What is the Plus-Minus in Hockey? Understanding its Significance in Player Evaluation

Hockey is a thrilling sport that combines skill, strategy, and teamwork. As avid fans, we often find ourselves immersed in the statistics that define a player’s performance. One such statistic that holds a unique place in hockey analytics is the plus-minus. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of the plus-minus statistic and explore its significance in evaluating a player’s contribution to the game.

A. Brief Explanation of the Plus-Minus Statistic in Hockey

The plus-minus statistic is a valuable tool that measures a player’s impact on the scoreline by assessing the goal differential when they are on the ice. It is a simple yet powerful metric that provides insights into a player’s offensive and defensive prowess. When a player is on the ice for an even-strength or shorthanded goal scored by their team, they are awarded a plus. Conversely, if an even-strength or shorthanded goal is scored by the opposing team, the player receives a minus.

B. Importance of Understanding the Plus-Minus in Evaluating a Player’s Performance

Now, you might wonder why the plus-minus statistic holds such significance in player evaluation. Well, it’s because this metric offers a holistic view of a player’s overall impact on the game. It goes beyond just goals and assists, taking into account defensive responsibilities and the ability to contribute to team success.

The plus-minus allows us to identify players who excel in both offensive and defensive aspects of the game. It helps us understand their ability to make a positive impact when on the ice and contribute to their team’s success. By comprehending the plus-minus statistic, we gain a deeper understanding of a player’s true value and their role within the team.

So, let’s embark on this journey together and explore the fascinating world of the plus-minus statistic in hockey. Join me as we unravel the intricacies of its calculation, analyze its significance in player evaluation, and discover strategies to improve plus-minus performance. Get ready to uncover the hidden gems of this remarkable statistic and gain a newfound appreciation for the players who excel in all aspects of the game.

Understanding the Plus-Minus Statistic

A. Definition and Calculation of the Plus-Minus in Hockey

To truly grasp the significance of the plus-minus statistic, we must first understand how it is defined and calculated. The plus-minus is determined by subtracting the number of goals scored against a player’s team while they are on the ice from the number of goals scored by their team during the same time frame. The result provides a numerical representation of the player’s impact on the scoreline, reflecting their ability to contribute positively or negatively to their team’s goal differential.

B. How the Plus-Minus is Recorded During a Game

During a game, the plus-minus statistic is diligently recorded by keeping track of the players on the ice for each goal scored. When a player is on the ice for an even-strength or shorthanded goal scored by their team, they receive a plus. Conversely, if an even-strength or shorthanded goal is scored by the opposing team while the player is on the ice, they are assigned a minus. This meticulous tracking allows for accurate assessment of a player’s performance and their impact on the scoreline.

C. Interpretation of Positive and Negative Plus-Minus Values

Positive plus-minus values indicate that a player’s team has scored more goals than they have conceded while the player is on the ice. It showcases the player’s ability to contribute offensively and suggests that they are making a positive impact on the game.

On the other hand, negative plus-minus values signify that the player’s team has conceded more goals than they have scored during their time on the ice. This negative value may indicate defensive struggles or a lack of offensive contribution. However, it’s important to consider the context and other factors, such as the strength of the opposing team and the player’s role within their team’s system, before drawing conclusions solely based on plus-minus.

By understanding the intricacies of the plus-minus statistic, we can better evaluate a player’s performance and appreciate the multifaceted nature of their contributions. Now that we have a solid foundation of knowledge, let’s move on to exploring the various factors that can influence a player’s plus-minus in hockey.

Factors Influencing Plus-Minus

The plus-minus statistic in hockey is influenced by various factors that can significantly impact an individual player’s score. Understanding these factors is crucial in accurately evaluating a player’s performance. Let’s dive into the key elements that influence plus-minus and gain insight into their significance.

