The Edmonton Oilers With An Empty Net

Jonathan Willis
March 15 2012 02:34PM

One of the big flaws in plus/minus is that a goal on an empty net gets counted as a plus, while a goal against with the net empty counts as a minus. With the Edmonton Oilers scoring five empty-net goals and allowing 12, are their players who have seen their overall statistics impacted in a major way by the empty net?

There are.

Oilers Statistics With An Empty Net

The following list shows the statistics of every player with the Oilers’ net empty this season:

Player G A PTS +/-
Ladislav Smid 0 0 0 3
Ryan Jones 2 0 2 1
Tom Gilbert 0 0 0 1
Nick Schultz 0 0 0 1
Linus Omark 1 0 1 0
Lennart Petrell 0 0 0 -1
Sam Gagner 0 0 0 -2
Eric Belanger 0 0 0 -3
Corey Potter 0 0 0 -4
Jeff Petry 0 0 0 -4
Ryan Whitney 0 0 0 -4
Ryan Smyth 1 3 4 -5
Shawn Horcoff 0 3 3 -5
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 1 0 1 -5
Jordan Eberle 0 1 1 -6
Ales Hemsky 0 1 1 -6
Taylor Hall 0 0 0 -7

Some comments:

  • The Smyth/Horcoff/Jones trio have picked up a fair number of points by putting the puck into an empty net.  In Jones' case, one in seven of his goals this season have come with an empty net.  However, in all cases we're dealing with less than 10% of each player's total point production.
  • The six forwards most impacted in a negative way by this are exactly the guys one would expect: the kids, plus Smyth/Horcoff/Hemsky.  Including empty net goals in plus/minus really acts as a tax on top offensive players - since they're the guys out there to try and tie the game.  All of the kids are plus players when empty net goals are taken out of the equation.
  • Discounting empty-net goals, Jordan Eberle would have the best plus/minus on the team, at plus-9.
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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Mojo
March 15 2012, 02:43PM
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Interesting. Do you think plus/minus shouldnt be affected with empty netters, just like on power plays?

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#3 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
March 15 2012, 03:04PM
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I hadn't thought of this before. The huge swing in Eberle's +/- is almost insulting. I wonder if this has ever been looked into by the higher-ups in the league? At the same time, I'm not sure how gung-ho people would be to change it, as pulling your goalie is a conscious decision made by the coach.

Great article, J-dubs; keep 'em coming.

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#4 Oilcruzer
March 15 2012, 03:11PM
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Hmmm - I HATE Blowing my own horn but I said this exact argument in the last Blog about an hour before this was posted.

Plus Minus is flawed when empty nets are included.

When I coached...

- Empty Net numbers weren't applied.

- Anyone in the box got a minus if the opposition scored because you took a penalty.

- Anyone who obviously drew a penalty got a plus one if we scored on the PP.

It balanced things out a bit.

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#5 MAC962
March 15 2012, 03:14PM
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I look forward to all articles however, this is scrambling for something... Yeah i still read it.

Wish we had playoffs involving our Oil to talk about.

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#6 Bryzarro World
March 15 2012, 03:19PM
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@Oilcruzer

Good for you being the first one in history to think of that. Gold star to you!

Plus/minus is flawed even without the goalie pulled but I agree with Willis

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#7 Brett Mitchell
March 15 2012, 03:22PM
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@Oilcruzer

You're correct, +/- is flawed when the nets are empty.. But they're flawed when the nets have goalies too.

+/- is almost exclusively luck and how your coach uses you.. Neither of whicj are controlled by the player, so why should we judge players by them?

Andy Sutton faces easy competition and goalies have saved 93.3% of 5v5 shots behind him - basically what Luongo and Rinne did last season. Whudya know, +6!

Taylor Hall is -3 facing the toughest competition, and goalies behind him have an absolutely dreadful 0.896sv% behind him.

I'm surprised Willis is writing about +/- because he knows better than 99.9% of people that traditional plus minus is about as useful as tits on a bull.

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#8 Mojo
March 15 2012, 03:28PM
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I remember reading that empty netters way back in the day weren't counted to the player's goal totals.

Making Gordie Howe's goal record a soft 801.

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#9 Bob Cob
March 15 2012, 04:41PM
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There is a time to pull your goalie and a time not to, down by one, sure, down by 2 or more with less than a minute, no. The last game in Edmonton against Calgary, down 5-2 and Renney pulls Khabby, Stempniak scored his third and Hall reacted, it was pointless to give up a 6th goal under the circumstances and I have seen Renney do that on numerous occassions this year and wondered why. Is he trying work on plays using an extra attacker and using the remaining garbage time as practice? It's clear that winning at that point is not an option and the move is pointless.

