With a tally Sunday, Patrick Eaves hit the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career. Eaves' 30-goal season is surprising, but it's not the most shocking in the post-lockout era.
Expectations weren’t all that high for Patrick Eaves coming into the campaign. He had posted 11 goals and 17 points in 54 games in 2015-16, spending the majority of his time in the Dallas Stars’ bottom-six while sometimes shuffling up the lineup to see power play minutes. This is to say that no one — likely not even Eaves — would have seen a 30-goal season coming.
Yet, here we are. With less than one week remaining in the regular season, Eaves has hit the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career. He had been a 20-goal guy previously, hitting the mark in his rookie campaign with the Ottawa Senators in 2005-06, but hadn’t eclipsed even the 15-goal mark in the years since. That, paired with the fact that Eaves is 32, is what makes his breakout season so surprising.
It’s not as if Eaves is simply catching an unexpected amount of bounces, either. Prior to this season, Eaves had never fired more than 130 pucks on net over the course of a year. This season, though, he’s on pace to have fired close to 215 shots. And the increase in his shooting percentage this season over others has been minimal. He’s firing at a 14.7 percent rate, and that’s less than two percent better than the season prior and just so happens to be a lesser rate than his clip during the 2014-15 campaign.
Some might say that Eaves has been gifted the inflated goal totals by virtue of playing alongside Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin and then next to Ryan Getzlaf on the Ducks’ top line since being moved to Anaheim at the trade deadline, but the fact is the it takes more than luck to stick around on a top line with star players. Eaves has found a way to fit in with his linemates and its paid dividends for the versatile veteran as he heads toward free agency this summer.
Eaves isn’t the first player to unexpectedly breakout, though. The post-lockout era has been filled with players who’ve gone from relative obscurity to the 30-goal club. Here are 10 players who had unanticipated 30-goal years:
10. Jiri Hudler, Calgary Flames, 2014-15
Yes, Hudler has always had some offensive ability to his game. That’s what made him standout with the Detroit Red Wings, and that’s why he was brought over to the Flames on a four-year, $16-million deal during his first trip to free agency. During his first two years in Calgary, his play is best summed up as all right. He wasn’t awful, but he wasn’t great, either. Then came the 2014-15 and everything seemed to click. Hudler formed a formidable top line alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan and scored 31 goals and 76 points in 78 games. Hudler had only scored 20-plus goals twice before and it seems unlikely he’ll ever reach the same heights again.
9. Boone Jenner, Columbus Blue Jackets, 2015-16
Jenner had played well in his rookie campaign in 2013-14, potting 16 goals while playing bottom-six minutes for the Blue Jackets, and there was hope he could step into a much larger role in his sophomore year. However, injuries derailed his season, limiting him to nine goals in 31 games. He came back with a vengeance in 2015-16, however, and went on a tear. In his first 20 games, he had already scored nine goals and when the year ended, Jenner had nearly doubled his previous career high by hitting the 30-goal mark. The jury’s still out on whether the 30-goal year was an aberration or a show of true talent, but Jenner has only scored 16 goals this season in Columbus.
8. Anson Carter, Vancouver Canucks, 2005-06
Any explanation of how offensively gifted Henrik and Daniel Sedin are should include a description of Anson Carter’s run playing with the twins. Though Carter had been a steady scorer in his career heading into the post-lockout era with four 20-goal years, he had never cracked the 30-goal mark. He had come close with 28 goals in 2001-02, but hadn’t reached those heights since. In fact, heading into the lockout, Carter stumbled to a 15-goal year. But playing alongside the Sedins, Carter was magic. He scored 33 goals and finished 25th in goals, ahead of Martin St-Louis, Mats Sundin, Rick Nash and Paul Kariya, to name a few.
7. Mike Sillinger, New York Islanders, 2005-06
Sillinger’s often associated with his journeyman career, but one of the most interesting things about his tenure in the NHL is his late-career goal-scoring surge. Sillinger had previously proven he had enough scoring ability to be a steady contributor — he was a three-time 20-goal guy — but prior to 2005-06, Sillinger’s best season was a 23-goal year. When he landed with the Islanders, though, everything seemed to click. At 34, Sillinger finally had a 30-goal season under his belt. In fact, he tied Joe Sakic, Jason Arnott and Markus Naslund with 32 goals on the year. Sillinger scored 26 goals the next season to mark the second-best goal-scoring season of his career.
