Why Ales Hemsky's Plus/Minus Is Not Meaningful

For those people that don't like Ales Hemsky's new contract, and there are plenty, one of the primary arguments (besides his five goals) is his -14 rating this season and his -35 rating since the lockout.

Jonathan Willis responded to that criticism on Twitter:

Since 2008-09, the Oilers have been Minus-177. Hemsky's been minus-3.

Jonathan's response is enough to put the Hemsky plus/minus argument to bed for good, but plus/minus is a number that won't die, in spite of no longer being useful. Neil Greenberg demonstrated why:

On the randomness of plus/minus - Japers' Rink
I decided to set up a simulation to show just how inconsistent the metric can be. I created a player who has absolutely no impact on the game. For both his team and his opponent, there is an 8 percent chance of scoring a goal on a shot during even-strength. I am assuming that this player is on the ice for 11 even-strength minutes per game and will be on the ice for six shots for and six against*. I ran the simulation for 1000 82-game seasons, and as you can see, the metric is full of statistical noise.

The rest of your news, notes and numbers are after the jump.

Driving Play: The Driving Play Podcast - Take 1
In an effort to try and examine what teams may be thinking as the the NHL trade deadline approaches, we've decided to record a six-part podcast series examining the league's buyers, sellers, and every team in between.

Driving Play: Driving Play Podcast Take Deux
This time, we're privileged to be joined by none other than Derek Zona of The Copper & Blue to discuss the sellers of the Western Conference.

Driving Play: Driving Play Podcast - Take Three & Fore(checker)
An interview about the Nashville Predators with another of our favorite bloggers, Dirk Hoag of On the Forecheck.

Perception versus Reality - The Neutral
As always, the percentages have been the culprit.

Union Blue Runs Deep... Except With Jeff Carter. - The Cannon
As this disastrous season wore on for the Blue Jackets, the rumors of Jeff Carter's discontent ran rampant. Both "emerging media" and traditional media were rife with stories of Carter not wanting to be in Columbus. Both Carter and the Blue Jackets issued the usual rebuttals to this, although they seemed to ring hollow.

The importance of a guy like Jay McClement - Jibblescribbits
Jay McClement makes the Avs a better team. He is so solid in his own zone (along with Daniel Winnik) that it allows the Avs to move Ryan O'Reilly up to the second line, and this season (as opposed to seasons past) he is finally getting to start shifts in the offensive zone. It's no wonder his point totals are rising.

Newton, Nietzsche, and Narratives - Broad Street Hockey
Just like the primitive civilizations who believed that their chants and sacrifices could bring the rain, sports fans want to believe that their team's Grit and Heart (and Truculence!) can maintain an unsustainable PDO in spite of poor possession metrics. Just as our ancestors would kill or drive off "witches" to make the crops grow, people want to believe that exorcising a talented "locker room cancer" will increase the team's Hustle and Will, thereby making up for the decrease in objective talent.

Do hockey fights lift a team's performance? - Sabermetric Research
But, if *either* team can benefit from a fight, what's the point? You want to know if *your* team can benefit from a fight, at least more than the other team does. The problem is: how can you know that? A fight involves both teams, so if it helps one, it hurts another by the same amount. If you look at both teams, you'll always find the total effect to be zero.

Do goaltenders really get in a rhythm? - Broad Street Hockey
Anyone familiar with Bryz will tell you that he needs consecutive starts over a sustained period to find his rhythm. This refrain has been heard many times from many corners this season. It's been said by beat writers, columnists, and fans; it's been said of Ilya Bryzgalov in particular and of goalies in general. But that doesn't make it true. Join us after the jump as we once again put memory to the test of objective evidence.

The science behind taking faceoffs - The Province
The point may seem obvious (of course a coach would start his best defensive centreman in the defensive zone a tonne) or trivial (after all, what sort of difference could starting a shift at either end of the ice mean) but research has shown both the exceptional quality of Malhotra's zone-start ratio this season, and also the importance of faceoff location in determining which team takes the next shot on goal.

An exclusive TBS interview with Edmonton Oiler Komrade @SHorcov - Backhand Shelf
The broken English of Horcov makes for very interesting pre- and post-game reading, with his range of tweets going from analysis to answering questions from fans. @SHorcov is a very funny and informative account (and his initial forays into social media were also very insightful as well), and if you are on Twitter, he is definitely worth the follow. Here at the Backhand Shelf, we were able to land an exclusive and un-filtered interview with the Oiler centreman to introduce him to those hockey fans not yet on Twitter who are seeking a deeper look at the Oiler captain.

How to Make Yourself an NHL Twitter "Insider": the E.K.L.U.N.D. System - On the Forecheck
Now I know what you're thinking: "this sounds like a good racket, how do I get in on this?" Lucky for you, I've studied these "insiders" on twitter for months, learned their ways, and am now ready to release my findings to you, the trusting hockey public. Below is my step-by-step guide to becoming an NHL insider. Follow my E.K.L.U.N.D. system closely and you'll be swimming in Twitter followers in no time.

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