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Bardonshky

The value of plus/minus

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Posted (edited)

Apologies if this is misplaced. There are a million sub-forums in this joint, and while I’ve tried to cruise them before starting a topic, educating oneself on forum etiquette ain’t like it used to be. 

 

I’m sure this has been hashed out before, but it won’t go away (I suspect for good reason) it’s worth the occasional revisit. Some say the statistic is worthless. Some say it’s simply too narrow. Some legendary coaches clearly found value. Some current coaches say it’s obsolete. Some marquee players have bonuses structured at least partially based on it. 

 

I’ve got a kernel of an opinion, but I’m certainly not a stats guy -more of a watch-the-game guy. 

 

Opinions? 

Edited by Bardonshky

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35 minutes ago, Bardonshky said:

Apologies if this is misplaced. There are a million sub-forums in this joint, and while I’ve tried to cruise them before starting a topic, educating oneself on forum etiquette ain’t like it used to be. 

 

I’m sure this has been hashed out before, but it won’t go away (I suspect for good reason) it’s worth the occasional revisit. Some say the statistic is worthless. Some say it’s simply too narrow. Some legendary coaches clearly found value. Some current coaches say it’s obsolete. Some marquee players have bonuses structured at least partially based on it. 

 

I’ve got a kernel of an opinion, but I’m certainly not a stats guy -more of a watch-the-game guy. 

 

Opinions? 

 

No apologies necessary. A perennial topic as you say.

 

I would count myself with you on the bolded part, but always valued plus/minus as a player (i.e. took pride in it) because it was, and still is in my opinion, a decent proxy for whether a player gives a sh!t about the puck when it's in his end or not on his stick or whatever. 

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Posted (edited)

@Bardonshky

Moved topic here to "Around the NHL" as it is something that can apply to any team around the league.
Nothing wrong with the topic itself, though as you said, it HAS been discussed many times over to various degrees.

Still though, as rulesets in the NHL and stat appreciation changes within the NHL (not to mention the use of new type stats), so can opinions on the long standing stats (such as +/-), so it is pretty cool to revisit even long discussed topics at another point in time and see what people feel about it then.

 

I'll put in my feelings on it.
I think it is a good stat of evaluating strength of team (obviously a good team will give up less than they score...generally speaking), but as for individual players, I think it shouldn't be used as a be all, end all...but rather, take how good the team is AND what position a particular player plays into consideration.

For instance, I think +/- is a better measure for defenseman than it is for forwards. Why? Well, because a defenseman's primary purpose is to help prevent goals..... defend. Pretty simple.  So, if more goals are scored against while he is on the ice than scored while he is there, then it might speak to how well, or how terribly, he is doing his job.

 

Certainly this applies to forwards as well (the better defensive forwards tend to rate better on +/- than those who are mostly offense first and don't give much thought to backchecking.....BUT, and this is where I have a problem with +/- for forwards, if a guy can OUTSCORE the stat (I.E. he is a scoring machine who doesn't give a damn about defense but because he can put up 30-40 goals a year it more than offsets the 20-25 goals he may have allowed to be score against due to not backchecking/poor defensive positioning, etc).

Defensemen on the other hand, usually don't score a ton (unless you are an Erik Karlsson or John Klingberg), so therefore, how well they help prevent goals is magnified more....thus +/- for them, IMO, is more valuable.

 

But like I said when I opened my post....much of that can also depend on the team as a whole...… contenders will score more than give up, generally, and that means even the LEAST defensively minded player on the team may end up with a positive rating, and vice versa, where a team is really bad overall defensively, the goalie stinks, but it has that one good defender...who ends up deep in the minus hole simply because the rest of his mates can't prevent goals...and he certainly cannot do it all!

 

It is also interesting to note players on really terrible defensive teams who sport a pretty nice +/- rating....means that DESPITE his linemates, that player is likely going above and beyond in order to help suppress goals...and one can imagine what that stat for him would be like on a better defensive team.