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#10 nathan
March 15 2012, 05:11PM
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it's just one counting stat. but at least it should count what people think it counts. empty net isn't the same as evens.

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#11 Oilcruzer
March 15 2012, 05:58PM
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Bryzarro World wrote:

Good for you being the first one in history to think of that. Gold star to you!

Plus/minus is flawed even without the goalie pulled but I agree with Willis

Brainiac - I never said the first in history, I was indicating how coincidental it was I raised this exact point an hour before the thread was uploaded.

I agree with Willis as well - as many do. ----

Where Plus Minus works is:

Situational Reviews within your team. How did Line A do vs Line B (assuming no line matching)

How your team performed one game to the next against an opponent. (Why we were plus one game and minus the next)

Where it fails is:

Comparison against other players on other teams. It fails HORRIBLY here. Teams in the top of the standings have a lot of plus minus players... duh.

Does that mean a plus Sean Avery is better than an even Eberle? Of course not.

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#12 Colin
March 15 2012, 06:18PM
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Bob Cob wrote:

There is a time to pull your goalie and a time not to, down by one, sure, down by 2 or more with less than a minute, no. The last game in Edmonton against Calgary, down 5-2 and Renney pulls Khabby, Stempniak scored his third and Hall reacted, it was pointless to give up a 6th goal under the circumstances and I have seen Renney do that on numerous occassions this year and wondered why. Is he trying work on plays using an extra attacker and using the remaining garbage time as practice? It's clear that winning at that point is not an option and the move is pointless.

Need a bigger goal differential as a tie breaker in case you're tied for a lottery spot..........

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#13 DSF
March 15 2012, 06:54PM
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Since empty net goals are a fact of life for all teams in the league, whether or not they count is irrelevant.

Plus/minus is a very simple and somewhat flawed tool but it is a tool and it applies to all teams equally.

Horcoff's -21 is crappy no matter what.

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#14 Dulock
March 15 2012, 08:52PM
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The real issue with +/- is that short-handed goals count. If you play the PK but not the PP you have extra pluses and vice versa. Screw empty netters get short-handed goals out of it.

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#15 Sailge
March 15 2012, 10:40PM
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@JW

Interesting stuff, but you gotta get your stats right. Ebs with 0 goals and 1 assist? Forgetting Ebs' tying goal in the last minute with the net empty vs Detroit on Feb 4th are we?

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#16 Jon
March 16 2012, 07:34AM
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What's interesting that Ryan Whitney was quoted as saying '8 or 9' of his minuses have been in empty-net situations. Exaggerating just a bit it seems lol.

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#17 Eulers
March 16 2012, 07:44AM
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Great point, Jonathan! This should definitely be changed!

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#18 Copperblueandwhite
March 16 2012, 09:09AM
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....I'm sure it sometimes happens twice to the same guys in the same game...how bad is that?

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#19 dumbjack
March 16 2012, 10:26AM
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Plus/Minus with an empty net also causes the league wide plus/minus to not equal a net zero, cause 6 get a minus, while 5 get a plus.

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#20 Dave Z
March 16 2012, 11:38AM
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Thanks forputtingthis up JW, how did you find these stats in the first place?

I'm thinking this might be something to keep in mind when evaluating trades and free agent signings in the future...

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#21 Hall of a Player
March 16 2012, 01:15PM
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Dulock wrote:

The real issue with +/- is that short-handed goals count. If you play the PK but not the PP you have extra pluses and vice versa. Screw empty netters get short-handed goals out of it.

Actually, plus/minus is only counted on PK or PP in the following situations:

If you are on the PP and allow a shorty against, then you get a minus. The PK teams players on the ice would get a plus.

There are no plusses given if you score a PP goal, and no minuses given when allowing a PP goal.

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#22 Romulus' Apotheosis
March 17 2012, 01:58PM
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DSF wrote:

Since empty net goals are a fact of life for all teams in the league, whether or not they count is irrelevant.

Plus/minus is a very simple and somewhat flawed tool but it is a tool and it applies to all teams equally.

Horcoff's -21 is crappy no matter what.

way to miss the point.

of course it affects all teams in the league... but guess what? JW wasn't comparing the Oilers fate some other team and trying to pad the stats or something to make the Oilers look better than they are... if that was the case your comment would make sense...

as it is this is simply a bald-faced straw man.

JW is saying empty-net +/- affects certain players more than others. Ie. those charged with tying the game without benefit of the goalie and put in a position to care very little about defense. So if you are a player like Hall you are going to be out there a lot without a goalie, if you are a player like Petrell you aren't.

I don't see how trying to make a stat more insightful has anything to do with padding Horcoff's stats.

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