Plus/minus ratio, which has lost its luster during the analytics area, can still provide a decent gauge of two-way abilities. For example, Marcus Foligno leads the Sabres at plus-4, and he clearly has improved his defensive work as a member of the shutdown line alongside Johan Larsson and Brian Gionta.
It’s the ugly numbers at the bottom of Buffalo’s list where plus/minus shows flaws.
The five players with the worst plus/minus are also the five the Sabres rely upon most: Rasmus Ristolainen (minus-19), Ryan O’Reilly (minus-16), Jack Eichel (minus-15), Zach Bogosian (minus-15) and Evander Kane (minus-13).
“There’s certainly aspects of the plus-minus that I don’t like,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “When you look at the number of goals you have given up when you’re six-on-five and you look at the minus of O’Reilly and Ristolainen, it’s reflective there in their stats. The numbers are not good at minus-15 or minus-14, but when there’s six or seven empty-net goals it reflects in their number.”
Indeed, being on the ice for empty-net goals has hurt Buffalo’s big five. Here are their plus/minus ratios with the goalie pulled, according to War-On-Ice.com:
Take those away, and the numbers are at least respectable given the players’ matchups. If empty-net goals were eliminated, Sam Reinhart would jump from minus-2 to plus-2 during his debut season.