Norris Trophy Win, Plus-Minus Solution

Nicklas Lidstrom won his 7th Norris Trophy last night

If there ever was any doubt, erase that from your minds. Nicklas Lidstrom wins the Norris Trophy again.

There isn't a doubt that this guy is the best defenceman in the game today, even at the age of 41. If you've ever seen him play the game you know that he does everything right, which has made some call him "The Perfect Human."

Even though Lidstrom won the Norris this year, some people say he didn't deserve it. It's funny though, I don't think there is a human on this earth that wouldn't take him on their team if they could. All of this negativity surrounding Lidstrom's win had to do with two things. First, the players he was up against. Shea Weber, while having a terrific year, just doesn't play the game as smart and efficient as Lidstrom. People think that Zdeno Chara should have won the trophy again. But that makes me question their hockey knowledge. Obviously they based their assumption on statistics. If going by that, you can't really challenge Lidstrom on goals, assists or points. Penalties don't have anything to do with it. So therefore people are going by the most overused stat out there: plus-minus.

Lidstrom was a minus-2 this year. That in itself tells you it's no big deal. Other than that, who really cares? When you think about a stat, it should be individual, like the individual awards. Not a team stat. That's what the William Jennings is for.

This is from Wikipedia; the definition of plus-minus:

Plus–minus (+/−) is an ice hockey statistic that measures a player's goal differential. With the exclusion of penalty shot goals, when an even-strength or shorthanded goal is scored, the plus–minus statistic is increased by one ("plus") for those players on the ice for the team scoring the goal; the plus–minus statistic is decreased by one ("minus") for those players on the ice for the team allowing the goal. The plus–minus statistic is not affected by power play goals. Also, whether or not the net is empty does not matter for purposes of plus–minus.

The statistic is sometimes called the plus–minus ratio even though it is a difference, not a ratio. It is also sometimes referred to as plus–minus rating although this is inaccurate as well. For example, a skilled player could be placed on a line with other, less skilled players which may cause his/her plus–minus to be lower than usual even though the player's individual performance may be just as good as before (or perhaps even better).

A player's plus–minus statistic can be calculated for a single game or for the season as a whole. For instance, if a player enters a game with a season total plus–minus of −8, then accumulates a statistic of +3 for a single game, the season total will change to a −5.

Plus–minus is mainly used to measure defenders and forwards who play a defensive role since offensive forwards are better measured by scoring statistics such as goals and assists. It is directly affected by team performance, thus accurate comparisons can only be made by taking into consideration both the offensive and defensive performance of the team as a whole.

That says it all right there. The plus-minus stat focuses on team play alone. Why is it Lidstrom's fault if Jonathan Ericsson decides to pinch for the 11-hundredth time? The best line in the definition is, "a skilled player could be placed on a line with other, less skilled players which may cause his/her plus–minus to be lower than usual even though the player's individual performance may be just as good as before (or perhaps even better)." It's all too true with Lidstrom, as his regular partner was in fact Jonathan Ericsson. Adam McQuaid was a +30. He is therefore better than Lidstrom? Doesn't fit.

As I am fed up with this plus-minus stat, I made up a new one. It's called plus-minus. That's right, the same rule. But this time we're going to do this right, dammit!

So here's how it works. You want an individual stat, right? One that can tell if you're good defensively, right? Well here's an Einstein way to do it. Get ready, it's complicated:


Is it really that hard? Now you have a stat that is much more reliable and tells you exactly how a player is.

So going on that stat, we find that:

Zdeno Chara: 62 giveaways and 32 takeaways = -30
Shea Weber: 51 giveaways, 62 takeaways = +11
Nicklas Lidstrom: 33 giveaways, 33 takeaways = 0

Factor in points production and you have a pretty good case for Lidstrom. Even though he isn't the most physical player, he gets the job done and he does it extremely well. So if you think Chara should have won, he couldn't have with this stat; he's a minus for crying out loud! And Weber had 51 giveaways compared to Lidstrom miniscule 33 (that's like one every 2.5 games).

Lidstrom had 62 points, good for 2nd in the league for defensive scoring, while Weber and Chara lagged behind with 48 and 44, respectively. They also all played over 81 games, so that isn't a valid argument either. Plus he's 40 years old and outplaying kids that are half his age. Most players are retired by now.

All in all, this stat needs to be changed or just thrown in the trash. Takeaways are used for the Selke Trophy, so why not the Norris? Hopefully the NHL can see this and stop this plus-minus garbage.

Nicklas Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy. For the seventh time. Deal with it.

