Hockey, Sports

Plus Minus Shares

I’m not sure if this will make any sense, as I’m really not well enough versed in statistics, but here goes…

So in baseball and basketball, there is something called a win share: an approximate measure of how many wins a player adds to a team. In hockey, with its peculiar way of determining standings, there are now point shares. I’m wondering if we can use this concept to illuminate the problems with +/-.

I have long known that +/- has its difficulties, even though I still bring it up in discussions about the Norris, the Selke and, of course, the Leafs. The biggest problem, for me anyway, is that it’s a team stat. (Another major problem is that it doesn’t take competition into account but we’ll ignore that for the moment.) So what I’m thinking is maybe we can calculate each player’s share of that particular +/-. Instead of saying a player is +20, we can have a better idea of how many of the goals for were his responsibility, and how many of the goals against.

This will involve some qualitative information (shock! horror!). You have been warned.

Goals For

Let’s say that all five players (we are excluding the goalie for simplicity’s sake) contribute to each goal scored, and each goal remains worth one. The goal scorer would be awarded the biggest piece, say 0.6 or 0.5, with the players who assisted given smaller chunks and the other two players on the ice the smallest.

With major exceptions: if the goal was a Andreychuk style tap in, the passer who set it up would get the 0.6 or 0.5.

And more qualitative stuff: a team of video analysts could distribute the 1.0 among five players based on won or drawn face-offs, keeping the puck in the zone, a hit that got the team the puck in the first place, stretch passes that were too early for an assist, blocked shots which turned the puck over, takeaways and the like. It’s very qualitative and would take people forever to figure out, but at the end we would know a player would be + n.m and it would be far more accurate.

There is the problem of the goalie break-out pass / assist. But let’s just pretend that isn’t there since goalie’s +/- are ignored for obvious reasons.

Goals Against

We can do the same for goals against only it would be distributing -1.0 among the five players based on failed blocked shots (i.e. screening the goalie, something the NHL should keep track of so we can see how good shot blockers really are), giveaways, failed hits (i.e. hits that take both players out, and allow the other team to regain the puck, or hits where the hitter takes himself out), lost or drawn face-offs, failures to keep the puck in and the like. It is as complicated.

Again the goalies are ignored.

I get that this is only a task that could be performed by organizations but I think it’s a worthwhile one. Instead of calling it a share of Plus / Minus we could call it “real plus / minus” or something like that. It would make it a lot easier to figure out who actually deserves the Selke.

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