Why Nail Yakupov's +/- Doesn't Matter

Harry How

Hockey Graphs takes on the lore of +/- and shows just how useless it is.

His constant benchings and blame-taking at the hand of Dallas Eakins notwithstanding, Nail Yakupov's biggest problem, according to the sports writers in Edmonton (no links deserved), is how poorly he plays defense. Those sports writers know how poorly he plays defense because Yakupov is the owner of the worst plus-minus rating on the Oilers and in the NHL.

I'm sure at some point the writers here will figure out the hows and whys of Yakupov and the Oilers languishing at the bottom of the league, but until then, it's the usage of plus-minus as an analytical tool that I'd like to address. Actually, I'd just like to call attention to someone who already addressed it in a thorough and complete manner: Ben Wendorf.

Ben plies his trade at Hockey Graphs, where he's been looking at historical data to measure possession and goaltender performance in the pre-expansion era. But his response to Ken Campbell's piece on Alex Ovechkin and his impending "worst 50-goal season ever." caught my eye in particular.

Ben walks through Ovechkin's offensive dominance and his impact on the ice in a way that Campbell doesn't even know exists. He takes the time to break down Ovechkin's game and meaning to the Capitals, something Campbell doesn't know how to do. Rather than use throw-away cliches and meaningless phrases, Wendorf does the work necessary to build context into Ovechkin's plus-minus.

The situation and analysis is not applicable to the problems plaguing the Oilers and Nail Yakupov, but the situation is analogous: Campbell has an agenda to push and used a long-dead number to support non-existent analysis, exactly as the sports writers in Edmonton do when talking about Yakupov. Intelligent fans and media consumers should demand more from those that cover the sport, and if those writers aren't capable, it's time for fans to skip to the next.

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