Originally written on JibbleScribbits  |  Last updated 5/7/12
03
Yesterday Mike Chambers of the Denver Post had a write up at the Denver Post on Jan Hejda. I was unimpressed with his analysis.

Let's first adress the (very slight) potshot at me:

Don’t believe your little league anonymous blogger — plus-minus is hockey’s best overall statistic,

Actually let's ignore the potshot and look at the content. You should question what I say. Always. You should be skeptical. Just because I say it, it doesn't make it true. An opinion is worth nothing until it can be backed up. So what's the basis for Mike's opinion that +/- is "hockey's best overall statistic"

because it’s how hockey players judge themselves

Oh. Well what about the people whose job is actually judging how well hockey players are playing.  Like a coach. Maybe an NHL coach. Maybe a Jack Adams and 2x President's cup winning coach? What would  a person with that kind of pedigree have to say about +/-:

"[plus/minus] is not ­really indicative of how a player plays"

Oh. And how much stock does the Avs coaching staff put in plus/minus:

 Hejda participated in all but one game, played a team-high 1,675 minutes and was second in average ice time (20:40 to Erik Johnson’s 20:50). So he was utilized. He was never in the dog house (except, maybe, for that one game the team said he had a groin injury when it was carrying eight D). Like it or not, and politics notwithstanding, the coaching staff had faith in him throughout the season.

(emphasis mine). So the Avs coaching staff ignored his +/- and kept putting Hejda out there. But not only did they keep playing him minutes. They kept playing him hard minutes. Cam Charron had a really good quick look at Hejda yesterday:

But I'd like to dig even further into Hejda's usage:


Jan Hejda was a defensive stalwart for the Avs this season (at least that's how the coaches used him). He was second on the team in TOI/game (20:40), 1st in ES TOI (17:33) but he was also second on the team in SH TOI (3:02 {McC-3:06})

Where was he used: He took 473 more face-offs in the defensive zone as he did the offensive zone. Besides his defensive partner, Ryan O'Byrne, no other Av had more than 250 (J. McC-247, M. Olver-78).

And who was he used against?: The best players in the league.

Jan Hejda was used often, in his own end, (a man down) and against the best players in the league. Obviously the man down part didn't contribute to his +/-. But lets compare him to a defenseman with a good +/-. Ryan Wilson took 349 more offensive zone starts than defensive starts. Between the two of them thats a difference of 822. That's enormous. Ryan Wilson also played much much weaker competition.

Basically Jan Hejda (and Ryan O'Byrne) played the very hardest minutes on the team so that Ryan Wilson ( & Shane O'Brien, Tyson Barrie, Matt Hunwick, Stephan Elliott and to a lesser extent even E. Johnson & K. Quincey) didn't get demolished.  If one guy is playing against the opponents top players, and doing it in his own end you would expect him to have more GA while on ice than a guy playing only in the Offensize Zone and playing weaker players. Despite all this Jan Hejda's GA/60 was still only 3rd highest on the team (E.Johnson and S. O'Brien's were higher).  The only reason his +/- was so low was because the team didn't score when he was on the ice... because he never played in the offensive end.

Chambers analysis is exactly why I hate +/- so much. It's not just worthless, it actually detracts from the knowledge of how the player played. It is so misleading that people who follow hockey for a living completely whiff on a players' game based on a number that has zero bearing on how he actually played. No Avalanche player drew a tougher assignement this season than Jan Hejda. He was on the hockey equivalent of the front lines. He was put in an impossible situation, and played it as well as anyone in the league could have.
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