Kyle Busch


George Prax's picture

Your "new" +/- stat is just as flawed as the current stat. Giveaways are a reflection of ice time, as the longer you stay on the ice the more likely you are to give away the puck. Chara and Weber were 6th and 8th in ice time among defensemen, Lidstrom was 28th, so your new stat falls apart right there when you don't factor in ice time. Not to mention that giveaways are a very subjective stat by the people who keep track of them during games.

Just like +/-, giveaways and takeaways are more offensive stats than defensive stats. To be credited with a giveaway you need to actually have the puck. If anything, takeaways are much more impressive as a defensive stat, so Weber's stats are much more impressive in that sense, and we're really arguing Weber vs Lidstrom. Frankly you just proved yourself why Weber should have won the award.

The problem isn't the stat, it's how people look at the stat. +/- is one part offensive stat, one part defensive stat. You get a plus when you're on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal for. You get a minus when you're on for a 5-on-5 goal against. There are 10 players on the ice, and it doesn't always mean it's your fault that a goal was scored, or rather because of you that your team scored. It's a minor stat that gets way too much credit, but to me, it should be considered more an offensive stat. Because if you don't produce many points, you won't be on the ice for many pluses, so defensive defensemen end up with lower plus/minuses as they just simply don't get that many pluses.

In any case, the voting was like, what, 735 Lidstrom and 730 Weber? It's not exactly like he won by a landslide man, Weber could have easily won it if a couple of people voted differently and IMO he deserved it this year, considering Lidstrom's reduced role with the Wings and the fact that there's no one near Weber's skill level on the Preds.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

Well still, Weber played with Suter, who is a very capable guy back there. Ericsson plain sucks. I still think Lidstrom deserved it most. As for plus-minus, I think they should just get rid of it. My idea was just something new to get people thinking a little bit. Yes, it's flawed but not as much as the real stat right now. Ice time doesn't affect giveaways and takaway ratios either; it's just the same for a guy who played more compared to less. You figure a guy might cough it up like 5 times and take it 5 times in 5 minutes, then it should be the one GA and 1 TA every one minute for a guy that doesn't play as much. I'm trying to be innovative!

George Prax's picture

First of all Kyle, I looked it up, and Lidstrom only played with Ericsson 7% of the time, so stop acting like he was holding Lidstrom down. According to Dobber Hockey Lidstrom played over 50% of the time with Stuart, 20% with Kronwall and 10% with Rafalski. Yes, Suter is very capable but if anything Weber makes him even better.

And no, they shouldn't get rid of plus/minus, why take less stats just because people misinterpret it? Just take it for what it's worth, an offensive stat. Ice time definitely affects giveaways and takeaways. Like I said it's pretty simple, the longer you're on the ice the more likely you are to give up the puck, and once you're on the ice over 20 minutes a game every single minute you play thereafter gets harder and harder.

Again, not to mention the matter of the fact that just like +/- giveaways are a damned offensive stat, not a defensive one. Turnovers are a better stat in this case to consider and they don't keep official tabs on those.

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

Weber was my pick this season. Lidstrom was obviously the better offensive man, but Weber was unreal defensively. I picked Weber because all around, he was a beast. Wether he had the puck or not, he was in the play in a definative fashion. To me Lidstrom did lose a step defensively. It wasn't a big one, but yes he wasn't as quick and his stick just wasn't the fly swatter it was in the past. He was obviously good enough to win the trophy, I just felt Weber had an edge on him. Stats always help, but just watch these three play and you realize why they are up for the award and guys like Green and Lubomir Visnosky are not up for it.

Greg Duley's picture

Coming from the Preds side, i can't deny that i was a little surprised that Lidstrom won, but i still think he is very deserving of the award. It really could have been either Weber or Lidstrom, people will argue both ways as to who should have one but in the end it was close.

And remember Lidstrom got nominated 3 times before he finally won, so a nomination is a good start for Weber.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

Chuck, in some ways I agree, I love Weber but Lidstrom is better. His 2010 season sucked, and his 2011 season was just unbelieveable to me. Watching him every night you could see it. And I also think Weber is going to get his day, Greg. He's a great defenceman and the rumours of him going to Detroit were killing me. He's that good.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

Stuart's just as bad. Right behind Ericsson. Bottom line is he won the Norris.

George Prax's picture

By 10 points. And that's the distinction that I'm trying to make here. Not saying that Lidstrom isn't still one of the best of the game but it wasn't exactly a shutout.

Phil T's picture

I think they really just want Lidstrom to tie Orr for all-time norris wins