Which 5 Chicago Blackhawks Will Have the Best Plus-Minus Stats in 2013-14?
Chicago has still managed to quietly go 6-1-2, while pundits dissect the slow starts of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Whether it's by way of depth scoring or outstanding goaltending, the 'Hawks are still one of the best teams in the league.
The top six is incredible when all members are firing on all cylinders, and sometimes that can inflate the plus-minus stat.
Plus-minus is imperfect, but it is what it is.
As the 'Hawks get the gears going offensively, they'll achieve some rock-solid totals.
All stats appear courtesy of the official website of the Chicago Blackhawks.
5. Duncan Keith
Current plus-minus: minus-three
Our projected plus-minus: plus-13
It's just hard to imagine Duncan Keith staying a minus player for too long.
He's only finished with a negative rating twice in his career—during his rookie season when the 'Hawks were terrible and once in 2010-11 when he finished with a minus-one.
The entire top unit has had a slow start for Chicago in 2013-14, and that shouldn't be surprising because of how much hockey they've played over the last four years.
The core group of Keith, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have all played nearly an extra season's worth of games in the playoffs, so the lag is to be expected.
Keith will get back on track sooner or later and finish with a double-digit plus rating.
4. Jonathan Toews
Current plus-minus: minus-one
Our projected plus-minus: plus-18
Jonathan Toews goes four games without a goal, and you'd think that the world was getting ready to cave in around him.
Media types just couldn't get enough of the "goal drought," but Captain Serious found the back of the net against the Florida Panthers on October 22 and will get rolling over the next few weeks.
As the top line starts clicking, the plus-minus ratings will begin to climb.
Don't expect the top-end, two-way center to remain in the minus column for long.
That Selke form will show through soon enough, and Toews will push a plus-20 rating by the end of the season.
3. Marian Hossa
Current plus-minus: plus-three
Our projected plus-minus: plus-19
If Marian Hossa could ever finish an entire 82-game campaign, he'd have a shot at being one of the top plus-minus guys in the NHL. Our projected rating is adjusted for him missing 10 or 15 games.
If he manages to avoid the injury bug, Hossa could not only be the top plus-minus guy on the Blackhawks but a top-10 player in the league as a whole.
He's an outstanding player in the neutral zone, and while he isn't known league-wide for his tenacity on the puck, anyone who's watched him play over the years knows how good he is in all three zones.
2. Brent Seabrook
Current plus-minus: minus-two
Our projected plus-minus: plus-20
Our reigning Mr. Underrated, Brent Seabrook is an anchor for the Chicago Blackhawks in the defensive zone. He's slowly evolved into one of the top shutdown guys in the NHL, and he isn't going to remain a minus player for more than another week or so.
Look for him to finish over the plus-20 barrier, while perhaps even eclipsing his current career high of plus-23.
Seabrook goes up against the opposition's toughest forwards on a nightly basis and will settle into the routine of shutting them down and playing strong hockey with the puck as the season wears on.
1. Niklas Hjalmarsson
Current plus-minus: plus-seven
Our projected plus-minus: plus-25
One of the biggest surprises of the 2013-14 season for Chicago has been the rapid evolution of Niklas Hjalmarsson as an offensive contributor.
He's on pace for 55 points right now, and finishing with even a quarter of that total would be a new career high for the defender.
His plus-minus has received a nice boost because of his point production, and even once he cools off offensively, Hjalmarsson has the defensive wherewithal to not see his rating take a hit.
A plus-25 rating is well within reach and would put Hjalmarsson among the NHL's elite when it comes to that stat.