gotten worse each and every year. He essentially split the 2015-16 season with Pavelec and Hellebuyck, before becoming Hellebuyck’s backup in 2016-17. But that would be the end of Hutchinson’s full time backup duties as he has bounced back and forth between the AHL and NHL ever since playing in just 28 games over the span of three seasons and for four different NHL organizations. Hutchinson just can’t seem to get back to the level he played in 2014-15.
Anthony Stewart had a ton of promise entering the NHL. The former first-round pick was drafted by the Florida Panthers 25th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. After his draft year, Stewart played for Canada in two separate World Junior Hockey Championships. He registered eight goals and seven assists in 12 games. However, he struggled at the NHL level, bouncing back and forth between the AHL and NHL from 2005-2009 playing in 105 NHL games and registering just four goals and eight assists. After signing with the Thrashers in 2009, Stewart spent the entire 2009-10 season with their AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves. However, Stewart cracked the NHL roster for the 2010-11 season. That is when the wonder happened.
Expectations for Stewart were low considering how he couldn’t find a whole lot of success in the NHL nor AHL at this point in his career. However, Stewart broke out in the 2010-11 season scoring a career-high 14 goals, 25 assists and 39 points in 80 games. He almost scored as many goals that season as he did points in the previous 105 games. His point total was over three times more than his career total. He scored the first and only hat-trick of his career that season, lighting the lamp three times versus the Anaheim Ducks on October 15, 2010. Stewart’s play made it seem as though he was going to salvage his career and justify his first-round selection.
After The Wonder
However, Stewart came back down to earth. Despite his strong play the previous season, Stewart did not receive a qualifying offer from the Thrashers. This made him an unrestricted free agent on July 1st of 2011. He then signed a two-year, $1.8 million deal with the Carolina Hurricanes during the offseason leading up to the 2011-12 season. Stewart played in 77 games with the Hurricanes, registering just nine goals and 20 points, cutting his production in half. That would be Anthony Stewart’s final season in the NHL.
Embed from Getty Images