Instead of typing out words that could properly describe last night’s heaping, steaming pile of FAIL that the Thrashers left on the ice of Philips Arena, I wanted to try and find something positive to write about. And one “positive” that came to mind was Bryan Little…specifically speaking, his team-leading plus/minus stat.
Now, like many of you I always take the +/- numbers with a healthy dose of salt. It’s a stat that can sometimes be misleading as it doesn’t factor in such things as if the individual is playing top-line minutes against top-line opponents and if a defenseman is being paired with another who might be weighing him down.
However, sometimes a player’s +/- rating is indeed well deserved. For instance, take Zach Bogosian and his -25 for the season. I don’t think you’ll find too many Thrashers fans who’ve been paying attention that would argue he doesn’t deserve that negative stat hanging around his neck.
On the opposite end of that spectrum, Little’s +12 for the season can also be described as well deserved.. In a season that has spiraled into the ground since New Years, Little has been one of the few positives to be found.
Take last night’s craptastic 6-1 beating dished out by the Carolina Hurricanes for instance. Bryan Little’s goal in the last minute of play was the only thing that denied Cam Ward of his fifth shutout of the year. Even though it made…ahem…little difference in the outcome of the game, it did allow Little to finish with a +1 rating. He and Andrew Ladd were the only two Thrashers who were on the positive side of that stat on this losing night.
When he scored, I couldn’t help but think that f there was one player in red that deserved to score the lone goal registered by the home team, Little was that one.
His +12 far and away leads the rest of this Thrashers squad. Among those remaining on the roster, the next highest is the +4 held by defenseman Ron Hainsey. Brent Sopel was a +7 before being dealt to Montreal in February.
In fact, last night’s +1 pulls Little’s career +/- to EVEN in this his fourth season with Atlanta. That’s quite an accomplishment for anyone who has played so many games with this team over the last four years.
As stated above, a player’s +/- stat doesn’t always tell the whole story and it’s not good to try and judge there worth solely on those numbers. But given that this team has given up 43 more goals than they have scored this season, Little’s positive showing here really does stick out given he’s averaging 18:26 TOI. To me, it’s indicative of the solid effort he puts in night in and night out and how he works his butt off every shift.
His 47 overall points is second among forwards on the team and his 29 are a career high. His 18 goals scored are well off his career high of 31 set two years ago, but it hasn’t been due to any lack of hustle or drive. If anything, this kid could win this year’s Snake-Bit Award as he’s pinged the post and been stymied by great saves time and time again.
But even though he’s been frustrated at times in the offense zone, Little hasn’t let it affect his play in the defensive zone. That’s a telling sign of a maturing young star.
Next fall, Little will begin his fifth season in a Thrashers uniform and he’ll no doubt be one of the players looked upon most if the team is going to finally put together a positive record and earn a spot in the playoffs after four straight years on the outside looking in.