16A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, November 10, 2005
'Funny stat' key for defensemen
By James V. Dowd
Daily Sports Writer
In a world where statistics dominate so
much of the judgment about an athlete's play,
sometimes the key assets of a hockey defense-
man's play get lost in the mix.
One of the most popular ways to judge a
defenseman is with their plus-minus rating -
which gives a player plus-one for being on the
ice when their team scores and minus-one for
an opponent's goal. But Michigan juniors Tim
Cook and Jason Dest have proven this statistic
doesn't necessarily tell the whole story.
Through the team's first nine games, both
Cook and Dest sit at minus-five - worst
among the seven Michigan defensemen that
have suited up this season. Yet neither of
the two, nor coach Red Berenson, is overly
"Plus-minus is kind of a funny stat," Dest
said. "It kind of evens out by the end of the
year. Sometimes you're out there for a goal
and you have nothing to do with it, or, vice
versa, it's actually your fault."
The explanation for their low ratings lies in
the plus part of the statistic - Dest has only
been on the ice for one offensive goal, and
Cook has yet to be on the ice for a single Mich-
igan goal this season. Their minus-five rating
as a pair accounts for less than one-quarter of
the goals scored by the Wolverines' opponents
"We're not so concerned about the goals
against," Cook said. "Five goals against in
eight games for me and nine for (Dest) - it's
not that big of a concern. Our main concern is
helping the forwards out on offense and pitch-
ing in that way, as far as getting them the puck
and helping them score."
Cook attributes the lack of offensive pro-
duction when the pair is on the ice to its style
"Obviously, Jason and I are not the most
offensive defensemen," Cook said. "We just
have to help the forwards out more and help
get the puck to them so they can score. Are we
going to score goals? Maybe, maybe not. But
as far as keeping the puck in, we can do a bet-
ter job. That's for sure."
Both Cook and Dest have spent time after
practice this week working on the offensive
part of their game.
"(Offensive production) starts in practice
here," Dest said. "We have to focus on the
things we are doing wrong - like passing.
We just stay out here for a while after practice
and work on things to get our chemistry going.
Once we start flowing we'll be good to go."
In addition to working the puck into the
offensive zone, Cook believes that a key to
improving the pair's plus-minus rating will be
to get the puck on net, which can result in goals
or rebounds that the forwards can knock in.
"We just need to try to get better with the
puck, working on moving it in and keep-
ing it in the offensive zone," Cook said. "It
isn't a bad play to dump it in the corner, but
you're definitely not going to get the offen-
Though the offense isn't there yet, Berenson
has been happy with the pair's contributions
"I think (Cook and Dest have) given us some
valuable defensive defense," Berenson said.
"They've also helped clear our zone when it's
under pressure. When you don't notice them,
they are playing well. A lot of good defensive
play goes unnoticed."
While Berenson has toyed with the thought
of switching up defensive pairings, he still
plans to start Cook and Dest together for the
time being, giving them the chance to feed off
of each other on the ice.
"I think we bring a lot of intensity to the
table together," Dest said. "We both like to
play physical and muck it up in the corners a
little bit. When we play well together, we can
definitely get some momentum going with
some big hits."
As they ratchet up the intensity in practice
and the results begin to show in games, Dest
and Cook will likely see improvement in their
plus-minus ratings. For their careers, Dest is
plus-23 and Cook is plus-eight, suggesting that
the offensive production will indeed increase.
"(Cook and Dest have) been victimized in
certain situations," Berenson said. "Some-
times your best defensemen will be minus
when they're playing well but are victimized
by goals against. We're not at a finger-point-
Junior defenseman Jason Dest has been on the Ice for just one Michigan goal this season.
Your potential Our passion.*
Continued from page 13A
first week, he's scoring more points
per game than Rasheed Wallace,
and he's providing energy, effort and
stiff defense off the bench. That's
more than you can say about the
Miami Heat, a team that underwent
a severe face-lift in the offseason.
Coach Stan Van Gundy's group now
resembles something completely dif-
ferent - and markedly less cohesive
- than last year's team that took the
Pistons to Game Seven of the East-
ern Conference Finals.
When I started following the
Pistons closely in the early- to mid-
1990s, I didn't have much to cheer
about. Olden Polynice, Gerald Glass,
Isaiah Morris and Mark Macon
aren't exactly remembered as NBA
greats. I inherited a team in the
rebuilding stages after back-to-back
championships, and even the arrival
of superstar Grant Hill couldn't push
the Pistons past the first round of
the playoffs. Suffice it to say that,
when the team I love finally won the
championship, I - along with all
Pistons fans - had plenty of reason
to celebrate. You can bet I'll be rid-
ing this wave for all it's worth.
So the next time you out-of-staters
start to get annoyed with the Pis-
tons fans you know, or happen to be
standing next to at the bar, or hear
on TV or sports talk radio, try not
to label them obnoxious or arrogant.
After all, most college students
around the country say exactly the
same thing about Michigan football
fans. Consider the possibility that
the team they support might actually
be worth watching.
I sure think it is.
- Gabe Edelson can be reached
Continued from page 13A
ping up. Fifth-year senior Candace
Gay is a perfect example. She moved
into the starting lineup to replace
injured Megan Bowman and contrib-
uted five crucial blocks.
The fired-up crowd was a huge
factor throughout the game. The
student section chanted "sit down
coach!" to George numerous times
and embarrassed a misfortunate
Spartan player with the chant "slow
and awkward!" After the game, the
players were quick to credit the fans
for helping push them to victory.
"I absolutely love the fact that peo-
ple take the time out of a Wednesday
night to watch us play, and it is a
huge helper," Selsky said proudly.
The Wolverines will get a chance
to build on this victory very soon,
when they host Indiana on Friday
SAID ThAT MAY
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