A big reason why hockey fans enjoy the NHL is because the game can be very unpredictable. Yes, we always knew Wayne Gretzky would score a goal and Tie Domi would start a fight. Still, some players have unexpectedly stepped up to have great seasons when nobody saw it coming.
Forward Johnny Bucyk played 23 years in the NHL and spent 21 of them with the Boston Bruins. A Hall of Famer, he still managed to impress everyone when his career should have been winding down.
In the 1970-1971 season Bucyk scored 51 goals to go along with 65 assists. His previous highs were 31 goals and 42 assists. Bucyk accomplished this at 35-years-old. Not only that, he continued to impress everyone by continuing to best his previous high in points over the next 5 seasons, always finishing with 75 or more.
Following the 2004-2005 NHL Lockout, Jonathan Cheechoo of the San Jose Sharks came back with some vengeance. In that 2005-2006 season he led the league in goals with 56 of them, including 11 game-winners.
Cheechoo never quite got back to this level again. His goals dropped to 37 the next season, then to 23, 12, and finally 5 in his final NHL season. Cheechoo spent a few years in the minor leagues and now plays in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Blink and you may miss the best days in Gary Leeman’s NHL career. After scoring 30+ goals for two consecutive seasons, Leeman finished the 1989-1990 season with 51 goals and 44 assists. Of those 51 goals, 14 came on the power play. After this season though, things were never near as good.
The next season Leeman would score 17 goals, which would be the most he ever would until he retired after the 1996-1997 season. The 1989-1990 season was the only time Leeman ever made an All-Star team making this an even more unique year.
Bernie Nicholls scored 475 goals in his career and finished with 1209 points. Well-traveled and for the most part consistent, he still managed to have one season worth remembering more than the others.
While with the Los Angeles Kings in the 1988-1989 season, Nicholls put the puck in the net 70 times. The next closest he ever came was 4 years earlier when he scored 46 goals. Nicholls also had 80 assists this season for a grand total of 150 points. His statistics would gradually lower each season thereafter, never quite at the level they once were.
The 2001-2002 season was one where a new dominant goaltender emerged on the scene. Between the pipes for the Montreal Canadiens was Jose Theodore. Theodore was the main force getting the team to the playoffs thanks largely to his league leading 1836 saves and .931 save percentage.
Behind 7 shutouts and a 2.11 Goals Against Average Theodore captured the Vezina Trophy and Hart Memorial this year, something no goalie has done since. Theodore had several other decent seasons, but none ever as great as he did in 2001-2002.