Apr 11, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) makes a save on Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) in the second period at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Plus/Minus: Good or Bad Stat

In every sport there are stats.  And in every sport there are good stats that people focus on and bad stats that people focus on but really have no immediate effect on a player or a team as a whole. 

Plus/Minus can go either way in hockey.  For me, I look at it but don’t pay much attention to it to determine a team as a whole or even a player.  It is good insight on who is on the ice for a goal, but it can be skewed a bit as well and doesn’t necessarily give a good adaptation to the player themselves.

Plus/Minus is a stat that keeps track of goals for and against and based on who is on the ice.  Basically it is a players goal differential but it only affects the players that are on the ice at the time a goal is scored.

Alex Ovechkin weighed-in on the topic during an interview with Pavel Lysenkov of SovSports.  The interview is a wide range of questions and topics, but he did take time to cover the plus/minus question and whether it is relevant or not.

What feeling were you left with after last season?

“I am very happy that I didn’t become the worst in the plus/minus category. I had minus-35. Steve Ott and Alex Edler jumped ahead of me. Can you imagine scoring 51 goals and getting minus-40? I would have made history!”

At one time Sergei Gonchar spoke very negatively about the plus/minus thinking it was not objective.

“With the help of the plus/minus contracts can be obtained. Once our defenseman Jeff Schultz was plus-50. He was plus-5 in the last game. And he signed a contract for four years averaging $2.75 million [Ovechkin makes big eyes]. And then his contract was bought out, and he signed for only $700,000 a year. Jeff is a good guy. But these plus/minus stats say very little about a player himself or the game as a whole.”

 – Yahoo Sports

Is it relevant? It depends on who you talk to.  Even if Ovechkin was the first player with 51 goals and a minus-40, the only thing that I take out of that is that 40 more goals were scored while Ovechkin was on the ice.  He may not have been a part of the play, just coming on the ice or just leaving the ice as well can come into affect.  Is it possible that he was there for all extra 40 goals, yes it is.  We all know Ovi doesn’t play defense.  But rather than looking at a single player, and their goal differential, the team should be looked at as a whole.  As for the Capitals, last year, they had 235 goals for and 240 goals against so overall a minus-5.  They were only 3 points out of 8th place.  would those 4 goals have made a difference, depending on where they came it is possible, but it is tough to say.

There were 14 teams, across the league that had a minus differential at the end of the season.  Only 1 team made the playoffs and had a higher minus rating than the Capitals; Detroit finished with a minus-8 with 93 points and the final 8th playoff spot in the East.

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