“Guys don’t want to be the worst,” said Andrew Cogliano. “They look to see who has the most and think, ‘Please don’t get up there with the guys who are worst in the league or worst on the team.’ But for sure, they look at it.”
It’s embarrassing, which makes it prime fodder for good-natured ribbing in the dressing room.
Some teams even hand out a green jacket at their end of the year gathering to the player with the best “golf score.”
There is no such tradition in Edmonton, but the Oilers are watching the leaderboard. Heading into the final few holes, the tournament is still very much up for grabs.
Sam Gagner is the clubhouse leader, posting a –17 before his season-ending hand injury. Linus Omark is one stroke back at –16, while Strudwick is two off the pace at –15.
Tom Gilbert and Cogliano, at –13 and –12 respectively, round out the first page.
“Guys laugh about it, but you don’t want to be the guy because it does sting,” said Strudwick, adding they all know these numbers can lie.
“You have to be honest with yourself and analyze your own game because there are times when you’re just out there and they score. It happens.”
A bad plus-minus doesn’t always mean a player is hopeless defensively.
It could just mean he gets a lot of ice time on a losing team that doesn’t score a lot of goals.
Mix in all the other variables that go into it — empty netters, mistakes by others on the ice, soft goals, flukes, bad changes — and it can add up in a hurry.
“People tend to look at that number and say he’s bad defensively, but there are a lot of circumstances involved,” said Cogliano.
“You could be playing a sound, smart game and still be out there for a couple of goals.”
There can be wild fluctuations from year to year, too.Shawn Horcoff was third- worst in the NHL last year at –29. He’s –1 this year.
The team you play for also has a major impact.
L.A.’s Matt Greene, a stay-at-home defenceman coveted by most teams, was –31 in 151 games with Edmonton. He’s plus 8 in three years with the Kings.
“When a team isn’t scoring you don’t want to be out there for goals against,” said Cogliano.
“On the other hand. you have a team like Vancouver or Detroit that scores a ton of goals, your plus minus looks good.
“A lot of it depends on how your team is doing.”
The Oilers just came through a stretch where they were outscored 29-7 over eight games.
“Sometimes it’s a frustrating stat,” said Gilbert. “Sometimes it doesn’t really show what goes on. You have to just go out there and play hockey and not think about it.
“You don’t want to be the guy on the bottom, it’s never a good spot to be in.
“I wish there was a way they could do it differently.”
Whitney a wonder
Compared to the rest of the Edmonton Oilers — most of them neck-deep in the minus column — Ryan Whitney’s total is all the more amazing.
Being plus 13 on the Oilers is like Tiger Woods winning the 2000 US Open by 15 strokes.
“That speaks volumes to his skill level and his ability,” said head coach Tom Renney.
“Anybody who has a good plus-minus number against numbers that are negative, you’re looking at a pretty exceptional player.”
Here’s the Oilers’ leaderboard of the good, the bad and the ugly (games played):
Ryan Whitney +13 (35)
Ales Hemsky +3 (47)
Steve MacIntyre 0 (28)
Ryan O’Marra 0 (14)
Shawn Horcoff -1 (47)
Colin Fraser -1 (66)
Ryan Jones -1 (74)
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum:
Sam Gagner -17 (68)
Linus Omark -16 (44)
Jason Strudwick - 15 (37)
Tom Gilbert - 13 (75)
Andrew Cogliano -12 (75)
Jeff Petry -11 (28)
Magnus Paajarvi - 10 (73)
Kurtis Foster - 10 (69)
Jim Vandermeer -10 (55)