Most NHL fans tend to look at players’ goals, assists, hits, blocks, and other numbers to determine whether or not the player is good. With that being said, do +/- differentials matter?
Last season for the Dallas Stars, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, and John Klingberg led the way in points. However, not all of them lead the team in plus-minus differentials. So the question remains—does +/- even matter?
What is a plus-minus differential?
In order to dive into whether or not something is of significance, it’s important to interpret its meaning.
According to the NHL’s website, “a player is awarded a ‘plus’ each time he is on the ice when his Club scores an even-strength or shorthanded goal. He receives a ‘minus’ if he is on the ice for an even-strength or shorthanded goal scored by the opposing Club. The difference in these numbers is considered the player’s ‘plus-minus’ statistic.”
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So, for example, if the Dallas Stars’ top lines (Benn-Seguin-Radulov on offense, with Klingberg and Lindell on defense) are on the ice and Seguin scores a goal, all of the players get +1. If they give up a goal, they receive a -1.
The theory is to show that players with high plus-minuses tend to maybe be more productive offensively.
Does it matter?
To be blunt, not really.
Plus-minus matters in the sense that it gives coaches, fans, and scouts the impression of whether or not a player can add depth to a lineup.
However, it’s hard to judge a player’s individual talent and skill if you analyze a number that is a representation of the team’s offensive output against an opponent, not the individual player himself.
For example, if you knew nothing about Alexander Radulov, but you saw that he had a +4 rating last season, compared to Radek Faksa, who led the Stars with +21, you’d assume that Faksa is the better player.
If you looked at the players’ individual numbers, though, you’d find that Radulov scored 39 more points than Faksa did last season. This isn’t meant to downplay Faksa’s talent or ability to play hockey, it’s just an analogy of how plus-minus can be misleading.
Another example; take Devin Shore, who had a team worst (-16 behind Martin Hanzal, who had -14) -30 plus-minus. If you saw that, compared to literally any other player in the lineup, you’d wonder why he still has a roster spot.
But, plus-minus doesn’t account for the fact that Shore spent a lot of time on the power-play (which isn’t factored into the plus-minus rating) and was a 4th line center who put up 32 points (7th best on the team) last season.
Additionally, plus-minus also works differently with a variety of teams who switch up the roster. For consistency, we can look at the Stars once again.
Jamie Benn came in at second in plus-minus with +20. Reason being is because he a) posted a team-leading 79 points, and b) played most of the season on Dallas’ first line with Tyler Seguin, who added an additional 78 points).
Plus-minus is often dubbed “the worst statistic in hockey,” and honestly, it might be.
It is not a fair representation of an individual player’s effort or output on a hockey team.
- Published on 08/17/2018 at 16:00 PM
- Last updated at 08/17/2018 at 05:16 AM