Welcome to Day #4 of our award show. Our last award was for the biggest breakout in Points/PIM combo. Steven Stamkos took home the prize in a surprising show of tenacity.
The next award is our Frank J. Selke trophy. In in the NHL it is awarded to the player who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. Defensive aspects? That's kinda like having a good plus-minus, I guess. So our Selke goes to the player with the biggest biggest breakout in plus-minus.
Plus-minus is a pretty variable stat so no guarentees that these players will be able to keep it up . Want proof? Last year's biggest increase went to Jeff Schultz. He went from a plus-13 to a plus-50! This year he was back down to a plus-6.
Andrej Meszaros had the biggest increase in plus-minus but since a good chunk of that is due to moving from a terrible Tampa team to a fantastic Flyers square he didn't make the cut as one of the five nominees.
The nominees are...
Kevin Bieksa (minus-5 to plus-32 an increase of 37)
Bieksa has had a few massive fantasy seasons (like in 2006-07 when he had 42 points, 134 PIM's and 203 shots) but never has never had a plus-minus bigger than one. His points have trailed off but this past season was a big change in the plus-minus department. His plus-32 is even more impressive when you see he did it in only 66 games.
David Backes (minus-4 to plus-32 an increase of 36)
Backes is a step closer to being a dominate fantasy forward. He set career highs in assists (31), points (62) and shots (211), but the biggest increase was in the plus-minus department. He was a minus-12 in his career before this season but tied for 2nd in the league with Bieksa.
Claude Giroux (minus-9 to plus-20 an increase of 29)
Giroux's massive breakout season was special because he had huge gains in every category. Goals, assists, points, PIM's and even shots all rose dramatically.in his third season. The same was true in plus-minus as he had the eighth biggest increase in the league.
Lubomir Visnovsky (minus-10 to plus-18 an increase of 28)
Your first thought might be 'Of course Visnovksy had an increase, he played more than half the season with the awful Oilers last year'. Visnovsky was a minus-4 in 57 games with the Oil and a minus-6 with the Ducks so his plus-18 this year is a big surprsie. A big plus is something we haven't seen out of Visnovsky in a long time as you'd have to go back to his rookie season in 2000-01 to find the last time he had a double digit plus.
Lauri Korpikoski (minus-10 to 17 an increase of 27)
The 24-year-old Korpikoski played two NHL seasons before this year and finished both with a minus-10 so the +27 increase came out of left field. He also nearly doubled his point total from his first two years combined (25 points in 139 games) with his 40 point season. His points and plus-minus made him a surprise asset in deep leagues.
And the winner is...
The turnaround in Bieksa's game is very surprising. He likely would have led the league by a wide margin if he played the whole season.
Like always, let us know if you agree or disagree by voting or leaving a comment.