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Spezza: Minus-17 rating ‘frustrating’

Jan 20, 2014, 10:38 AM EDT

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 18: Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 18, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Senators 5-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) Getty Images

While the merit of the plus-minus statistic has been questioned, it still carries weight with the captain of the Ottawa Senators.

“It’s been a frustrating stat for me this year,” Jason Spezza said of his minus-17 mark, per the Ottawa Sun. “I’ve been plus-20s in the past. This year when something goes wrong it seems I’m on the ice for it. It is what it is. I’m mature enough of a player to know I have to be on the ice for more goals for, than against.”

Spezza needs to be on the ice for a few more goals against before reaching the depths of Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov — owner of the league’s worst rating, at minus-31 — but he does have a pretty poor rating, along with fellow Sens forward Milan Michalek (minus-19).

The more pressing issue might be Spezza’s lack of production. He has just five points in his last 12 games and is on pace for 56 this season, a far cry from the 84 points he put up in his last full season (over 80 games, during the 2011-12 campaign.)

Despite this, Ottawa’s played reasonably well of late. The Sens have won four of seven in 2014 and taken points from every game, save Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Rangers.

Spezza acknowledged that wins and losses are much more important measures than pluses and minuses.

“We went through a tough stretch at the start of the year,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about plus-minus, I have to worry about helping to get us wins.”

  1. davebabychreturns - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    Allow me be the first to say, plus minus is a stupid stat.

    Fortunately Spezza doesn’t have to revise his conclusions because he’s been mediocre-to-awful by nearly every other available metric.. takes more penalties than he draws, does not play against the other teams best players and still gets outshot, finishes in the offensive zone less often than he starts there, etc. etc.

    The only saving grace is that he’s been on the ice for some truly abysmal goaltending making his +/- look even worse than it should.

    • joey4id - Jan 20, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      Plus and minus was used by some of the greatest coaches ever to have coached in the NHL. Obviously the -17 is bothering Spezza. I believe all stats tell a story, but they may not tell the whole story. Plus/minus can be used to trigger more analysis. If a player goes from a +1 to minus -3 in the span of three games, then there is reason to question his play. This is where the video comes in play to assess this players actions and play when goals were scored while he was on the ice. It’s possible that this player plays 25 to 26 minutes per games, and always plays against the top line. You need to drill down further when using stats to assess just about anything.

      • davebabychreturns - Jan 20, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        Sure. But with plus minus you need to drill so much further down that it limits the utility of it. In Spezza’s example he’s been on the ice for a lot of goals against in part because Sens goaltenders have not made the saves they’ve needed to when he’s been on the ice.

        That said, as I mentioned he’s been mediocre at best by most measures so I am more talking about the stat in general than I am about how it measures Spezza’s season so far in this case.

        As for the “some of the greatest coaches ever used it” defense, I’m sure a lot of the worst coaches ever used it too. Some of the greatest coaches ever used it and I’m sure if they were working today they would either augment or replace it with any number of options that are now being tracked which more accurately predict future performance.

      • joey4id - Jan 20, 2014 at 12:21 PM

        I’m sure the worst coaches ever had bigger problems to deal with than the plus/minus stat. :-)

  2. hockey412 - Jan 20, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    Plus/Minus isn’t stupid (in my opinion), it just has to be read with a lot of footnotes, especially if someone is playing on a very good team, or very bad team. Like you said, he’s been mediocre-to-awful…this is reflected in the stat. Karlsson’s isn’t great either. But there ARE players with a lot of ice time that are doing well as far as that goes (Turris/Ryan)…in those cases I think the stat works.

  3. spezzdispenser - Jan 20, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    I think the stat works in absolute values, in this case yeah we can say that Spezza’s been bad, especially when you compare to Turris or MacArthur.

    He’s too good of a player for it to last all year. He’ll have a great second half. Spezzdispenser ain’t too worried.

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