DEEP DIVES: The worst single-season plus-minus in NHL history


Bill Mikkelson finished with the worst single-season plus-minus in 1974-75.

The 1974-75 Washington Capitals were horrible. There's no other way to slice it. It was their first season in the NHL as an expansion team and it was also the worst record of all-time, finishing the season a ridiculous 8-67-5. Isn't it crazy how bad they were especially with how good the expansion Vegas Golden Knights were in their first several seasons?


While plus-minus is not a great statistic to begin with, it was obvious that some of the guys on this team would not have the greatest values in this category. Two players finished with a plus-minus of even as the highest on the team, defenseman Rod Seiling (1 GP) and left-winger Tony White (2 GP). Even the unfortunate Bill Riley finished as a minus-1 in his only game of the year.


There are two record-setting values in this statistic on a team that finished minus-265 in goal differential, the worst single-game plus-minus and the worst single-season plus-minus as the Capitals set records for futility, losing 39 of 40 road games and 17 consecutive at one point. They had the worst winning percentage (.131) and record of all time.


Greg Joly holds the single-game record with a minus-9 in a 12-1 shellacking by the Pittsburgh Penguins on 3/15/75, finishing that wonderful season with a minus-69 mark... but that, surprisingly wasn't the worst on the team.


Defenseman Bill Mikkelson finished the season as a minus-82, the worst single-season plus-minus of all time.


Part of it is having the highest strength of schedule in the league as an expansion team (0.22, which was first in the NHL), part of it is an abysmal offense (scoring 181 goals in 80 games, or 2.2 goals-per-game) and another part is just the overall struggle of the team. But at some point, something had to give for poor Bill Mikkelson, who seemed to be out there for every goal against when he played.


The Capitals never outscored their opponent by more than three goals until the final game of the season, beating the Penguins 8-4 for good measure in the season finale. They gave up 10+ goals in seven games, one less game than they won.


Those statistics are not even the craziest things about that season for Mikkelson, the craziest tidbit of them all is...


MIKKELSON ONLY PLAYED IN 59 GAMES.


What a crazy season for Mikkelson, who was no stranger to finishing in the negatives in plus-minus. The poor guy had the misfortune of playing for the 1971-72 Kings, who had 49 points and he finished a modest minus-11. He then went to the expansion 1972-73 Islanders... who finished with 30 points and Mikkelson was a minus-53 in 72 games. He had to jump to another expansion team two years later. I'm sure Mikkelson was a good defenseman, he just had to play on horrible teams.


More nuggets can be found as I take a deeper dive into this deep dive. Mikkelson was an average of minus-1.39 on the season, and if you extrapolate that over a full 80-game season (the length of the season during that era), he would be a staggering minus-111. Simply put, this season is a major outlier on the plus-minus charts.


It's not like Mikkelson was a terrible defenseman, as he continued to be played, and even the best players on the team finished in the high negatives. Tommy Williams, who scored 58 points to lead the team, finished minus-69. Do you know how bad the team has to be for a guy to score 58 points and finish so far away from a positive plus-minus?


Denis Dupéré (35 PTS) was a minus-43 and Mike Marson (28 PTS) was a minus-65. These are some unbelievable marks, but the minus-82 of Mikkelson is even more insane in just 59 games.


Game logs on Hockey-Reference are nowhere to be found, but luckily, they exist on NHL.com. The worst plus-minus Mikkelson had in a game was minus-5, something he had happen three times -- even in a game he picked up an assist.


Another insane statistic: 18 of his 59 games he was even or positive in plus-minus, including two games where he was plus-2. I could not believe this when I found it.


That means, in 41 games, he somehow had to be minus-93. I checked the stats, and that was true. Of those 41 games, 15 were minus-3 or more. In 36.5-percent of his games, he was a minus-3 or more. Luckily for Bill, he donned the 'A' for that season in the fledgling Capitals organization, so all was not lost.


This may be the craziest statistic dive I have ever done. All these stats have thoroughly blown my mind, and even one of my buddies could not believe that they were real statistics.


I am glad I could share this major find with everyone. It has been one of my favorite Deep Dives that I have ever done, and you probably would not have known about the futility of the first season of the Washington Capitals unless I took this Deep Dive.

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