As a hockey fan, you may have come across the term “plus minus” and wondered what it means. This statistic is used to determine how effective players are when they’re on the ice during even-strength situations. Simply put, plus-minus measures the difference between the number of goals scored for a player’s team versus the number of goals scored against their team while that player is on the ice.
This statistic has been around since the early days of hockey but only became an official NHL stat in 1967, giving teams another tool to measure a player’s contributions. While some argue that plus-minus isn’t a complete representation of a player’s abilities, many coaches use it as a way to evaluate a player’s defensive skills and overall impact on the game.
“Plus minus really shows whether or not guys understand the game. They understand where to be defensively, where you need to be offensively, and when to support each other.” -Mike Babcock
While there’s no denying that other stats like shots on goal and time on ice play a significant role in evaluating players, plus-minus remains an essential factor in determining a player’s worth. Understanding this statistic can help fans better analyze a player’s performance and see beyond just the flashy goal-scoring moments.
In this blog post, we’ll dive into the importance of plus-minus and discuss why it’s become such a vital factor in evaluating a player’s contribution to their team. Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned fan looking to deepen your understanding of the game, read on to discover the ins and outs of plus-minus in hockey!
Understanding the Basics of Plus Minus in Hockey
What is Plus Minus?
In hockey, plus minus is a statistic that measures a player’s impact on the game. Specifically, it tracks the number of goals scored while the player is on the ice versus the number of goals scored by the opposing team.
A plus one (or “plus-1”) means that the player was on the ice for one more goal than their opponents during even strength play. Similarly, a minus one (or “minus-1”) indicates that the player was on the ice for one more goal against than they were able to score during even strength play.
The goal of plus minus is two-fold. First, it helps coaches and managers identify which players are contributing the most to the team’s success or lack thereof. Second, it provides a way to compare players who may have similar point totals but differing influence on the game as a whole.
How is Plus Minus Calculated?
To calculate plus minus, you simply subtract the number of goals scored by the opposing team from the total number of goals scored while the player in question was on the ice. For example, if a player is on the ice for five goals that his team scores, and three goals that the other team scores, their plus minus would be +2.
It’s important to note that not all goals count towards a player’s plus minus. Goals scored during power plays do not factor into a player’s individual statistic, since these situations inherently favor the offensive team. Additionally, any goals scored when the opposing team has pulled their goalie also don’t count towards plus minus.
While plus minus can give valuable insight into a player’s performance, it does have its limitations. Because it factors in every goal scored while the player is on the ice, regardless of their specific involvement in those goals, it can be skewed by factors outside of the player’s control. For instance, a defenseman who blocks shots and clears pucks out of his own zone might not rack up many points or goals himself, but he could still have a positive plus minus because of his contributions.
“Plus-minus doesn’t lie too often.” -Brent Burns
There are also situations where players can artificially inflate their plus minus rating. For example, a forward who is regularly subbed in for offensive faceoffs at the end of periods (when the opposing team has pulled their goalie) may see an increase in their plus minus without necessarily doing anything exceptional to contribute to their team’s success.
Despite these potential limitations, plus minus remains one of the most commonly used statistics in hockey. It provides an easy way to quantify a player’s overall impact on the game, even if it doesn’t tell the full story of individual actions taken on the ice.
How Plus Minus Can Help Evaluate a Player’s Performance
When watching or analyzing a game of hockey, there are numerous statistics that can be used to assess the performance of each player on the ice. Plus minus is a statistic that has been around for decades and continues to be integral in the evaluation of players’ performances. By examining this metric, coaches and analysts can gain insight into players’ impact on their team’s success.
Measuring Defensive Ability
Plus minus measures the difference between the number of goals scored by a player’s team versus the number of goals scored against them while that player is on the ice. For example, if a player is on the ice when his team scores two goals and the opposing team scores none, he would have a plus-two rating; whereas, if he is on the ice when his team allows three goals and scores only one, he will receive a minus-two rating.
This measurement provides significant information about a player’s defensive capability as it indicates how many times they were directly involved in stopping an opponent from scoring. In other words, players who earn strong plus-minus ratings typically spend more time defending and preventing goals than scoring them – which is why most quality defensemen tend to have positive plus-minus numbers.
The value of plus minus may also illustrate a rather understated aspect of team defensive philosophy; knowing where to position yourself defensively so that you can guard your own net without getting in your teammate’s way. “You don’t get credited with an assist or a point,” says long-time NHL coach and analyst Marc Crawford, “but strong plus-minuses come from consistently being aware of what’s happening on the ice and positioning oneself appropriately.”
Evaluating Line Chemistry
Another valuable application of plus-minus occurs when assessing line chemistry. When two or more skaters perform well together, they can be said to have good “line chemistry,” an intangible that has the power to change entire games. Sometimes it’s just understanding what each other is doing and where everything fits. “I think when you’re successful and are with a group of guys who understand your game,” says retired NHL player Brendan Shanahan, “you know where you should be, where your teammates will be, and then things become automatic.”