6. Mikael Samuelsson, Vancouver Canucks, 2009-10
Across the first eight seasons of his career, Samuelsson was a player who could usually be counted on to contribute 15-plus goals and pick up about 40 points. He wasn’t ever a standout but he was always consistent. He had had his one big season, posting 23 goals with the Detroit Red Wings in 2005-06, and that seemed to be the ceiling on Samuelsson’s production. The Sedins made sure that wasn’t the case, though. Playing alongside the twins on Vancouver’s top line, Samuelsson tore up the league with 30 goals and 53 points. It was his first and last 30-goal year, though. In his final season in the league in 2013-14, a 37-year-old Samuelsson scored once in 26 games.
5. Andy McDonald, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, 2005-06
In 194 games spanning four seasons to start his career, McDonald had 27 goals and 80 points. His best season to that point had been the year prior to the lockout when McDonald chipped in nine goals and 30 points in 79 games for the Mighty Ducks. But the freewheeling post-lockout game gave McDonald a boost from a middling player to one of Anaheim’s stars. He scored 34 goals and 85 points in 2005-06 and his breakout season was enough to make him a consistent top-six threat in Anaheim for much of the next two seasons. He never again reached thee 30-goal mark, though, and concussions sadly derailed McDonald’s career.
4. Jonathan Cheechoo, San Jose Sharks, 2005-06
Since its inception, the Rocket Richard Trophy has generally been won by star players. In fact, the entire list of winners holds up today, except for one notable blip. In the first year post-lockout, Cheechoo won the Rocket with a 56-goal campaign that came entire out of left field. Cheechoo, 25 at the time, hadn’t come out of nowhere, exactly. He had 28 goals in the final year before the lockout, but his 56 goals saw him literally double his output and record a nearly 100-point season. He followed that up with another 30-goal year, but Cheechoo’s goal totals dwindled in each subsequent season until he was out of the NHL by 2010-11.
3. Petr Prucha, New York Rangers, 2005-06
If it wasn’t yet clear, the 2005-06 campaign was a big one for breakouts. Prucha’s breakout year also happened to be his rookie season, though. At 23, Prucha was coming up to the NHL and hoping to find a fit in the Rangers’ lineup. He sure did, too. Despite playing limited minutes, Prucha was one of New York’s most lethal scorers, blasting home 30 goals in 68 games. Only Jaromir Jagr scored more goals for the Blueshirts in 2005-06. Prucha’s career wouldn’t ever get back to those heights. He scored 22 goals the next season, seven the year following that and 19 goals in 137 games from 2008-09 to 2010-11. He was no longer in the NHL by 2011-12.
2. David Clarkson, New Jersey Devils, 2011-12
In Toronto, Clarkson’s name — and, more specifically, his monster contract — will remain a cautionary tale for years to come. Reason being is that in 2011-12 and 2012-13, Clarkson was as hot as he had ever been. To that point, he had never scored more than 17 goals in a season and his primary function was as a rough-and-tumble bottom-six winger. Over the first 298 games of his career, Clarkson had only scored 52 goals. But in 2011-12, Clarkson couldn’t miss. In 80 games with the Devils, he scored 30 goals and 46 points as part of the top six. He followed that up with 15 goals during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign. And come July 2013, he signed a seven-year, $36.75-million deal with the Maple Leafs. He has scored 17 goals in 144 games since, and his career is likely over due to a back injury.
1. Chris Clark, Washington Capitals, 2006-07
Here’s a short list of players Clark scored more goals than in 2006-07: Daniel Alfredsson, Mats Sundin, Rick Nash and Pavel Datsyuk. That’s only a few of the notables who finished behind Clark after his surprising 30-goal campaign. Clark had built up to his breakout year with season of five, 10 and 20 goals, but no one saw a 30-goal year in Clark. He was primarily a two-way defensive winger who had played fourth-line minutes, but he moved up to a top-six role in 2006-07 and couldn’t be stopped. His 30 goals tied him with Jaromir Jagr and Marian Gaborik for 37th in the NHL that season, but Clark’s days as a top scorer were short-lived.
The following season, he scored five goals in 18 games, managed one in 32 games in 2008-09 and seven in 74 outings in 2009-10. He was out of the league by 2011-12, scoring 18 goals in the 177 games that followed his 30-goal season.