Back around the turn of the year, Rick Nash was the owner of an unfortunate distinction: he had the worst plus/minus on both his own team, and the worst plus/minus of any of the NHL’s top-100 scorers.
It was a disappointing statistical regression for Nash; he had gone a combined minus-62 over his first two seasons in Columbus as a teenager on a struggling team, but he’d seemed to turn the corner after the NHL lockout, posting a positive number in three of the four seasons between 2005-06 and 2008-09, and putting up a career best plus-11 in the year prior to this one (with the best Blue Jackets team to date).
It was also something I argued was an artificial drop in a December post:
That minus-11 rating is tied with line-mate Derick Brassard for the worst on the team. However, while the numbers are ugly, I’m not at all convinced that it’s fair to pin the blame for them on Nash. I’ll explain.
Nash is also dead-last in one other statistical category for the Blue Jackets: on-ice save percentage. When he’s on the ice, the Blue Jacket’s goaltenders have a combined even-strength save percentage of .840. To put that in perspective, the league’s worst goaltender (more than 10GP), Vesa Toskala, has a .871 SV% at even-strength this year. Last year, the league’s worst goaltender (more than 25GP), Manny Legace, managed a .893 SV% at even-strength. The number was the same in 2007-08, when it was managed by Johan Holmqvist. The point here is that .840 is a worse number than we’d expect the league’s worst goaltender to put up.
… I’d be inclined to predict that Nash’s plus/minus is going to improve – a lot – as the year goes on, because it’s probably not his fault that it’s as bad as it is.
As it turned out, I was a few weeks early with my prediction that Nash’s plus/minus would improve; his on-ice save percentage didn’t really turn the corner until the start of January. When it did, however, the contrast was remarkable. From timeonice.com, some shot-based metrics and percentages, the first from the start of the season until the end of 2009, the latter from January 1, 2010 on:
|Date||Goals +/-||Shots +/-||Corsi +/-||On-Ice SV%||On-Ice SH%|
|2009||+24/-42= -18||+324/-311= +13||+579/-548= +31||0.865||7.4|
|2010||+26/-18= +8||+216/-278= -62||+362/-460= -98||0.935||12.0|
In the end, Nash saw an interesting reversal of luck: in the first half of the season, he had miserable goaltending behind him and a surprisingly low on-ice shooting percentage, despite good shot numbers, but in 2010 he had great goaltending behind him and a great on-ice shooting percentage despite lousy shot numbers. It’s a good reminder how the percentages need to be considered when looking at plus/minus.