Which 5 Tampa Bay Lightning Will Have the Best Plus-Minus Stats in 2013-14?
Plus-minus ratings can be one of the more telling statistics in the NHL. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, plus-minus hasn’t been a great statistic in recent years. This year, under coach John Cooper’s system, there are a few players that will be more successful than others.
Of the 22 skaters to appear for the Lightning this season, only four have a negative rating. It’s early, but that is a significant improvement from the 12 minus-rated players last season.
With inexperienced players and coaches, there will be some tough lumps to take—like the 5-0 loss to Boston on Oct. 19. But, the Lightning have a strong enough offense to make up for some of the lows.
Here are the five players that will have the best plus-minus rating in 2013-14.
5. Victor Hedman
Victor Hedman is one of the most promising young defensemen in the game today and a big piece of the Lightning’s blue line. Arguably the best offensive defenseman on the team, Hedman will have ample opportunity to earn some positive marks, especially playing with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis.
His downfall will come with his huge chunk of minutes. Hedman logs just under 20 minutes per game, but most of those minutes come against the opponent’s top offensive units.
He is currently minus-two, but most of that can be attributed to the Boston Bruins. Against the Bruins, Hedman is minus-six, including a minus-five game on Oct. 19.
Hedman finished last season plus-one—a significant increase from 2010-11—and will look to continue to improve this year. If he can, Hedman should be a top-five plus-minus player.
4. Matt Carle
One step above Victor Hedman is another offensive-minded defenseman in Matt Carle. Carle’s situation is very similar to Hedman’s in that he will be facing the best the competition can offer.
Carle’s edge comes in experience. He is in the middle of his ninth season and a significant streak. The Anchorage, Alaska, native hasn’t finished a season with a minus rating since 2007-08.
He has a streak of five-straight seasons on the plus-side, including a career-best plus-30 in 2010-11. He won’t be putting up any plus-30 seasons in a Lightning sweater soon, but a plus-10 marker would mean great things for Carle and the team.
3. Teddy Purcell
Breaking away from the defense and going with a crafty veteran forward, Teddy Purcell starts the top three. With eight points in eight games, Purcell could be on the verge of a breakout season.
His numbers will only improve playing alongside a two-way forward like Valterri Filppula. If Purcell and the second line can continue to produce secondary scoring, he might be shattering all sorts of personal bests.
His career best plus-minus is a plus-nine back in 2011-12. He has been a plus player in three of his four complete Lightning seasons—not an easy feat with all the defensive woes in recent years.
Looking to rebound from a minus-one season last year, Purcell could be ready to breakout as a top three plus-minus player.
2. Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos takes the No. 2 spot in plus-minus rating. His firepower on offense could easily earn him a top spot, but he is still making a few mistakes coming out of the defensive end.
Stamkos has finished on the plus-side in three of the last four seasons, but he hasn’t been ground breaking. A career minus-four player, Stamkos will benefit from the defense-centric system the Lightning are trying to play.
He had a career-high plus-seven rating in 2011-12 and put up a respectable plus-five mark last season. Stamkos could easily be the best forward on the team in plus-minus if things improve during 5-on-5 play.
1. Sami Salo
Sami Salo has the potential to be the defenseman the Lightning wanted him to be this season. If he can stay healthy, the veteran defenseman is one of the sturdiest in the league.
Salo is currently plus-three and is the second-highest defenseman on the team (to Eric Brewer at plus-six), but he has a workman-like approach to the game. Not known much for his offense, Salo has made his name with strong defensive play and smart positioning.
In his 15 NHL seasons, he has finished with a minus rating only once. He was minus-three in 27 games in 2010-11. Otherwise, he is a career plus-122 player—a phenomenal number that the Lighting can use at the top of the ratings this season.
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