It’s fair to say that Daniel and Henrik Sedin have struggled so far in these playoffs. It’s fair to say that the Canucks need more from their two Art Ross winners. It’s fair to say that the Canucks will need the Sedins to be better if they have any chance of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup.

It’s not fair to combine their plus/minus ratings as evidence for these fair claims.

The plus/minus statistic already has its flaws; there is no need to add further difficulties. Perhaps people need a reminder of what plus/minus actually is: when a goal is scored for a player’s team while he is on the ice, he gets a plus. When a goal is scored against a player’s team while he is on the ice, he gets a minus. Take powerplay goals out of the equation, and voilà! When a goal is scored at even-strength, every single skater on the ice is affected. So, when the Sedins are on the ice and a goal is scored by the opposition, they both get a minus.

Daniel and Henrik both have a minus-7 rating in the playoffs. This means that, individually, they were each on the ice for 7 more goals against than goals for at even-strength. Since they are generally on the ice at the same time, it is reasonable to say that the Sedins, combined, have a minus-7 rating. It is completely unreasonable and absurd to say that the Sedins are a combined minus-14. That’s not how the plus/minus statistic works. You can’t double-up the effect of a single goal.

Honestly, this should be obvious. I’m upset that it even needs to be said. And yet, too many members of the media are making this mistake:

First, Tim Wharnsby for CBC:

The Vancouver Canucks head coach felt it was unfair the twins, who have scored only an empty-net goal between them in the second-round series against the Nashville Predators, were disparaged for being a combined minus-seven in Game 5 on Saturday.

Iain Macintyre slips it in:

Let’s get this straight: the best defenceman had a goal and assist – for the opposition, the Art Ross twins combined for no points and a minus-seven rating, and the superstar netminder allowed four goals on his first 16 shots.

From the Kurtenblog:

Unless you’re willing to crucify the Sedins because a couple of Canuck defencemen forgot to take care of the puck on Saturday, it’s a little unfair to point out the twins were a combined minus-7 and leave it at that.

Cam Cole spells it out:

Saturday’s minus-4 for Daniel and minus-3 for Henrik — the figures were reversed in Game 4 of the Chicago series — means the brothers are a combined minus-14 in two bad losses in the playoffs, and even in the other 10 games, which isn’t exactly a glowing testament for two of the top four scorers in the regular season.

Even the AP isn’t immune:

Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the NHL’s scoring leaders the past two seasons, were a combined minus-7 Saturday night.

The problem with this tendency should be obvious: it makes the Sedins look a lot worse than they actually are. Considering they are both already -7, there should be plenty of ammunition already for those wishing to tell the story of the struggling Sedins. Combining those ratings into one does nothing more than provide a bigger number. It’s certainly not an accurate or useful number. It’s a cheap shortcut that misleads rather than informs.

 

For a satirical take on this issue, check out Harrison’s follow-up piece.

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7 comments

  1. critically canuck
    May 9, 2011

    it is shocking that so many so called experts are misinterpreting the data as you’ve pointed out.

    but really, whether they are minus 7 or minus 14 for the playoffs is somewhat irrelevant. the Sedins have always been plus players, even at the worst of times. their playoff performance, on a results only basis, flat out sucks. whether it’s bad luck or poor health or the unthinkable (these guys aren’t playoff players), the Canucks are done sooner rather than later if it continues…

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  2. whisky jack
    May 9, 2011

    Overheard At The Urinal

    “There is no need to be astute
    To note the twins are just too cute,
    And must pursue the perfect play
    Not shoot the puck without delay.”

    “Some folks are quick to criticize
    Who use treadmills for exercise;
    They’re never short of sage advice
    Who ne’er set skate upon the ice.”

    “I’ve but to say what can be seen
    Concerning Hank and Dank Sedin,
    Who always will a shot forsake
    If there’s a pass that they can make.”

    “You’re just another Johnny Doe.
    The finished first and fourth in points you know!”

    Whisky Jack

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  3. Anonymous
    May 9, 2011

    Thaank you. It never made sense to me. Do people do it because it’s sounds better and more dramatic for the narrative they’re writing? It’s more drastic and intense sounding?

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    • Daniel Wagner
      May 9, 2011

      Yes and yes. But writers have been unnecessarily combining the Sedins’ stats for years now, both negatively and positively. If they’re minus players, they’re “a combined minus-whatever,” but if they get a couple goals then “the Sedins combined for 7 points” when they really only contributed to 3 goals. Both stats are misleading, but, because they’re twins, everything has to be combined. It’s silly.

      You’ll also notice that they never toss in the Sedins’ linemates. It’s always just the Sedins. Burrows was -2 last game and was playing with the Sedins for both goals against, but the narrative is about the Sedins, so you don’t read about the top line’s combined -9 rating. Ehrhoff and Edler were also below even in +/- and were playing with the Sedins for the most part. They don’t combine all five players into one combined minus-rating. Why? Because it’s obviously stupid. It’s just as stupid to do it for the Sedins, but, because they’re twins, writers feel justified.

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      • gumby
        May 9, 2011

        Wait… they’re twins???

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  4. ricardinho
    May 9, 2011

    im gumby dammit

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  5. Anonymous2
    May 9, 2011

    when I saw the title of this post, i was like oh god, not you guys too!!!!

    i’m sick of all the sedins bashing, and i actually stopped coming here because of that misleading title.

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