A. Team Performance and its Impact on Individual Plus-Minus

Hockey is a team sport, and individual performance is intricately linked to the overall success of the team. Therefore, team performance plays a pivotal role in determining an individual player’s plus-minus. When a team performs well collectively, it often results in a higher plus-minus for individual players. Conversely, a struggling team can lead to a lower plus-minus. It’s essential to consider the context of a player’s plus-minus within the team’s performance to gain a comprehensive understanding of their contribution.

B. Offensive and Defensive Contributions Affecting Plus-Minus

A player’s offensive and defensive abilities directly impact their plus-minus score. Offensively, players who contribute to goals and assists while on the ice are more likely to have a positive plus-minus. Their ability to create scoring opportunities, make accurate passes, and capitalize on chances significantly influences their score. On the defensive end, players who excel in preventing goals, blocking shots, and disrupting the opposing team’s plays can minimize their minus and maintain a positive plus-minus.

C. Special Teams (Power Play and Penalty Kill) and their Influence on Plus-Minus

Special teams, such as power plays and penalty kills, can have a profound impact on a player’s plus-minus. During power plays, players have the opportunity to score goals, resulting in a positive plus-minus if successful. Conversely, when defending against a power play, players must showcase their defensive skills to prevent goals and maintain a positive plus-minus. Penalty kills, on the other hand, require disciplined and strategic defensive play to limit the opposing team’s scoring chances and preserve a positive plus-minus.

Understanding these factors that influence plus-minus enables us to assess a player’s performance more accurately. It allows us to recognize the nuances of their offensive and defensive contributions, consider team dynamics, and evaluate their effectiveness on special teams. By scrutinizing these elements, we gain a clearer picture of a player’s overall impact and their proficiency in different facets of the game. Stay tuned as we delve deeper into the analysis of plus-minus in player evaluation in the upcoming sections.

Analyzing Plus-Minus in Player Evaluation

A. Importance of Considering Context when Analyzing Plus-Minus

When evaluating a player’s plus-minus, it is crucial to consider the context in which the statistic was accumulated. Hockey is a team sport, and individual plus-minus can be influenced by various factors such as the strength of teammates and opponents, playing time, and the style of play employed by the team.

For example, a player on a high-scoring team with a strong defensive unit may have a higher plus-minus simply due to the team’s overall success. Conversely, a player on a struggling team may have a lower plus-minus, even if they are performing admirably individually. Understanding the context helps us avoid making misjudgments based solely on plus-minus values.

B. Comparing Plus-Minus across Different Players and Teams

Comparing plus-minus values across different players and teams can provide valuable insights into their respective contributions. However, it is essential to analyze these numbers in tandem with other performance metrics. Plus-minus alone may not provide a complete picture of a player’s impact, as it does not account for factors such as offensive production, defensive abilities, or special teams contributions.

To obtain a comprehensive assessment, it is recommended to analyze plus-minus alongside other statistics, such as goals, assists, ice time, and advanced metrics like Corsi or Fenwick. By considering multiple metrics, we can evaluate a player’s overall performance and better understand their contributions to team success.

C. Limitations and Potential Biases Associated with Plus-Minus

While the plus-minus statistic can be a valuable tool, it’s important to acknowledge its limitations and potential biases. One limitation is that plus-minus does not differentiate between even-strength and power play situations. Consequently, a player who spends significant time on the power play may have an inflated plus-minus compared to their even-strength performance.

Furthermore, plus-minus can be influenced by factors beyond a player’s control, such as goaltending performance or lucky bounces. A fortunate or unfortunate sequence of events can significantly impact a player’s plus-minus, leading to misleading interpretations if taken at face value.

To mitigate these limitations and biases, it is advisable to complement plus-minus with other advanced statistics and qualitative observations. By adopting a holistic approach, we can paint a more accurate and comprehensive picture of a player’s performance.

In the next section, we will explore strategies to improve plus-minus performance, enabling players to maximize their impact on the ice and contribute to their team’s success.