 

So I feel +/- does have value...but it is best used on a case by case basis depending on player position and team....and used in conjunction with other stats, for best effectiveness.
By itself, the stat seems almost arbitrary, and not at all indicative of a given player's true abilities in goal prevention.

Edited by TropicalFruitGirl26
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1 hour ago, TropicalFruitGirl26 said:

 

 

It is also interesting to note players on really terrible defensive teams who sport a pretty nice +/- rating....means that DESPITE his linemates, that player is likely going above and beyond in order to help suppress goals...and one can imagine what that stat for him would be like on a better defensive team.

 

So I feel +/- does have value...but it is best used on a case by case basis depending on player position and team....and used in conjunction with other stats, for best effectiveness.
By itself, the stat seems almost arbitrary, and not at all indicative of a given player's true abilities in goal prevention.

Your last sentence is normally how i feel with first glance on +/-. 

But your paragraph above is so true if you want to get in deep with that stat.

I'm really not that much of a stats guy other than looking for trends.

 

I hold the +/- slightly above TOI. 

Of course the 'better' players are on the ice as much as possible. But watching NHL tonight's highlights and looking at the scroll, I want to see scores and who scored not have to sit through Suter, Kane, Burns TOI's.

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I tend to find +/- a dubious stat in that while applied to an individual, that individual has almost no control over the stat. For example, a player will get a "+" simply for being on the ice when a goal is scored. He could have nothing to do with the play and not even have touched the puck, yet gets a "+1" if another team mate scores a goal. Same with the minus part. A player could be skating off on a line change and if the opposing team scores a goal while he is trying to get off the ice, he gets a "-1"

 

To me it seems more of a stat to give defensemen a quantifiable value for contract negotiations, since they tend not to score as much as the forwards. Owners could easily point to goals and assists and say "You only produce at half the rate of the top forward, so you're getting half his salary." Enter the +/- stat and now the defenseman can say " Even though I only have half the number of goals and assists of the top forward, I have twice the +/- he does, which means I've stopped more goals than he has, allowing the team a better chance to win. So I should get compensated just as much as the top forward does." Or something like that.

 

I know this is an oversimplification, but +/- isn't really a good statistic to evaluate an individual when there are four other players on the ice that can have an impact on that individuals stat.

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12 hours ago, TropicalFruitGirl26 said:

@Bardonshky

By itself, the stat seems almost arbitrary, and not at all indicative of a given player's true abilities in goal prevention.

 

Agree, an arbitrary value, not only in goal prevention but in goal impacts too. I would say, maybe a 50/50 value.

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11 hours ago, ClusterChuck said:

Your last sentence is normally how i feel with first glance on +/-. 

But your paragraph above is so true if you want to get in deep with that stat.

I'm really not that much of a stats guy other than looking for trends.

 

I hold the +/- slightly above TOI. 

Of course the 'better' players are on the ice as much as possible. But watching NHL tonight's highlights and looking at the scroll, I want to see scores and who scored not have to sit through Suter, Kane, Burns TOI's.

You captured the part of TFG’s (thoughtful and thorough) post that piqued my interest as well. The weakness of the stat is it’s relative to so many factors. But I think that makes it a handy flag too. TOI is an example. A crummy +/- makes me want too look at TOI.  If I see a guy with a crummy +/- and high TOI, I want to know how are they getting that time. In long chunks? Then when did the goals against happen? Late in the game? Babcock getting on shift length going into Toronto opened my eyes to the difference even a few seconds make. It makes me want to see if a player or line or pair is going long early and getting chances as a result, but becoming a liability late. It informs my viewing experience? That last sentence is definitely the lamest thing I’ve said all day. 

 

 

 

 

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Is +/- a perfect stat, no, but I think it's far superior than CF.

 

+/- means your team scores more or less than the opposition when you're on the ice, CF means your team shot more or less than the opposition when you're on the ice with the bonus of those shots not actually being actual shots on goal.

 

Carolina has been a CF champion for years but the team hasn't been good for years, shot attempt volumes mean little, actual shots on goal result in goals.

