Plus-minus can be an admittedly fickle stat at times. But when it's an extreme, it can be a window into a player's season. That's where things stand right now with Sabres winger Kyle Okposo.
It's been a struggle offensively for Okposo this year with just 11 goals and an even bigger problem defensively at a minus-29 – the worst figure in the league among NHL forwards entering Sunday.
"Frustrating. It's something that's gross. Absolutely gross," Okposo said after practice in KeyBank Center. "It's something where, whether the goal is my fault or not, it just seems like it's been going in this year. It's something I wanted to get better at. It's something that is very disappointing for me, something that I want to change, I want to fix. I've got 17 games left and I want to be a plus player the rest of the way."
Okposo was only minus-7 in 65 games for the Sabres last season and hasn't been below minus-10 since posting a minus-15 for the New York Islanders in 2011-12.
"Just his awareness defensively and having a respect away from our net defensively has got to be better," said coach Phil Housley. "I'm sure he's thinking about that but he's got to go out and show it. He's pretty hard on himself so I think he'll be able to respond in the right way."
NHL plus-minus cellar-dwellers
Name, Team (Pos) GP +/-
1. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona (D) 64 -35
2. Nick Leddy, NY Islanders (D) 66 -34
3. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa (D) 59 -30
4. Kyle Okposo, Buffalo (F) 62 -29
Okposo has just two goals in his last 15 games and is minus-12 in that stretch. He was minus-2 in Friday's 4-1 loss in Florida, the fourth time in the last 10 games he's been minus-2 or worse, and failed to corral Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson on a goal that opened the scoring just 85 seconds into the game. Although Housley insists he doesn't number lines, Okposo skated in a fourth-line role Sunday with Jacob Josefson and Jordan Nolan.
"My number is what it is. I own that," Okposo said of his rating. "It's not something I'm saying, 'Oh, it's not my fault and whatever.' It's something that's disappointing to me. It sucks being there but I have to try to improve it. I have to try to do everything I can to keep the puck out of my net and put the puck in their net."
Okposo isn't yet close to the franchise record of minus-40 set by Gil Perreault in 1971-72. The worst marks since then are the minus-32 put up by Bob Corkum in 2001-02 and equaled by Rasmus Ristolainen in 2014-15. Chris Stewart and Tyson Strachan were both minus-30 in '14-15.