Friday, March 13, 2009

The case against McBain for Hobey is flawed

As crazy as this may sound to the casual Badger hockey fan, the University of Wisconsin hockey has never had a player win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. In my opinion, this season is the season to buck that trend.

Of the past 28 winners of the Hobey, 13 of those have come from the WCHA. Those 13 are spread around between 5 teams, (Minnesota 4, UMD 4, North Dakota 2, Colorado College 2, and Denver 1).

Junior defenseman Jamie McBain is just as deserving or more than any player in the country in my opinion. Like any player, McBain has his positives and his negatives, but the value he brings to this squad is irreplaceable.

Looking at McBain's raw statistics, his point totals are outstanding for a defenseman. He's currently second in the nation for points by a defenseman with a line of 7-27-34 in 36 games.

There is also another statistic that jumps out at you on the stat sheet, -10. That number of course is in reference to his plus/minus this season which hasn't been what traditionalists would consider "good." Many media outlets, including his hometown paper have used it as a negative him his analysis in regards to the All Conference team. To be quite honest with you, in this day and age, I can't believe we are still using such a prehistoric statistic to measure a players value.

There has been article after article printed about the flaws of the plus/minus system yet we still consider it a main factor in determining awards which boggles my mind. "What can I say about (plus/minus)?" Montreal forward Alexei Kovalev once said to ESPN.com. "If I make a good play and we don't score, then one of our other players makes a mistake and the other team scores, I get a minus."

The same situation applies on the other end as well, players are consistently given pluses when they have nothing to do with the play. Boston bruins defenseman Dallas Smith (who?) once put up an eye popping +94 in a season. How did he accomplish this? Because he was consistently paired with Hall of Famer Bobby Orr.

Another reason why the plus minus is flawed? How about how it only incorperates between half to 2/3 of the time you are on the ice. So far this season the Badgers have played about 2160 minutes of hockey (Not counting overtimes). When you add up the combined penalty minutes of the Badgers and thier opponents you get 1407 minutes. So about 2/3 of the time there is a player serving a penalty. Obviously, penalties many times over-lap, and there are other extenuating cercumstances, but I'd go out on a limb and say at minimum 1/3 of the game is spent on special teams.

Pluses and minuses aren't handed out on special teams unless you give up a shorty or score a shorty. So far this season McBain has recorded 24 of his points on the Power play this season. So McBain has been on the ice 24 times when he hasn't gotten credit for it in the plus/minus category. So you say on the other shoe, he should be credited for minuses on the power play as well? Wisconsin has only given up 26 power play goals all season, so at worst, if he was out on the ice for EVERY goal given up on the PP, he would only be a -2 on special teams. Obviously he wasn't out there for all of those, and Wisconsin has actually scored 40 power play goals, not just the 24 that he has gotten points on so he might have a lot more than 24 plusses. Obviously if you add the 1/3 of the game that special teams plays, then McBain's plus/minus isn't even in this discussion.

Currently, Wisconsin as a team has scored 17 more goals than their opponents. If you take away the 14 goal advantage Wisconsin has on special teams (remember special teams cant be used for plus minus), it makes the goal differential a mere 3 goals. If you haven't noticed, Wisconsin has played the #1 hardest schedule in the nation. Add in the fact that McBain is on the ice every time a teams top line is out there, playing probably about 30-35 minutes a night, and it doesn't take a math whiz to figure out why his plus minus isn't gaudy.