Top 10 guys who will see a major plus-minus improvement
As mentioned in this column before, a lot of people choose to punt the plus-minus category when it comes to fantasy hockey.
The uncertainty of it from year to year is enough to drive some people insane. But while some people ignore plus-minus (even the Hockey News replaced it this year in their pool guide with Corsi close), it’s still a stat used in most hockey pools.
As usual, there were plenty of players last year who suffered through their worst plus-minus seasons of their careers. Many of them will rebound, and not just small amount. I’m talking significant increases, with all of the guys on this list increasing their plus-minus by as much as 20.
So here are the top 10 players who will see a major plus-minus improvement this season.
10. Joffrey Lupul
Lupul is my dark horse pick on this list, but one that makes a lot of sense. The Leafs have done a lot this season to become better in puck possession team. His main line mate of Nazem Kadri should be better as he starts to mature. The goaltending situation is solidified, with Jonathan Bernier locking up the number one job. All these factors will help Lupul’s plus-minus. Last season, Lupul finished with a minus-15. So a plus-five isn’t out of the question by any means.
9. John Tavares
In five seasons in the league, Tavares has never been a positive plus-minus player. His best season was a minus-two during the lockout year, and last season he was a minus-six. But this year should be better because of Jaroslav Halak. Halak, while not an elite goalie, is a major upgrade over any goalie Tavares has played with before. If Tavares can keep improving his points-per-game numbers, and Halak can put up even his career average numbers, Tavares’ plus-minus should skyrocket.
8. Christian Ehrhoff
Sometimes, it’s a change of scenery that plays such a big role in plus-minus improvement. Last season, Ehrhoff was a minus-27 on a horrible Buffalo team. This year, he should be a plus-player on a great Pittsburgh team. Erhoff will still get his points, and even if he doesn’t play great defence, the worst case scenario is he’ll hover around minus-five, which is still a massive improvement.
7. Seth Jones
It wasn’t an easy rookie season for the former first round pick. Seeing other rookie defencemen have better seasons than you is tough, but knowing your plus-minus suffered because your number one goalie was out for most of the season has to hurt. Last season, Jones was a minus-23, the worst in the league for all rookies. But that’s what happens when Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec are your top two goalies instead of Pekka Rinne. Nashville was 23rd in the league for goals against per game last season, but that number should improve this year with a healthy Rinne. As a result, Jones’ plus-minus will also increase.
6. Taylor Hall
Last season, Hall finished with a minus-15, which is far off from being the worst in the league, but a pretty low number for a point-per-game player. Much of that low number was due to the league’s worst goaltending. Viktor Fasth was the only one of six Oilers goaltenders last year to finish with a goals against average below three, but he played in just seven games for the team. Fasth and Ben Scrivens will be a major upgrade over the Oilers goalies of last season, and that will help Hall finish with a positive plus-minus for only the second time in his career.
Backstrom just enjoyed his best season points-wise in five years, but had his worst plus-minus season of his NHL career. His minus-20 is actually only the second time he’s ever been a minus-player in his seven NHL seasons. Backstrom is too good a player and the Capitals will be too good a team this season for Backstrom to have another minus season. A new coach will help see to that.
Surprisingly, Edler has the league’s worst plus-minus season last year, finishing with a minus-39. That number was a big surprise to Edler owners, as he’s never been worse than a minus-five in any season of his NHL career. It’s not a big leap to believe that even if the Canucks continue to play poorly, that Edler’s plus-minus will go up. The Canucks last year were still a middle-of-the-pack team when it came to goals against, so it would be tough to Edler to be that horrible for two straight years.
3. Jason Spezza
If you were to make a checklist of why players have a bad plus/minus in a season, Spezza would check them all off. Some lazy back checking at times, some shoddy goaltending, and poor defence helped Spezza finish with a minus-26 last season, 11th worst in the league. But Spezza also checks off all the reasons why he should see a marked improvement this season: Being traded to a new team with a better defence, better goaltending and a different system will help Spezza finish as a plus-player.
A 74-point defenceman shouldn’t be a minus-15. But Karlsson was able to do so. In fact, he was the first defenceman to do so since Brian Leetch back in 2000-01 season to have 70-plus points and a minus-15 or worst plus-minus. But Karlsson was a victim of his team’s shoddy goaltending. Even though the Senators never made a move to improve their defence or goalies this offseason, you have to figure they will be better. Craig Anderson went from being a top fantasy goalie to posting his worst numbers in five years. Robin Lehner went from the next great thing to being worse than average. If both goalies improve even a little, Karlsson’s plus-minus stands to benefit greatly.
A lot of people believe Ovi’s bad plus-minus was due to his lazy defence, but he gets unfairly criticized for that because he’s Russian. I think his low plus-minus was mostly due to the fact that his line mates shot at just 3.7 per cent while playing with Ovi (The Great 8’s PDO was just 964, which tied him with Todd Bertuzzi and Tom Sestito, and 31st worst in the league amongst all players who played at least 40 games). Ovechkin will still put up 50 goals and 80 points this year, and his line mates can’t be as bad as last year. Combine that with a new coaching regime, and Ovi finishes as a plus-player this season.
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