Cullen: I didn't expect this from the NHL in 2011

Scott Cullen
1/4/2012 5:29:39 PM
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The beauty of sports is that it is unpredictable, sure, but it can be maddening to folks like me, who try to prognosticate and offer opinions before games are played. Unexpected results lead to surprise wins, stunning offensive collapses and all manner of statistical oddities.

So, as we start 2012, here are some things from the 2011 portion of this NHL season that I did not expect...

...Ducks G Jonas Hiller to struggle to an .897 save percentage. In his first four seasons, Hiller's save percentages were .927, .919, .918 and .924. The lesson? Don't underestimate the effects of vertigo.

While it's not a huge shock that second-year Ducks D Cam Fowler has a team-worst minus-18 rating, it's much more surprising that C Ryan Getzlaf is tied with him. Getzlaf was plus-78 in his first six NHL seasons and never worst than plus-4 in a single year.

...Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and Chris Kelly to all rank among the Bruins' leading goal-scorers. One? Sure. Two? Maybe if things went right for them. But three? Amazing.

...Sabres G Ryan Miller to have a goals against average higher than Mathieu Garon, Ondrej Pavelec and Mike Smith and a save percentage lower than Curtis Sanford and Ray Emery. To be fair, I didn't expect to Sanford to play in the league. Same goes for Richard Bachman.

...Olli Jokinen to be tied for the Flames' team lead with 32 points in 41 games. With 14 points in 23 games through the end of November, I didn't even expect this going into December.

...Carolina C Eric Staal to wage a season-long battle between his points (25) and plus-minus (-23). Both are just terrible, but at least Staal has started scoring more lately (14 points in his last 17 games).

...Blackhawks LW Viktor Stalberg to have as many goals as RW Patrick Kane (9), or LW/C Patrick Sharp (19) to have more than twice as many as Kane.
...That Colorado's top scoring centre (not to mention team-leading scorer) would be Ryan O'Reilly, who is ahead of more established offensive threats Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny.

...A 27-point variance in plus-minus between Rick Nash (-19) and Derek MacKenzie (+8), and it favours McKenzie.

...Stars RW Michael Ryder to have 17 goals already. He had scored 18 in each of the last two seasons. Didn't expect Steve Ott to have more points than Brenden Morrow either.

...Valtteri Filppula to have more points (33) than Henrik Zetterberg (29) or maybe Ian White to have the team's best plus-minus (plus-24). White's previous best, prior to this season, was plus-8.

...Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to have 35 points in 38 games (even though he was my pick to be the highest-scoring rookie), but I didn't see Jordan Eberle with 42 points in 39 games either.

...Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann or Stephen Weiss, but they aren't even the Panthers' biggest stunners. Jason Garrison has 11 goals in 39 games, after scoring seven in 113 games before this season.

...The Kings to have so much trouble scoring goals. Justin Williams (6), Simon Gagne (7) and Dustin Penner (2) have all had trouble finding the net and Williams, with 24 points, still ranks second on the team in scoring.

...Kyle Brodziak to be within one goal of Dany Heatley. Also didn't think that Jared Spurgeon would be the Wild's top scoring defenceman.

...Tomas Plekanec to have the worst plus-minus (minus-10) on the Montreal Canadiens. Plekanec was plus-33 in six-plus seasons before this year.

...Jordin Tootoo to have as many points as Sergei Kostitsyn (18).

...Adam Henrique to be my highest-ranked rookie at this point in the year, or Petr Sykora to be one of seven Devils with at least 10 goals.

...Such a collapse from Islanders RW Michael Grabner. He has 10 goals, but only 16 points and is minus-12 after he scored 34 goals and was plus-13 as a rookie last season.

...Michael Del Zotto to be the runaway leader in plus-minus (plus-25) for the Rangers. Del Zotto had been minus-25 in his first two NHL seasons.

...Senators LW Milan Michalek to have 19 goals in 35 games. He scored 18 in 66 games last season and his career-high is 26, set in 2006-2007, which is several knee surgeries ago.

...Claude Giroux to be an MVP candidate. It's not a surprise that he's become the Flyers' leading scorer, following the departures of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, but the league's leading scorer? That was unexpected.

...Coyotes RW Radim Vrbata to have twice as many goals (18 to 9) as Coyotes RW Shane Doan. Last season, Vrbata had 19 goals, Doan had 20.

...Penguins LW James Neal to rebound quite so much. Yes, I expected better than the one goal in 20 games that he provided for the Penguins after his trade last season, but 21 goals in 38 games? Impressive.

...Joe Thornton to have fewer power play points than Tim Stapleton, Cody Hodgson, Corey Potter and Frans Nielsen.

...Blues G Brian Elliott to be within a goal of his 1.70 goals against average or within .40 of his .938 save percentage. Biggest surprise of the season.

...Vincent Lecavalier would have fewer points than Curtis Glencross, PA Parenteau or Ryan Smyth.

...The Maple Leafs would have a fearsome first line and that two-thirds of it would be Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel, who have combined for 89 points, one behind the Sedins for the highest total for two teammates to this point of the season.

...That Jannik Hansen would be the Canucks' third-leading goal scorer (with 12).

...Alexander Ovechkin to have 33 points in 38 games and be my 50th-ranked player.

...Kyle Wellwood to have more points than Andrew Ladd, Nik Antropov and Bryan Little.

Scott Cullen can be reached at and followed on Twitter at For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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