The Noon Number: -14

-14.

The "combined" plus/minus of Kevin Bieksa and Keith Ballard, good for #646 and #647 in the entire National Hockey League, out of 649 players.

Sheesh. I'm amazed that the scribes who were so quick to jump over the Sedins for similar troubles last season weren't all over criticizing the 3-4 pairing of the Canucks so far this year. (PK Subban in Montreal has taken ridiculous heat for his +/- rating, which is the product of a low PDO, and not much else)

Consider this a pre-emptive strike. If 3-4 have another rough outing tonight, we may see somebody discuss their early season struggles. For the record, I think it's an ill-advised pairing and I think that the score chance numbers indicate that. We do know that the Canucks track scoring chances rather than traditional +/- to properly evaluate players, so I'd expect that the pairing is not much longer for this world.

Although, online, the guys have seen some heat. A couple of articles here and there from the Bleacher Report and a few statistical newbies (one of them being a Blackhawks fan) who seem to think that +/- is an accurate indicator of player performance. Of course +/- ~means~ something. It means that Kevin Bieksa was on the ice for seven more goals against than for. We have to put that into proper context, however, and a lot of things are bogging Bieksa down:

 

  • Him and his teammates are only shooting 3.37% while he's on the ice.
  • His goalies have saved just 88.2% of shots against while he's on the ice.
  • His Corsi Rel QoC is .197, the third highest among defensemen on the team.
  • When he's started in the defensive zone, his centreman is 23-24 in faceoffs.

These are all things out of the control of Kevin Bieksa. Despite some poor chance numbers, Bieksa's maintained a high Corsi rating of 19.64, while Keith Ballard is only slightly below that at -1.94 per 60 minutes (okay, very far below). Perhaps the rationale here from Vigneault is that Ballard can do the least amount of damage when he's out there with otherwise Vancouver's strongest defenseman. Ballard's minutes are not sheltered, however (45.8 offensive zone start percentage) so it would be interesting to see what type of minutes Ballard plays in the defensive end.

Also, let's not fall into the trap of thinking that a defenseman can control shot quality. Most of that is total bunk. The defenseman can control volume of shots. Where the shots come from is entirely dependent on the offensive player. Shot-quality has been an argument proven false for years and years by stat-hounds way smarter than I am and working with much better technology, so this isn't a matter of opinion. It's a matter of fact. The save percentage numbers behind Kevin Bieksa or Keith Ballard are out of the realm of their control.

Since the media has yet to pick up on this interesting tidbit, I'll instead defer to my old Calgary friend, who sent me these e-mails this week regarding David Booth:

So it doesn’t concern you that for over 4 million dollars you have got a player that 890th in plus minus and there were 891 players that played in the NHL last year.

No, not really. I told him +/- was pretty useless in judging forwards.

Not even when it is nearly double of the next worst forward, not even when 6 of the top 9 were plus players. It is not like Booth was checking top end guys on other teams.

Ugh, Booth's Corsi Rel QoC was .597, so while he wasn't checking top-end guys, he was being checked by half-decent two-way players. His PDO was 958—the only regular Panther to see his goalies stop less than 90% of pucks behind him (Jack Skille wasn't a Panther for most of the year). As far as Corsi is concerned, Booth was one of just two regular Panther forwards to be a plus-Corsi player, (the other being Stephen Weiss) and all he did last year was shoot the puck at net. He shot the puck lots of times, and he shot the puck from good spots.

Cliff's notes: I don't care for +/-. I was really hoping for a press-nut to open some diatribe about Bieksa and Ballard this morning about their +/- because I still think that the FJM is the best form of journalism. Alas, they showed remarkable restraint, thanks to Roberto Luongo allowed 3 goals in 5 minutes.

/also, didn't watch the game last night

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