Monday, November 19, 2007

Douglas Murray and His Monstrous Plus-Minus

So you go over to the ESPN stats site right now, and you'll see that Douglas Murray (can't I call you Doug?) is tied for the league lead in plus-minus, at +15, tied with Chris Phillips. Holy God! That's a pretty amazing stat, given that the Sharks are +10 overall (including PP) while the Sens are +20.

I've never put a huge amount of stock in plus-minus as a purely defensive measure, because lots of things can skew it. I did an analysis once that showed that teams with a poor power play generally have players with a higher +/- than teams with a good power play. It makes sense. If you don't score on the PP, that means a higher percentage of your goals must come on even strength (ES), which boosts your +/-. Only ES and short handed goals count as a plus. And only ES and SH goals against count for a minus.

In my view, when you're rating a defensive defenseman, you really want only half of what the +/- stat give you. You want ES goals against only, because a defenseman's job is to prevent goals, not score them. If Larry gives up 20 ES goals, but they score 21 when he's on the ice, he's +1. And if Pete gives up no goals, and scores 1, he's +1, just like Larry. But Pete is a much better defensemen than Larry.

So let me start with a little factoid: Douglas Murray has not been on the ice for a even strength goal against since October 18th vs. Detroit. That means, he's been perfect for 10 games, over a month. Unbelievable.

The NHL doesn't publish this information exactly (you'd have to pore through the game logs) but luckily there are some good stats sites out there, and I turned to They have a stat called EH-, which is defined as "Goals against average while on ice @ even strength". They don't publish the formula, but I'm assuming it's goals per 60 minutes of time. Murray is the best on the Sharks, with an EH- of 0.3. If that means what I think it means, that's pretty astounding. Just for the record, and unsurprisingly, Alexei Semenov is the worst with an EH- of 4.1 (Kaspar is technically worse, but he only played 3 games).

So I went overboard, as I usually do, and made a spreadsheet. Here's the list of the top 10 defensemen in the NHL this year (who have played over 10 games) in EH- (and I have no idea why there's a big gap here):

PlayerGames PlayedEH-
Douglas Murray (SJ)150.3
Petteri Nummelin (MIN)150.3
Alexander Edler (VAN)120.4
Mike Stuart (BOS)180.9
Glen Wesley (CAR) 210.9
Nicklas Lidstrom (DET)201.0
Marek Malik (NYR)121.0
Ville Koistinen (NAS)131.1
Luke Richardson (OTT)161.1
Marc Staal (NYR)201.2
Murray leads the league. Chris Phillips, the man who is tied with Murray at +15, is not in the top 20 (1.6). There are other factors that can skew this stat, like strength of linemates and strength of opposition, but this is a better raw stat than regular +/-. Douglas Murray has been one of the best two or three defensive defenseman in the NHL this year.


Can'tStoptheGrier said...

Great stuff Mikey. Like we've both said in the last few weeks, Murray has really come into his own. The pairing of Murray and McLaren has been extremely effective.

Earl Sleek said...

(and I have no idea why there's a big gap here):

HTML code is a bitch, that's why.

If you put an (enter) at the end of each line of code, it will put those (enters) at the start of the table.

Basically, you need to remove all the (enters) from the code, usually found between the end tag for one row and the beginning tag from the next.

Mike said...

I edited the HTML directly for this post, and there are no <br>s in there at all. Stupid Blogger.

Jesse said...

Great info! I was wondering what to think about Murray's start. It's difficult to assess strong defensemen, even when watching them play, because when they are doing well they are invisible -- unlike how easy it is to tell when they suck (ie, Carle getting burned all the time).