Monday Morning Musings, With Me "The Big E": The Leafs Plus-Minus?

Eric WarrenCorrespondent IIApril 5, 2010

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 28:  Phil Kessel #81 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his goal with Tyler Bozak #42 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second period at Mellon Arena on March 28, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

With the Toronto Maple Leafs season winding down, a new hope for next year has been born. A great many fans and media will literally be going stir crazy over the summer in anticipation.

Over that same period of time, there is bound to be a great deal of speculation as to what the Leafs should do, how they should do it, who they should get, and so on.

Several other issues have plagued the team as well over the course of this season, and one of them is the overall plus minus.

The question is, does it really matter?

The answer isn't easy, because it is yes...and no.

The best team in the league, the Washington Capitals, have nine players overall that are in the minus column; the Leafs, 18.

The Caps have 199 goals for, the Leafs 151, but in all fairness, Ovechkin himself is solely responsible for that discrepancy.

Washington has 129 goals against while Toronto has 156 which make them plus-70 and minus-5 respectively.

During the 2003/2004 season, before the arrival of the "Great 8," the Capitals had an incredible 29 players that were at least a minus-1. The arrival of Ovechkin and other players, coupled with the stellar coaching of Bruce Budreau has completely turned the franchise around.

During the same 2003/2004 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs only had seven players who were in the minus category, but as Mike Ulmer of Toronto Maple Leafs.com points out, plus minus is an often misleading stat.

"Fans of the stat say it quantifies defensive players who take care of their own end as well as two-way players who spend as much effort preventing goals as scoring them.

It’s not quite that simple, of course. For one thing, teams with poor goalies
and that was certainly the Leafs for most of the season are doused in minuses. Defensive players are routinely outscored. Their job is to limit the damage of the most talented opposition players and since they rarely score themselves, they have little ability to get a plus after surrendering a minus."

It does matter though, to players who are on the plus side, it's a source of pride and accomplishment. To players on the minus side, it can be a source of frustrating embarrassment. Most often though, a bad plus minus can often be traced back to either a bad goaltender or a lack of scoring, it isn't usually the defenseman's fault.

Yes, we would all do things differently as we yell at the TV while watching Garnett Exelby blow an assignment, or Tomas Kaberle allow an offensive player positioning to avoid a check, but at the end of the day, as a team gets better, which the Leafs are, the plus minus will become less and less of an issue.


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