 

No player can be accurately measured because hockey is a team game so +/- is as good if not better than any other stat that's out there. 

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8 hours ago, hobie said:

Is +/- a perfect stat, no, but I think it's far superior than CF.

 

+/- means your team scores more or less than the opposition when you're on the ice, CF means your team shot more or less than the opposition when you're on the ice with the bonus of those shots not actually being actual shots on goal.

 

Carolina has been a CF champion for years but the team hasn't been good for years, shot attempt volumes mean little, actual shots on goal result in goals.

 

No player can be accurately measured because hockey is a team game so +/- is as good if not better than any other stat that's out there. 

Great post! Beyond it being a team game, it’s a very fast team game with dynamic substitutions. I don’t think stats can do for it what they do for, say, baseball. 

 

I can see the value of CF -not that you’re saying you don’t- but again, it doesn’t tell me much in aggregate. I like knowing about shots, to me they’re a decent indicator of offensive zone time. But again, sometimes a team piles up shots in the first or third period. It tells me more to know when. Shots are great to know for an individual player, but as you say, shots are not all equal. Side rant on shots -it kills me when I see a player consistently getting the best single quality opportunity in a game and not converting -it lends credence to the argument that quantity of shots matters. It does to some extent because quantity settles the player. 

 

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Skilled players aren't happy with quantity of shots, they look for quality.

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4 hours ago, hobie said:

Skilled players aren't happy with quantity of shots, they look for quality.

By “settles the player” I meant that skilled guys, when slumping, are encouraged to accumulate shots. Ideally from the highest percentage area -in front- but worse angles if that’s what’s available. 

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For the most part unless you see a player standing out with a big "+" or a big "-" rating it gives little to accurately go by.

 

There's so many variables that 'pad' those numbers whether negatively or positively. For instance, players on a teams first line aren't always going to match up and play against other teams first lines. Coaches always try to adjust their lines to capitalize against opponents weaker lines. From that lessor players will stand out with higher negative +/- ratings.

 

On the other hand those lessor players are also seeing less ice time.

 

Then there's special teams.

Power play players are going to have more chances to score, thus they have an edge over lessor players seeing those same opportunities. But then again players killing penalties are more likely to earn a "-" if their team gets scored on. Often many of the players not on the PP's are leaned on for PK's. I'll resort to the Wild here to give an example.

 

A few years ago players like Kyle Brodziak and Erik Haula saw a lot of PK duty but never to rarely ever saw chances on the PP. The pure nature of the beast, is they were more likely to pick up more negative +/- points than others, and they did.

 

Then there's 3 on 3 play in overtime. Most the time about half the bench never see any ice time. Typically only the teams top players are either going to get a plus, or a minus.

 

Shootouts: A bonus for some I guess to get a +. lol

Or are they even counted for shootouts?

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41 minutes ago, rottenrefs said:

Then there's special teams.

Power play players are going to have more chances to score, thus they have an edge over lessor players seeing those same opportunities. But then again players killing penalties are more likely to earn a "-" if their team gets scored on. Often many of the players not on the PP's are leaned on for PK's. I'll resort to the Wild here to give an example.

 

A few years ago players like Kyle Brodziak and Erik Haula saw a lot of PK duty but never to rarely ever saw chances on the PP. The pure nature of the beast, is they were more likely to pick up more negative +/- points than others, and they did.

 

 

You don't get a plus for scoring on the power-play, and you don't get a minus for giving up a power-play goal. However, if you're on the PP and give up a SHG, that's a minus, and if you're on the PK and are on the ice for a SHG, that's a plus. The idea of plus/minus was always to see who the out-scorers are at even-strength.

 

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TO, it's said is looking for an upgrade on d, Carolina is looking to upgrade their forwards  but they won't trade Slavin. Slavin is -10, Pesce is +13 and I believe they normally play together 5v5. One would think that Pesce would be the untouchable? On TO the top pairing of Rielly/Hainsey both have +23.

 

Fancy stats fans point out that CF is used to isolate players to see player's results with different players so it's superior to +/- but you can do the same thing with +/-, it's just never been done to my knowledge. 

