Here are the first three parts of my disjointed series on the decade that was:
Plus/Minus is one of the most important statistics in the game of hockey, but how many people can name the all-time leader? The single-season leader? And last year's leader? [Answers are at the bottom]
Here are the leaders for the last decade:
Aside from the Detroit Red Wings' dominance among two-way players, the name that jumps out at me is Marek Malik. Malik was rarely more than a #4 defenseman, never played the power-play, never really used his massive size to full advantage, could barely stay healthy and yet he was - in six out of ten full partial seasons in the NHL - first or second on his teams in +/-. I remember Malik for precisely two things - a game I saw live in Vancouver where I sat on the glass behind the Canucks goal and he looked like he had the worst hands in the league and was the slowest player in the league; and his ridiculous through-the-legs move to win a 20-something round shootout. Maybe someone else remembers why he was so damned good in the +/- department (odds are: relatively easy matchups as the 4th defenseman...)On the other end of the +/- scale, there are two players with truly horrible numbers: the little-used Yannick Tremblay and Mike "let me take the faceoff" SIllinger. Tremblay was simply star-crossed: he had the misfortune to get picked up by the expansion Atlanta Thrashers and play with them through their worst years before moving on to Europe. Sillinger, on the other hand, has taken all of the tough draws for some brutal teams: Anaheim, Tampa, Columbus and the Islanders. Tremblay may have been a mediocre player, but Sillinger is the poster boy for what bad teammates, tough opposition and a lot of defensive zone draws can do to an otherwise good defensive player's stats.
What about penalty leaders? Is it luck, skill or sheer insanity?
I suppose it's a combination of all three - the best "penalty takers" typically lack the skills to get off the bench and stick in the league for any length of time. Worrell's work is very impressive: he hasn't played in the NHL in six years. But a guy like Chara, who's merely a physical player, can clearly amass a very high total by being in the lineup every day.
And who's at the other end? Did you guess Kyle Wellwood? Wellwood has just 100 PIMs since he turned 15, and just 20 at the NHL level in 290 games. It's not surprising, given that he has delivered just 65 hits in the same time frame and once played an entire junior season without getting a penalty.
The answer to our trivia question: Larry Robinson (career +730); Bobby Orr (single-season +124); David Krejci (+37).
Next time: a few more esoteric stat leaders for the decade.