Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bill Mikkelson

You can bet that every season that goes by Bill Mikkelson is hoping some player has a terrible, disastrous season.

Mikkelson goes down in NHL infamy as having the worst season in terms of the plus/minus statistic. It is the record no player wants.

In just 59 games played in the 1974-75 season, Mikkelson post a frigid -82! Two years earlier, with the New York Islanders, he posted a -54 rating.

How do you post such a terrible plus/minus such as -82?

"While we were playing, it never crossed my mind," he said. "I just went game to game. You look back, and in a sense it's, 'Boy, that is bad.' It's almost embarrassing. But I still check the minus ratings. I follow it every year."

First of all, the plus/minus statistic is flawed to some degree. Players on the worst teams get dinged severely while players on good teams are generally padded a bit. Mikkelson was definitely on two of the weakest teams of all time - the Islanders and Capitals combined for a total of just 20 wins out of a possible 158 games. That's ridiculous!

The plus/minus stat all comes down to relativity. Mind you, -82 is bad even on a team loaded with players who were -30 and -40.

Actually, you could build a case that Mikkelson was not the worst defensive player on the ice anyways. Perhaps the coach knew Mikkelson was actually better than some of his other options, and put Mikkelson on the ice against the top lines on a regular basis. Of course his plus/minus is going to take a beating in that case. The real weak defensive players don't get out on the ice against the Phil Espositos, Guy Lafleurs and Bobby Clarkes, right?

What I'm trying to say is don't judge Bill Mikkelson by his gaudy plus/minus record. He was a solid player with the Brandon Wheat Kings and later played with the Winnipeg Jets of the old Western Canada Hockey League while attending University of Manitoba. He turned pro in the Los Angeles Kings organization and put in a couple of AHL seasons before NHL expansion/WHA dilution opened jobs for minor league players.

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