 

TO is usually outshot and therefore probably outshot attempted and according to CF should lose, shot attempts mean little and shots themselves are almost as useless, TO has some very skilled forwards who are picky about when and where to shoot.

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The only thing I wish they would do with +/- is provide a detailed breakdown of it. It's a shame that they don't.

 

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On 1/9/2019 at 10:36 AM, TropicalFruitGirl26 said:

For instance, I think +/- is a better measure for defenseman than it is for forwards. Why? Well, because a defenseman's primary purpose is to help prevent goals..... defend. Pretty simple.  So, if more goals are scored against while he is on the ice than scored while he is there, then it might speak to how well, or how terribly, he is doing his job.

 

Certainly this applies to forwards as well (the better defensive forwards tend to rate better on +/- than those who are mostly offense first and don't give much thought to backchecking.....BUT, and this is where I have a problem with +/- for forwards, if a guy can OUTSCORE the stat (I.E. he is a scoring machine who doesn't give a damn about defense but because he can put up 30-40 goals a year it more than offsets the 20-25 goals he may have allowed to be score against due to not backchecking/poor defensive positioning, etc).

 

But remember that you only have to be on the ice -- not scoring -- to get a +.  So you can't "out-score" the stat. 

 

In fact, since forwards get the bulk of their points on the power play, they're not getting a + on many of their goals. 

 

What the NHL needs is the following stats:

 

  • + (overall)
  • + (PP)
  • + (SH)
  • - (overall)
  • - (PP)
  • - (SH)

Then what you could do is see the total "+" that any player has, and where they get it from the most (PP, ES, SH) and you see the "-" of every player with the same breakdown. 

 

I actually created my own stat called "-" to address this..... but I'd have to dig to find the formula for how to calculate it.  :)

 

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On 1/9/2019 at 9:17 AM, Bardonshky said:

Apologies if this is misplaced.

 

Banned for life!!!  😋

 

On 1/9/2019 at 9:17 AM, Bardonshky said:

Some say the statistic is worthless. Some say it’s simply too narrow. Some legendary coaches clearly found value. Some current coaches say it’s obsolete. Some marquee players have bonuses structured at least partially based on it. 

 

Within any one particular team I think it certainly has value. The highest "+" players on a team are the ones who are making the greatest contribution to their team's overall success.  :)

 

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5 hours ago, rottenrefs said:

For the most part unless you see a player standing out with a big "+" or a big "-" rating it gives little to accurately go by.

 

There's so many variables that 'pad' those numbers whether negatively or positively. For instance, players on a teams first line aren't always going to match up and play against other teams first lines. Coaches always try to adjust their lines to capitalize against opponents weaker lines. From that lessor players will stand out with higher negative +/- ratings.

 

On the other hand those lessor players are also seeing less ice time.

 

Then there's special teams.

Power play players are going to have more chances to score, thus they have an edge over lessor players seeing those same opportunities. But then again players killing penalties are more likely to earn a "-" if their team gets scored on. Often many of the players not on the PP's are leaned on for PK's. I'll resort to the Wild here to give an example.

 

A few years ago players like Kyle Brodziak and Erik Haula saw a lot of PK duty but never to rarely ever saw chances on the PP. The pure nature of the beast, is they were more likely to pick up more negative +/- points than others, and they did.

 

Then there's 3 on 3 play in overtime. Most the time about half the bench never see any ice time. Typically only the teams top players are either going to get a plus, or a minus.

 

Shootouts: A bonus for some I guess to get a +. lol

Or are they even counted for shootouts?

Are you certain PP goals factor in to plus minus? Shorties I believe do. But not sure PK goals count against. But maybe my info is old. 

 

Sure match-ups influence the number, but I’m not sure that’s a strike against. If you know the assignment it could still be a gauge of a given players performance. A guy might get 4 goals in a game and be +2. That’d tell you something. Especially if lines or units were shufflling and another guy was +3 without getting a goal. As for some guys getting less ice, sure, but it’s still a measure of their performance night in night out. Also, other guys might be worse the same night because they got caught out. I think those are things that can help you look to see where a players game went wrong or right. 

