Alex Ovechkin won the Rocket Richard Trophy for the fourth time last season with 51 goals, but perhaps the statistic that sticks out most from his 2013-14 campaign is his minus-35 rating.
It was the worst in Washington by 14 points and third from the bottom in 2013-14. He also joined Toronto’s Phil Kessel as the only members of the top-10 goal scoring list to finish with a negative plus/minus rating.
He used that as ammunition when he was recently asked how he felt by the end of last season.
“I am very happy that I didn’t become the worst in the plus/minus category,” Ovechkin told SovSport in an interview translated by Puck Daddy. “I had minus-35. Steve Ott and Alex Edler jumped ahead of me. Can you imagine scoring 51 goals and getting minus-40? I would have made history!”
The interviewer brought up Sergei Gonchar’s past criticism about the use of plus/minus and Ovechkin took that opportunity to expand on the point.
“With the help of the plus/minus contracts can be obtained,” the 28-year-old forward said. “Once our defenseman Jeff Schultz was plus-50. He was plus-5 in the last game. And he signed a contract for four years averaging $2.75 million [Ovechkin makes big eyes]. And then his contract was bought out, and he signed for only $700,000 a year. Jeff is a good guy. But these plus/minus stats say very little about a player himself or the game as a whole.”
While plus/minus might not always be a great reflection of how a player performed, it is fair to say that the Capitals as a team had defensive issues last season. They hope some of that will be addressed by allowing goaltender Braden Holtby to play a style that he’s more comfortable with, the additions of defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, and bringing in Barry Trotz to serve as the team’s head coach.
That last change will impact Ovechkin, but for now he’s taking a wait-and-see approach. He acknowledged it’s difficult to change, but he’s been through this several times over the last few years, so he knows what to expect.