Strategies to Improve Plus-Minus

A player’s plus-minus can be influenced by various factors, including their defensive skills, offensive contributions, and overall teamwork. In this section, we will explore effective strategies that players can employ to improve their plus-minus and have a more significant impact on the game.

A. Defensive Techniques to Minimize Negative Plus-Minus

Defensive play is crucial in minimizing negative plus-minus values. It is essential for players to focus on their positioning, stick-checking, and shot-blocking abilities to prevent opposing teams from scoring. By mastering these defensive techniques, players can limit the number of goals scored against their team while they are on the ice, ultimately improving their plus-minus.

Moreover, maintaining strong defensive awareness and anticipating opponents’ moves can be game-changing. By staying vigilant and reading the play, players can intercept passes, break up plays, and contribute to defensive success. Remember, a solid defensive game is the foundation for a positive plus-minus.

B. Offensive Strategies to Maximize Positive Plus-Minus

To maximize positive plus-minus, players need to make significant contributions on the offensive end. This involves being involved in creating scoring opportunities, making smart decisions with the puck, and capitalizing on chances. By actively participating in offensive plays, players increase the likelihood of being on the ice for goals scored by their team, leading to a higher plus-minus.

Furthermore, players can focus on their playmaking abilities, setting up their teammates for goals. By making accurate passes, finding open teammates, and creating scoring opportunities, players can have a substantial impact on the game and improve their plus-minus. Remember, being an offensive threat not only benefits the individual player but also the entire team.

C. Teamwork and Communication to Enhance Overall Plus-Minus Performance

Hockey is a team sport that thrives on collaboration and communication. To enhance overall plus-minus performance, players must prioritize effective teamwork and communication with their teammates. By working together seamlessly and supporting each other on both ends of the ice, players can create a cohesive unit that excels in all aspects of the game.

Teamwork involves recognizing and fulfilling specific roles within the team structure. By understanding defensive responsibilities and offensive strategies, players can complement their teammates and contribute to the team’s success. Effective communication, such as calling out plays, providing support, and maintaining on-ice awareness, fosters a cohesive and well-coordinated team effort, ultimately improving the plus-minus for everyone involved.

In conclusion, implementing strong defensive techniques, actively participating in offensive plays, and prioritizing teamwork and communication are all crucial strategies for improving plus-minus in hockey. By focusing on these aspects and continuously striving for improvement, players can enhance their individual performance while positively influencing the team’s overall success. Remember, hockey is not just about personal achievements but about working together towards a common goal.


In conclusion, understanding the plus-minus statistic in hockey is crucial for evaluating a player’s performance accurately. This statistic provides valuable insights into a player’s impact on the scoreline and their ability to contribute to team success. By considering the plus-minus alongside other performance metrics, we can gain a comprehensive understanding of a player’s overall value to the team.

Throughout this article, we have explored the definition and calculation of the plus-minus, its interpretation, and the factors that influence it. We have also discussed the importance of context when analyzing plus-minus and the limitations associated with this statistic. By acknowledging these factors and utilizing the plus-minus statistic effectively, we can make informed assessments of player performance.

Moreover, we have examined strategies to improve plus-minus performance, including defensive techniques, offensive strategies, and the significance of teamwork and communication. By implementing these strategies, players can enhance their plus-minus and contribute positively to their team’s success.

In the fast-paced world of hockey, where every second matters, the plus-minus statistic provides a comprehensive snapshot of a player’s overall impact. It allows us to appreciate the players who excel not only in offense but also in defense, highlighting their contributions to the team’s success.

So, the next time you watch a game, pay attention to the plus-minus and marvel at the players who make a significant difference on both ends of the ice. Let us continue to explore and understand the plus-minus in hockey, as it unveils the hidden stories of players and adds depth to our appreciation of this exhilarating sport.

Remember, the plus-minus statistic is just one piece of the puzzle, but it is a vital piece that cannot be ignored. So, keep your eyes peeled, and let the plus-minus guide you in recognizing the unsung heroes who impact the game in ways that go beyond the traditional box score.