When looking at NHL Penalty Plus/Minus numbers, there are three general categories of players that stand out; the elite offensive stars who draw penalties, the defenders who take them, and perhaps most interestingly, the agitators who create lots of havoc out there. Some of these pests cause more trouble than they're worth, but at their best, they goad opponents into taking costly penalties and create power play situations for their teammates.
In this morning's Slap Shot blog over at the New York Times, Jeff Klein uses the latest NHL Penalty Plus/Minus data to debunk a complaint by the New York Rangers that perhaps Sean Avery isn't getting fair treatment from the referees:
In his 13 games with the Rangers through Monday night, Avery had drawn 13 penalties and been sent off for 9.
Projected over an 82-game season, that would translate to 25 extra Ranger power plays as a result of Avery’s antics.
So Avery is not merely standing there getting targeted by foes, which is how the Rangers tend to portray what’s gone on in recent games. As the Devils said, he is provoking reactions from other players, then doing nothing in hopes of drawing a penalty. It’s a smart and effective tactic — but it’s also exactly the kind of thing players cite in polls when they repeatedly vote him the most hated man in the league.
As we near the final days of the NHL regular season, the Penalty Plus/Minus rankings are seeing not just one, but two players separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown has been leading the way all along, and his +59 is guaranteed at this point to lock up his second-consecutive championship in this measure.
Behind him, however, another captain, Jarome Iginla of Calgary, has put some distance between himself (+35) and his closest competition; Carolina's Erik Cole and Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta, both with +25.
For all the details, check out the Google Spreadsheet below, and see how your favorite (or most hated?) NHL pest is doing...
Data updated each Monday during the season
Click here to go to the Google Doc