 

In aggregate the number tells you less, but assuming you know the players role it’s not entirely useless.  

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5 hours ago, hobie said:

 

TO is usually outshot and therefore probably outshot attempted and according to CF should lose, shot attempts mean little and shots themselves are almost as useless, TO has some very skilled forwards who are picky about when and where to shoot.

 

“In order to score on a rebound, you have to have that first shot, get the puck to the (blue) paint,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said Friday after the team held an optional skate. “In playoffs, all you have to do is watch the games, night in, night out, even if you’re not a hockey fan. If you don’t get to the net, you’re not going to score. (Goalies), they’re too dialed in, they’re too big, they’re too good, so you have to get to the net.

“I thought we passed up a ton of opportunities to shoot (Thursday). … At playoff time there is no better play. Get it to the net, get people to the net and shoot the pill.”

 

-Babs 

Edited by Bardonshky
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6 hours ago, hobie said:

shot attempts mean little and shots themselves are almost as useless

 

Except when you consider rebounds, deflections, screened shots, and bouncing pucks. A lot can happen when you shoot the puck and a lot of shots are never even seen by the goalie.

 

There's no such thing as a "bad" shot on goal in my books.   

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10 minutes ago, WordsOfWisdom said:

 

Except when you consider rebounds, deflections, screened shots, and bouncing pucks. A lot can happen when you shoot the puck and a lot of shots are never even seen by the goalie.

 

There's no such thing as a "bad" shot on goal in my books.   

A point shot wouldn’t be from prime scoring real estate, but if a team was having trouble getting the puck to the net, I’m pretty sure coaches would be asking for point shots. 

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      Post
      No apologies necessary. A perennial topic as you say.   I would count myself with you on the bolded part, but always valued plus/minus as a player (i.e. took pride in it) because it was, and still is in my opinion, a decent proxy for whether a player gives a sh!t about the puck when it's in his end or not on his stick or whatever. 
    • 3
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      @Bardonshky Moved topic here to "Around the NHL" as it is something that can apply to any team around the league. Nothing wrong with the topic itself, though as you said, it HAS been discussed many times over to various degrees. Still though, as rulesets in the NHL and stat appreciation changes within the NHL (not to mention the use of new type stats), so can opinions on the long standing stats (such as +/-), so it is pretty cool to revisit even long discussed topics at another point i
    • 2
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      I tend to find +/- a dubious stat in that while applied to an individual, that individual has almost no control over the stat. For example, a player will get a "+" simply for being on the ice when a goal is scored. He could have nothing to do with the play and not even have touched the puck, yet gets a "+1" if another team mate scores a goal. Same with the minus part. A player could be skating off on a line change and if the opposing team scores a goal while he is trying to get off the ice, he g
    • 2
      Post
      You captured the part of TFG’s (thoughtful and thorough) post that piqued my interest as well. The weakness of the stat is it’s relative to so many factors. But I think that makes it a handy flag too. TOI is an example. A crummy +/- makes me want too look at TOI.  If I see a guy with a crummy +/- and high TOI, I want to know how are they getting that time. In long chunks? Then when did the goals against happen? Late in the game? Babcock getting on shift length going into Toronto opened my eyes t
    • 2
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      Is +/- a perfect stat, no, but I think it's far superior than CF.   +/- means your team scores more or less than the opposition when you're on the ice, CF means your team shot more or less than the opposition when you're on the ice with the bonus of those shots not actually being actual shots on goal.   Carolina has been a CF champion for years but the team hasn't been good for years, shot attempt volumes mean little, actual shots on goal result in goals.   No playe
    • 2
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      You don't get a plus for scoring on the power-play, and you don't get a minus for giving up a power-play goal. However, if you're on the PP and give up a SHG, that's a minus, and if you're on the PK and are on the ice for a SHG, that's a plus. The idea of plus/minus was always to see who the out-scorers are at even-strength.  
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