Plus minus numbers can provide crucial information regarding which players work best together. Looking at a team’s plus-minus ratings by line allows coaches and analysts to determine whether certain lines are playing better than others. For example, if one forward consistently creates scoring chances resulting in positive plus-minuses while paired with a specific defensive pairing, it would make sense to continue this style of play.
Evaluating hockey player performances incorporates various statistics, including plus-minus. It enables teams and individual athletes to gauge their efficiency on the ice and develops different patterns of assessing opponents’ strengths & weaknesses in any given match and season. By combining traditional methods of observation with advanced analytics tools, players, front offices, broadcasters, and fans alike can learn vital insights into why some teams excel while others struggle.
The Impact of Plus Minus on Team Strategy and Lineup Decisions
What does plus minus mean in hockey? In its simplest form, a player’s plus minus rating is determined by the number of goals scored for their team while they are on the ice compared to the number of goals allowed. If a player is on the ice when their team scores a goal, they receive a +1. If they are on the ice when an opposing team scores a goal, they receive a -1.
Assigning Defensive Roles
Coaches utilize plus minus ratings to decide which players will be assigned defensive roles on their team. A strong plus minus rating indicates that a player has contributed positively to their team’s overall success. Defensemen have more opportunities to affect their plus minus rating because they are often on the ice for longer periods of time than forwards. Because of this, a high plus minus rating among defensemen can indicate strong defensive skills, positioning, and decision-making.
“I like my defenseman to play offense with defense in mind. There’s nothing wrong with jumping up into the attack as long as it doesn’t compromise our defensive responsibilities… We always discuss the importance of not getting caught too deep in the offensive zone, concluding how that might adversely impact your plus-minus status.” – Dan Bylsma, former NHL coach
Determining Line Combinations
Line combinations consist of three forwards and two defensemen who work together on the ice. Coaches use plus minus ratings to evaluate how well certain lines are functioning and determine which players should be put together to create the most effective line combinations. A player who consistently has a positive plus minus rating may get paired with teammates who struggle defensively in order to balance out the line.
“When you look at plus-minus, for me personally, I think it’s just part of the bigger picture. You can’t just look at that number and assume a player is good or bad…But at the same time I don’t want to disregard it completely because there are players who have really high-plus minuses as well.” – Mike Babcock, NHL coach
Impact on Special Teams
The use of plus minus ratings isn’t only limited to even-strength play; coaches also utilize them when deciding which players should be used during penalty kills and power plays. Because special teams impact the outcome of games so drastically, coaches will assign players with strong plus minus ratings roles on these units. Players with a strong defensive game may be given short-handed minutes while those with strong offensive skills might get more usage during power plays.
“My belief (is) if you’re not contributing defensively five-on-five, you won’t do it shorthanded…Players who compete harder offensively usually have success on their penalty kill because they have guts to compete and battle to win pucks back all over the ice.” – Bob Hartley, former NHL coach
Considering Plus Minus in Trades and Acquisitions
When deciding whether to make acquisitions or trades, general managers often consider how a player’s plus minus rating will fit into their team’s system. A player who has strong offensive skills but struggles defensively may negatively impact their new team’s overall performance. Additionally, a player with a negative plus minus rating may indicate issues within the team surrounding poor communication and weak defensive structures.
“We specifically stated we wanted to bring somebody in that had an asset of being a two-way centerman, somebody who could shut people down defensively…Gavin Bayreuther was leading the entire league in scoring from the blue-line position, and that’s significant.…So when you look at the price point for Sanford, we felt like it was a good trade-off for what we were trying to do.” – Doug Armstrong, NHL general manager
What does plus minus mean in hockey? It’s clear that it has significant implications on team strategy and can affect how coaches assign defensive roles, determine line combinations, utilize special teams, and make trades or acquisitions. While not necessarily indicative of an individual player’s skill level, plus minus ratings are used as part of a broader evaluation that can impact how players are utilized within their respective teams.
The Controversies Surrounding Plus Minus as a Statistic in Hockey
Accuracy and Reliability Issues
Plus minus is a statistic commonly used in hockey to indicate a player’s overall contribution to their team’s success on the ice. However, the accuracy and reliability of this statistic have come under question, with some critics arguing that it fails to capture important aspects of a player’s performance.
One of the main issues with plus minus is its dependence on other players’ performances on the ice. For example, a forward who spends most of their time playing alongside strong defensive players is likely to have a higher plus minus score than a forward on a weaker defensive line, even if their personal contributions to their team are relatively similar. Furthermore, plus minus does not account for factors such as shot attempts or scoring chances, which can be crucial indicators of a player’s overall value to their team.
