What Is Plus Minus In Hockey

Plus minus in hockey is a measure of the cumulative total goals scored for and against a player’s team while he or she is on the ice.

In other words throughout the season, each time a goal is scored against a player when they are on the ice is considered a minus. If a goal is scored while they are on the ice they are awarded a plus. This running tally is kept at all times to determine if the player is on for more goals for or more against.

If a player is positive or negative this stat will also collect the total differential they are negative or positive. Meaning if they were on for ten more goals against than goals for their plus-minus will be reflected as -10.

What To Know About Plus Minus In Hockey

Though plus-minus is a fairly straightforward stat there are a few things you need to know about it. First off the plus-minus statistic is not reflected on the powerplay or shorthanded goals. This means all powerplay goals will not count as a plus even if you are on the ice when it happens.

The reasoning for this is quite simple. Players that play on the powerplay would have artificially inflated plus-minus. While players that play the penalty kill would have their plus-minus artificially deflated.

Additionally, empty-net goals are included in the plus-minus stat. Despite the man advantage, empty-net goals will count towards your plus-minus.

What Is A Good Plus Minus In The NHL

Plus-minus is a tough stat to determine what is considered good or bad. Since your plus-minus is heavily based on your team’s performance it can be difficult to say what is good bad.

But what we can do is look back at plus-minus over the years to determine what the league leaders plus-minus stats looked like.

In the 2019-2020 season, Ryan Graves lead the league in plus-minus with a total of +40. Mark Giordano lead the league in 2018-2019 seasons with a plus minus of +39. While in the 2017-2018 season William Karlson lead the league with a plus-minus of +49.

This shows that to have an elite plus-minus in the league you will have to sit somewhere around +40 to +50.

Why Plus Minus Can Be Considered A Bad Stat

There are several different reasons that fans and players alike believe plus-minus to be a “bad stat”. The reasoning behind not liking this stat is quite simple, it is largely out of the player’s control.

You will notice each year the player with the top plus-minus plays for the best team. While the lowest plus-minus player will play for one of the worst.

To show how much the quality of the team affects the players plus-minus check out the Buffalo Sabres 2020 player plus minuses. You will notice not a single player that played more than thirty games had a positive plus-minus.

It is fair to say these players didn’t play well on their own but you could almost guarantee if you put one of these players on Colorado there is a good chance they would have a positive plus-minus.

This is why this stat is criticized when it comes to comparing players on different teams.

Additionally, some do not like this stat because the player on the ice is not necessarily responsible for the goal against. As this puts another aspect of this statistic out of the individual player’s control.

All that being said this stat can still be helpful to compare players playing on the same team. It is also still quite an impressive feat to the player that has the highest plus-minus in the league. Achieving that stat should not be considered a gimmick.


We hope this article has taught you everything you need to know about the plus minus statistic in hockey. If you have any more questions regarding other statistics please reach out. If you are interested we have also written an article on the ROW statistic.

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