WHEELING - Plus-minus can be a tricky stat, according to Wheeling Nailers assistant coach John Wroblewski. It's sometimes a good indicator of what type of player a team has, but it can also be somewhat misleading.
''It's an interesting stat because you can get a minus for stepping on the ice at the wrong time, or you can be standing out doing your point coverage as a winger and pick up a minus because a defenseman got beat,'' Wroblewski said after Wednesday's frigid practice at the Wheeling Park Memorial Ice Rink. ''That being said, when there's huge discrepancies between a high and a low minus guy then it's a glaring thing.
''If there's a guy who's on a really good team and he's a minus player, it probably means he's doing some cheating on offense and maybe not playing within the team structure.
''Then if you have a guy on a not-so-good team who has a pretty good plus-minus, then there's something to be said for that.''
There's been no mistaking which category Nailers forward Mickael Bedard falls into. From the ridiculous stat department, Bedard, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound forward from Montreal, had been at least even in 21 straight games before Friday night's loss to Reading.
''That's really impressive, especially for the fact that 'Bedsie' is heralded for his offense,'' Wroblewski said. ''You look at him for his skill.
''He's not a very physical player but he gets the job done in all three zones. He's proven very responsible in his own end, and obviously his creativity and ability to make plays is helping us get points on the board.''
Bedard leads the ECHL at a plus-22, and hadn't been a minus since No. 24 against Greenville (minus-1).
But he's not alone on his own team. In fact, 12 of the current players on the roster are in the plus range, while 16 are at least even.
Looking Up, Not Down
Most fans have a tendency to look at who is chasing their favorite team. With the Nailers comfortably in first place in the North Division, they're looking up instead of down.
''We're two points back of Reading right now, is how we look at it,'' winger David Marshall said in regard to the conference standings. ''We're not looking at Cincy being 14 or whatever they are back, we're looking at is as 'hey, we need two more points to catch Reading.'
''We look at the teams above us, the one's we've got to catch.''
That starts at the top with Wroblewski and head coach Stan Drulia. To a man, Wheeling players say their leaders rarely - if ever - mention the standings.
''Maybe with a specific opponent if they're right above us or right below us, but it's isolated,'' Wroblewski said. ''I think the standings, you want to make sure you're taking care of the shift ahead of you, each period, each game and let the standings fall where they may.
''(The lead) has definitely accumulated a lot in the last month and a half.
''I might look at the standings board maybe once a week, just to see how it's going.''
The Standard Is The Standard
It's been nothing short of amazing to watch the Nailers continue their ascent, what with the shortage of players they've endured recently. But you have to give equal credit to both the coaches and the players for not accepting anything less than the standard that was set in training camp.
''I think it just shows what a great team we have here,'' forward Doug Rogers said.
While teams around here have wilted in similar circumstances in the past, this one seems to take it as some sort of a personal challenge, as if to say 'we know people are counting us out, so we'll show you.'
''We've bought into the game plan and we feel comfortable with it,'' defenseman Dan Henningson said. ''Our coaching staff has done a good job of keeping the same message and we've got some good leaders to pass on the message.
''It's a little surprising, but not in terms of the work ethic. We've been consistent with our work ethic.''
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net