Brent Burns, 24, is off to a slow start with one assist and a minus-9 rating in seven games. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
The plus-minus statistic is used in many types of fantasy hockey leagues. I don’t necessarily agree with that, as it is heavily influenced by the kind of team a player is on. But that’s neither here nor there. The fact is plus-minus is here to stay in fantasy hockey. Not only is it a common statistical category, it is also a decent indicator as to how shaky the ground is a player is standing on.
Poolies most certainly are not professional coaches. Nor are we scouts. We’re stats nerds. We can watch a game and walk away from it being very impressed with a certain player, but the coach may have an opposite opinion after seeing something our amateur eyes missed. So the smart poolies stick to what we know (stats) and use that in conjunction with what we hear (the opinions of the real experts, such as coaches both past and present).
This is where plus-minus comes in. If you have a high-risk/high-reward player who will either flourish on the team offensively or be sent to the American League for the third straight season, well, you don’t really want to see that guy sitting with a minus-6 after four games. You know he will need to start scoring soon or lose the opportunity altogether.
Here are some comments on a handful of players at the bottom of the league’s plus-minus chart.
Brent Burns, MIN – A league-low minus-9
Burns is a proven commodity and the Wild don’t have a lot of those. He’ll get all the time in the world to shake his funk.
Nigel Dawes, CGY – minus-8
His four points are keeping him in the lineup so far, but his ice time the past three games has been steadily decreasing. Given the battle he had to stay out of the press box – for Phoenix and the Rangers – last year, this should raise a few red flags.
Johnny Oduya, NJ – minus-7
Oduya was barely on the fantasy radar thanks to his strong plus-minus potential. Whoops. That dream appears to be dead. Right now, the Devils are scratching either Andy Greene or Cory Murphy each game. Look for Oduya to join that rotation if he continues to struggle and one of the other two steps up.
Big names such as Vincent Lecavalier, TB; Nathan Horton, FLA; Mikko Koivu, MIN - minus-5 or minus-6
These players are all safe, even if the struggles continue all year. Their respective teams will still give them power play time, game in and game out. When you’re as established as these guys, you need to struggle for a couple of years before a coach’s faith starts to waiver.
David Legwand, Mike Santorelli, NSH – minus-5
For Santorelli, his struggle has already led to a trip back to Milwaukee. That’s the price of having weak numbers if you haven’t established yourself. For Legwand, the fact he has zero points means he will lose his top-six spot if a player such as Cal O’Reilly or Colin Wilson takes it from him.
Maxim Afinogenov, ATL – minus-4
Afinogenov expected teams to be lining up for his services this off-season, but that didn’t happen. He needs to re-establish himself as a top-sixer in this league and his minus-4 doesn’t bode well. At the 25-game mark, if he is hovering around minus-10, you will probably see him become a healthy scratch from time to time.
James Sheppard, MIN; Josh Bailey, NYI – minus-5 and minus-4
Here are two youngsters who may have been brought into the league too quickly and are struggling as a result. Sheppard is still without a point, while Bailey has just one assist. It might be best for them to be demoted to the AHL to gain confidence and if they continue down this road for another 10 games or so that may happen.
Here are some comments about players on the other end of the spectrum.
Alex Goligoski, PIT – plus-8
A minus-8 would have seen him in the press box already for at least a game or two. A plus-8 is a completely different story. He’ll continue munching the minutes and, as such, the points will continue, too.
Dustin Penner, EDM – plus-6
The forwards who are at the top of the plus-minus list also have a pile of points. It’s the old chicken and egg question – did they get the points thanks to strong two-way play or are the big production numbers boosting their plus-minus? For bubble players such as Penner (“bubble” meaning not established in the top six), it doesn’t matter. What matters is he has nine points in eight games and is well into the positive for plus-minus. He’s earned a long stay in the top six.
Matt Gilroy, NYR – plus-5
The rookie has just two points, but one look at his impressive plus-minus and you’ll see why he’ll stay in the lineup. The Rangers would be thrilled if he only managed 20 points, but was a plus-15 on the season.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Tuesday and Saturday throughout the season. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.