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The "Rob Brown Phenomenon" is a term now sometimes used in hardcore hockey circles to describe a hockey player who has one fantastic season, often due primarily to the linemates he or she plays alongside, and then just as quickly fades into mediocrity or downright obscurity. It's really the hockey equivalent of a one-hit wonder -- the player has one amazing season that defies explanation, and then never approaches it again and either fades into obscurity or just plain vanishes from sight.

The term is named in reference to Rob Brown, a journeyman center who put up great numbers in the minors in the course of his career, but only had one fantastic season in the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1988-89, when he played alongside Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux on the Pittsburgh Penguins and put up an eye-popping 115 points in only 68 games.

After then being removed from a line with Lemieux, Brown never put up anywhere near the number of points to equal that season (reaching a high of only 80 points), and he was eventually traded away to the Hartford Whalers and bounced around between the minors and NHL, never recapturing the magic of that 1988-89 season when Mario Lemieux basically carried him and his statistics.

Other notable examples of this phenomenon would include:

  • Bob Probert's 1987-88 season with the Detroit Red Wings where he put up 29 Goals and 33 Assists for a total of 62 Points while playing alongside Steve Yzerman and landing 4th on the team in scoring. Probert was primarily a goon best known for his fighting prowess, so those stats surprised everyone and Probert then never topped 44 Points again in his career.
  • American-born Goaltender Jim Carey to a lesser extent also fell as a victim of this phenomenon. In 1994-95 in his rookie year with the Washington Capitals Carey managed to have a strong showing, posting 18 Wins and a Goals Against Average (GAA) of only 2.13, but nothing out of the ordinary. The next season in 1995-96 he then put up a startling 35 Wins with an otherwise-poor Capitals team and even won the Vezina Trophy for the NHL's best goaltender. The next season he was traded to the Boston Bruins and seemed to suddenly lose his form, and then slid into the minors until 1999 when he abruptly quit playing hockey altogether.

One thing is certain, these are just some of the one-season wonders in NHL history, and there will be more to come. Rob Brown remains the perfect example of it though, and thus hockey fans continue to attach his name to the phenomenon.

Sources:

The Internet Hockey Database - http://www.hockeydb.com/
Offical Pittsburgh Penguins Site - http://www.pittsburghpenguins.com/history/leaders.php
The Jim Carey Mystery - http://members.tripod.com/~mscapsfan/carey0700.html

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