SUN Hockey Pool

How embarrassing

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minnesota -- Is Joffrey Lupul a couple of bad games away from going down as the absolute worst defensive player in the entire National Hockey League?

Has Shawn Horcoff, no matter what happens over the course of Edmonton's final three losses this season, already done irreparable damage to his reputation as one of hockey's better two-way centres?

Should his new nickname be Matt Greene (Jacket)?

Depends who you talk to.

If you go by the stats, Lupul, and the minus total that's followed him around like a two-headed monster, is, statistically, one of the game's biggest liabilities.

FIVE PLAYERS

Of all 852 players who've suited up in the NHL this season, his minus-26 ranks 847th. Only five players are worse, with Philadelphia's R.J. Umberger dead last at minus-30.

Horcoff is 836th out of 852 on the strength of his minus-21. Greene is 824th in the league at minus-19.

"It's one of those stats you try to take pride in, especially as a defenceman, and this year it's been pretty tough to look at," said Greene.

"It's also one of those stats where if it's bad you say it doesn't have a reflection on you, and if it's good you say 'look, I'm a plus player.' "

With so many Oilers owning plus-minus numbers that look more like Tiger Woods's winning score in The Masters, guess which way they're leaning?

"I put very little stock in that stat," said Lupul, whose minus-24 on the road is the worst in the entire league.

"For me it's more of a question of I haven't been producing offensively. If you're not scoring any goals, eventually it's going to start adding up. And they've been adding up all right."

Horcoff would rather shrug it off as another in a long line of reasons to forget about this season.

"When you're playing as bad as we have, and if you're one of the healthy guys playing a lot of minutes, it's going to happen," he said.

"I've never been a minus player in my career, and all of a sudden I'm minus-20. It's obviously a little frustrating."

It's no fun having a blinking double-digit minus next to your name.

"I think you're more conscious of it when you start creeping into the Green Jacket territory," admitted Greene.

"Nobody wants to be stuck with that award at the end of the year."

Or minus-26.

Lupul never thought he'd sink this low.

"Never. But every game now it seems that it's minus-1, minus-1. It's just one of those things that when things turn sour, it starts adding up.

"You can see that it's going poorly for everyone. You never want to be a minus player, but you have to look at the reality of it - every guy on the team is."

THIRD WORST

As a team (even strength and shorthanded goals for vs. even strength and shorthanded goals against), the Oil are minus-59, third worst, ahead of only Philadelphia (-73) and Boston (-59).

Still, some Oilers have managed to keep from falling too far under par. It's hard to dismiss the numbers entirely when Fernando Pisani, who plays a lot of minutes on a bad team, too, is just minus-1.

At some point, over the course of 79 games, the minus-stat DOES indicate how a guy's year is going.

"Some guys more than others," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "Everybody has strengths and weaknesses and right now we're so depleted we can't hide guys (from the other team's offensive players). So their plus-minus is going to be a little skewed.

"But minus-20, a lot of times, it's an indicator of your overall game. Some guys, the numbers are a little off, based on their matchups, and other guys you expect them to be better."


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