When I was a kid I loved Hockey, loved playing Hockey, loved watching Hockey, but mostly playing Hockey. And I was a pretty decent defenseman, in fact I was often compared to Mark Howe, which was a huge compliment at the time. Howe played 16 seasons in the NHL and left with a plus-minus record of plus 400. That means when he was on the ice 400 more goals were scored for his team than were scored against his team. If you’re not familiar with plus-minus 400 is an amazing record.
In fact only 2 of those 16 seasons were more goals scored against him. To put this into perspective, Wayne Gretzky played 22 seasons in the NHL and 8 of those seasons more goals were scored against him when he was on the ice.
Statistically the plus-minus is the best way to gauge how valuable a player is, I should note that Wayne Gretzky did leave the NHL with an amazing plus 520, it tells you more about the player than any other statistic. For example if you score 30 goals in a season but the opponent scores 40 goals against you when you are on the ice that’s not a good statistic even though 30 goals sounds great. Of course this is a team sport so you can blame others on the ice with you for the end result but the bottom line is if you end your career with a low plus-minus or worse a number in the minus, you probably weren’t as valuable as you think you were, or others think you were. Bobby Orr played 12 seasons and ended his career plus 582. Any ‘ great player ‘ will, by the end of his career, be at least plus 300. A good player at least plus 100-299. If you have a plus-minus under 100, well, I really don’t care how many goals you can score, frankly you’re not that good, no matter how popular you were.
Yes, I know this flies in the face of conventional thinking, we’re brought up thinking goals are the most important thing. Next to goals the popularity of the player. If a player is popular he must be very important. If he scores a lot of goals he must be an amazing player. But think about it for a minute. If I was designing a team, I would want players who all have a plus record, that means when they are on the ice more goals are being scored for the team than against the team, and the bottom line to that is winning games.
( image courtesy of thesportsdaily.com )