Did You Know? Eric Staal could make plus-minus history

The “Did You Know?” series ties in the news of the day with some little-known hockey factoids and/or trivia. It’ll be fun. Trust me.

Plus-minus is one of hockey’s most contentious statistics. Traditionalists find it a valuable asset — heck, the league still hands out an annual plus-minus award — while those into advanced metrics find it somewhat useless.

Player ratings aren’t often dictated by the player, after all. Plus-minus is affected by team performance, so to use it as a player gauge means taking into consideration the defensive ability (or, inability) of the team as a whole.

With that clarification out of the way, let us now discuss Eric Staal’s minus-16 rating.

Staal is minus-16 through 14 games this year, the worst in the NHL. It ranks him 681st out of 681 skaters. Four players — Keith Ballard, Jan Hejda, David Booth and Derick Brassard — are tied for 680th with a minus-11 rating.

So not only is Eric Staal the worst-rated player in the league — he’s the worst by a fair margin.

This doesn’t make a lot of sense. Staal’s a very good player. The Carolina Hurricanes aren’t especially good (5-6-3, 13 points), but they’re not especially bad. Their goal differential (-12) is bad, but they’ve only been outscored 31-23 five-on-five. Staal’s regular linemates, Jeff Skinner and Chad LaRose, are minus-7 and minus-2 respectively.

Not even Staal’s coach, Paul Maurice, can figure it out.

“There is no explanation for it, or else we would have dealt with it,” Maurice told NHL.com. “He’s just trying to find chemistry with other people and he has taken that pressure of his offensive game completely to heart.”

Projections say Staal is on pace to go minus-94 this year. Let me repeat: MINUS-94.

That’s so bad it’s almost good. And should Staal somehow manage to do this, he’ll join elite company.

The worst plus-minus rating for a single season was set in 1974-75 by Washington’s Bill Mikkelson. He went minus-82. Let me repeat: MINUS-82.

The Caps played 80 games that year, which means Mikkelson was essentially minus-1 every night. For an entire season.

Mikkelson’s minus-82 is one of the NHL’s most unbreakable records. Talk all you want about Wayne Gretzky’s 92-goal season never being eclipsed — Mikkelson’s mark is equally unattainable.

[NB: 1974-75 was terrible for all members of the expansion Caps, not just Mikkelson. Jack Lynch went minus-69, Greg Joly went minus-68 and Michael Marson went minus-65.]

Mikkelson went minus-82 three decades ago, and nobody’s come close since. A handful of players have gone minus-61, but they all did it prior to 1982. The only recent player to get within sniffing distance of Mikkelson was Pittsburgh’s Rico Fata, who went minus-46 in 2003-04.

Staal probably won’t go minus-94 this year. In fact, I can all but guarantee he won’t. His rating will most likely revert to the mean and we’ll go back to ignoring the plus-minus statistic.

Which is too bad. Especially for Bill Mikkelson.

Kassian sent to hospital after being involved in car accident

Scott Darling, Zack Kassian

Montreal Canadiens winger Zack Kassian was involved in a car accident early Sunday morning.

According to the Montreal Gazette, Kassian was a passenger in a vehicle that ran into a tree.

The Canadiens have since confirmed the incident took place and have also mentioned that Kassian was taken to hospital.

A club official described his injuries as being “minor”.

“(Kassian) was all bloodied up and stuff. He was in a daze,” said Steve Petrenko, a resident of the street on which the accident took place. “He had a hard time walking, and he almost took a fall.”

This story will be updated when more information is made available.

Habs and Fleischmann agree on one-year deal

Tomas Fleischmann,
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The Montreal Canadiens announced that they have signed Tomas Fleischmann to a one-year contract.

According to TVA Sports, the deal is worth $750,000.

The 31-year-old was invited to camp on a professional tryout, but his preseason performance showed that he could still contribute at the NHL level.

Fleischmann found instant chemistry with new linemates David Desharnais and Dale Weise, and it looks like the trio will open the regular season as Montreal’s third line.

The veteran winger started  last season with Florida, but was traded to Anaheim on Feb. 28. He had a hard time cracking the Duck’s lineup and was a healthy scratch in most of their playoff games last spring.

Fleischmann scored eight goals and 27 points in 66 games last season.