Smid's play has been a plus

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

Ladislav Smid has never been worried about becoming Minus Mikkelson.

The otherwise forgettable Bill Mikkelson holds the claim to fame of having the record for the worst plus/minus in NHL history: minus 82 with the 1974-75 Washington Capitals.

But Smid had the worst plus-minus on the Edmonton Oilers last year at minus six.

The year before he was minus 15. The year before that he was minus 16.

Throughout his career here, his minus has been comparable only to the temperatures.

Plus/minus is a stat that tends to get a lot of publicity on the negative end and not so much on the positive.

If a guy has a nice fat minus number like Vancouver's, who takes the ice here tonight with a minus 7, he's going to read about it.

It's not necessarily like that when the guy leads his team in plus-minus, like Robert Nilsson did when he was plus 8 with the Oilers two years ago

Not much mention of that.

Or Denis Grebeshkov's plus 12 last season, followed in second by Dustin Penner at plus 7.

But seven games into the season, when you've got a guy at plus 8 -- good enough for fourth overall in the league, just two off the lead -- it's worthy of some notice.

Especially if he's the aforementioned Mr. Smid.

"That's a shocker," said Smid. "I've got no words for it."

Informed he's currently on a pace to be plus 90, Smid laughed.

"This is the first time I've been a plus. Maybe I'll beat Nicklas Lidstrom. He's always like plus 50 or something."

Lidstrom is currently a mere plus three.

Lubomir Visnovsky, the Slovak who has been paired with the young Czech on the Edmonton blue-line, is plus seven and right up there withhim in the NHL's top 10.

So maybe it's the combination.

"It's hard to say. We've had a couple of lucky games where we've been plus three or plus four. Against Chicago I was a minus two," said Visnovsky.

"Sometimes I dump it to somebody and he goes and scores a goal and I get applause. Sometimes you are lucky, sometimes you are not."

Since the start of his NHL career Visnovsky has been a plus 16, minus 5, plus 2, plus 8, plus 7, plus 1, minus 18 and plus 6.

There has been considerable debate about the worthiness of the plus/minus stat that sees a player get a plus for being on the ice in a five-on-five situation when a goal is scored and a minus for being on the ice five-on-five when a goal is scored against.

Some of the greats of the game, Bobby Orr (six times) and Wayne Gretzky (four times) have topped the tables more than any other players.

Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Scott Stevens and Chris Pronger (twice) also won it.

In 1982-83, the NHL created an award for the best plus-minus and the first winner was Oilers defenceman Charlie Huddy, with a plus 63.

Gretzky was a plus 98 one year. Before there was an award, Orr had a plus 124 one year and Larry Robinson a plus 120 another.

Last year David Krejci of the Boston Bruins won it with a plus 37.

Previous winners also include Marty McSorley, Marek Malik, Michal Rozsival and Paul Cavallini.

You get the idea.

There are a lot of players who know they'll never win an award Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky have won.

But it's possible with this one.

"They do have that offensive flair to them. That's where it's coming from," said coach Pat Quinn.

But don't book the trophy engraver just yet, he suggests.

"Defensively we still have some work, some improvement to come from there."

Geez, Pat. There's been a severe shortage of positive statistical stories around here for a long while.

Work with us when we find one.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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