“When I was in school and we were learning about analytics, I remember being told that plus/minus was one of the worst stats out there.” – Former NHL Player Martin St. Louis
Impact of Team Performance
Another issue with plus minus is its heavy reliance on team performance. In hockey, a player’s plus minus score can be heavily influenced by their team’s overall success on the ice, rather than their individual contributions. A player on a successful team will often have a higher plus minus score, regardless of their actual performance during games.
Furthermore, plus minus does not account for the impact of key injuries or roster changes on a player’s overall performance. A player may see their plus minus score suffer when playing with an injured teammate or after a significant change in the roster, despite having played well individually.
“In my opinion, plus-minus is a really bad stat and has been for years. The best thing about it is that it can be used to start conversations.” – Minnesota Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau
While plus minus can provide some indication of a player’s overall value to their team, its accuracy and reliability are often called into question. To properly evaluate a player’s performance in hockey, it is important to consider a wide range of factors beyond simply their plus minus score.
Advanced Analytics: Exploring the Limitations and Alternatives to Plus Minus
In ice hockey, plus-minus is a statistic used to measure a player’s impact on the game. A positive number means that the player was on the ice for more goals-for than goals-against during even-strength play, while a negative number indicates the opposite. However, as the use of advanced analytics continues to grow in popularity within the sport, many are questioning the limitations of using plus-minus to evaluate individual player performance.
One alternative metric gaining traction in the world of hockey analytics is usage-based metrics. These measures aim to provide insight into how much a player is relied upon by their team, and how effective they are at driving possession and creating scoring opportunities.
One example of a usage-based metric is Corsi, which tracks shot attempts for and against a player while they are on the ice. This helps to paint a picture of a player’s contribution to their team’s offensive zone time and overall puck control. Similarly, Fenwick measures unblocked shot attempts to capture a more accurate representation of a player’s influence over the game’s flow.
While these metrics don’t tell the full story of a player’s impact on the game, they can highlight areas where a player excels or needs improvement beyond what plus-minus may reveal.
Another measurement strategy growing in popularity is zone-based metrics. Rather than tracking a player’s raw numbers, such as total shots attempted or allowed, these metrics quantify how effective players are in different areas of the rink.
An example of a zone-based metric is Expected Goals, which takes into account both the location and type of each individual shot taken or allowed while a player is on the ice. This provides a more detailed breakdown of offensive and defensive contributions, helping to pinpoint which players are most effective in specific situations or positions on the ice.
Zone-based metrics can also provide valuable insight into player deployment, highlighting which skaters excel in different roles. For example, a team may deploy a forward known for their strong play in the defensive zone when protecting a lead late in a game.
“The NHL is blessed with an abundance of data that extends well beyond basic statistics like goals and assists.” -Alex Prewitt, Sports Illustrated
While plus-minus remains a common metric used by both fans and coaches alike to evaluate individual performance, its limitations have led to a need for more advanced evaluation tools. Usage-based and zone-based metrics offer additional insights into player impact, helping teams make informed decisions about how best to utilize their roster while maximizing overall success on the ice.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Plus-Minus Statistic in Hockey?
The Plus-Minus Statistic in hockey is used to measure a player’s impact on their team’s goal differential. It takes into account the number of goals scored by a player’s team while they are on the ice, as well as the number of goals scored by the opposing team.
How is the Plus-Minus Statistic Calculated?
The Plus-Minus Statistic is calculated by subtracting the number of goals scored against a player’s team while they are on the ice from the number of goals scored by their team. For example, if a player is on the ice for 5 goals scored by their team and 3 goals scored by the opposing team, their Plus-Minus would be 2.
What Does a Positive Plus-Minus Mean in Hockey?
A positive Plus-Minus in hockey means that a player’s team has scored more goals than the opposing team while they were on the ice. This suggests that the player has contributed positively to the team’s performance and is often seen as a measure of their defensive abilities.
What Does a Negative Plus-Minus Mean in Hockey?
A negative Plus-Minus in hockey means that a player’s team has allowed more goals than they scored while the player was on the ice. This could suggest that the player has not contributed positively to the team’s performance or that they have faced tough competition.
What are Some Limitations of the Plus-Minus Statistic in Hockey?
The Plus-Minus Statistic in hockey does not take into account factors such as a player’s position, the quality of their teammates, or the quality of the opposing team. It can also be influenced by factors such as playing time, game situations, and luck. As a result, it should be used in conjunction with other statistics and observations when evaluating a player’s performance.
How Important is the Plus-Minus Statistic in Evaluating a Player’s Performance?
The importance of the Plus-Minus Statistic in evaluating a player’s performance in hockey varies depending on the context. While it can provide some insight into a player’s defensive abilities and impact on their team’s performance, it should be used in conjunction with other statistics and observations to provide a more complete picture of a player’s performance.