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Penalty Plus/Minus - the Final Numbers

Now that I've got my penalty data (mostly) reconstructed, I can present the final Penalty Plus/Minus numbers for the NHL 2007-2008 Regular Season, with Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings holding off the talented trio of Crosby, Datsyuk and Ovechkin to lead the league.

As usual, this list is largely dominated by talented offensive players, who force opponents into taking penalties to avoid giving up dangerous scoring chances. At the bottom of the list are mostly defensemen logging major ice time against elite opponents. To me, what is most interesting is which players go against that stereotyping; offensive players who take too many penalties and end up too low on this list, and elite defenders who carry a heavy burden, without leaving their teammates shorthanded.

Using this perspective, a few players in particular stand out; Colorado's John-Michael Liles at a very respectable +7, or Boston's Marc Savard at a woeful -15, with Nashville captain Jason Arnott not much better at -14.

Another hot topic on the penalty front is the effectiveness of agitators; do pests like Sean Avery or Jordin Tootoo actually goad their opponents into taking foolish penalties, or do their own PIM totals overwhelm any intended benefit? Here are the results for a select few:

Sean Avery, NYR: 46-38 = +8
Darcy Tucker, TOR: 32-24 = +8
Jordin Tootoo, NSH: 34-30 = +4
Jarkko Ruutu, PIT: 34-45 = -11
Chris Neil, OTT: 46-66 = -20

Clearly, some of these guys have more savvy than others in terms of using chippy play to actually help win hockey games. We'll have to see if this line of analysis plays a role in upcoming salary arbitration cases this summer, as player agent Rand Simon noted it did last summer for Sean Avery.