Tracers- Plus Minus

This is Bill McCreary. He spent much of his pro career in the minors, playing in only 27 NHL games before expansion (and 772 games in the highest minor leagues from 1955-1967) and a job with the St. Louis Blues.

McCreary had one of the most interesting seasons in NHL history in 1969-70. Why? Plus Minus. No one knew it at the time (NHL Plus Minus didn’t become public domain until 1975 when a summer issue of the Hockey News hit the stands. I saved it, interesting read) but McCreary had a stunning season of ineffectiveness and or bad luck that year.

The boxcar numbers (73gp, 15-17-32, 16pims) are pretty much similar to his two previous seasons with the Blues, and he was as effective in their three runs to the SCF’s in 1968, 1969 and 1970 (total games: 43, total points: 19) as he was in the regular season.

McCreary’s plus minus in 1967-68 was +2 which is not out of place with his team, and the next year he was +4. Again a normal total.

Let’s list the plus minus numbers for the 1969-70 St. Louis Blues forwards who had more than 400 at-bats:

  1. Jimmy Roberts +18
  2. Ab McDonald +11
  3. Ron Anderson +11
  4. Tim Ecclestone +7
  5. Andre Boudrias +7
  6. Phil Goyette +3
  7. Red Berenson -3
  8. Frank St Marseille -3
  9. Larry Keenan -8
  10. Gary Sabourin -9
  11. Bill McCreary -43

The next player up on the list would be Terry Crisp (he was even +/-) but since he played in only 26 NHL games that season I’ll go with this 11 player group (which makes sense because they used to dress 11 forwards and 5 defensemen at this time in NHL history. Wren Blair in Minnesota was experimenting with 6 defensemen at this exact time).

A few points: This was a very good expansion team. They were on their way to their third straight final, won the West, and their goals for-against total (224-179) was the only ratio above 1/1 in their division. They were good.

The St. Louis Blues scored 45 more goals than they gave up that season, and Bill McCreary was -43. Even more stunning, he was -34 worse than any other forward on the team!

According to TOTAL HOCKEY, the Blues scored 67 powerplay goals that season. I have been unable to secure the powerplay goals against total, but did add up all the defender’s powerplay goals against totals and divided by two (one assumes that each PK would have had two defenders no matter the situation, although a guy like Jimmy Roberts played forward and defense. For the purposes of this exercise he was considered a forward) to get a total of 43 powerplay goals against for that season.

Which makes the EV GF/GA estimate for the St. Louis Blues 157-136, making the team +21 at even strength. McCreary’s season is still a wonder, and I think it’s probably a mistake. After all, what are the mathematical probabilities of this happening?

McCreary played the next season in St. Louis but was gone as the team began to rebuild with youth to begin the 70s. He got into management and was GM of the California Golden Seals for a couple of seasons and did some nice things (he drafted pretty well, high water mark being Denis Maruk).

His son, Bill McCreary Jr, was the kid who nailed Gretzky coming over the blueline and never played another NHL game (this was the 80-81 season). The conspiracy theorists who populate hockey believe McCreary was blacklisted although the statistical evidence suggests he was a fringe player.

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6 Responses to "Tracers- Plus Minus"

  1. Doogie says:

    Could that be a typo, and he was actually -3 or -4? That’s utterly inexplicable.

    So I assume Bill McCreary Jr. the referee?

  2. Lowetide says:

    doogie: Actually, no. Bill McCreary the ref is a nephew of Bill McCreary Sr.

    The only hockey McCreary I haven’t mentioned is Keith who was Bill Sr’s brother. He passed away in 2003 and ironically his funeral got massive coverage after the fact because Rob Ramage was driving from the funeral to an NHL alumni meeting with Keith Magnuson when they had that terrible accident.

    I haven’t posted on that subject because it makes me very sad. Keith Magnuson was one of my favorite players. He was the worst damn fighter ever and lost his effectiveness to injury but there was a time when he was probably the best defensive defenseman in the NHL.

    And he came out of college NHL ready. Amazing rookie season.

  3. Art Vandelay says:

    Best – or at least most improbable – hit in hockey history, for my money.
    Head down. Skating through neutral ice. And then BAM. Gretzky dragged himself to the bench and, as Allah is my witness, tears of pain were eking out of his peepers. Props to Gretz for even getting up because Glen Sather was already speed-dialling Joe Pendleton.

  4. Rube Foster says:

    Yeah,
    Very sad story about Keith Magnuson. As bad a fighter as he was, he never backed down from anyone and fought often. He looked like a choir boy with missing teeth.
    Rob Ramage was also an exceptional defensemen and when he was with the Rockies and the Blues was very quietly one of the best d-men in the league. Before he lost a couple of steps he could do it all, a big, fast guy and a very heavy hitter he had a big shot and sharp offensive instincts. One of those guys who would’ve been a HUGE star if he played his prime for the Leafs. Very sad story all around.
    It would be interesting(and tedious) to go back through the game sheets to see if McCreay’s -43 is fact or fiction. I’m leaning towards fiction, the numbers in the context LT provides just don’t smell right.
    The expansion Blues were a very,very good group and a nice mix of ancient hall of fame veterans, rock solid journeymen, one who found his stride and became a legitimate star – Red Berenson and the odd kid with game. They also had a young coaching genius behind the bench. Any new expansion team in any sport should take a close look at their model. Hey maybe that’s what the Schremper needs a couple new expansion teams. LT are trying to tell us that maybe Rob Schremp is Bill McCreary Sr?

  5. Doogie says:

    Geez, they’re worse with the name William in that family than mine is with Donald and John.

    I didn’t know that the funeral they were attending was Keith McCreary’s. Bit of a sad way to connect a recent news story to all of this.

  6. Jeff J says:

    Didn’t the early +/- stats include PPGs? If so, and if he was the only regular penalty killer and the other 10 were cycled through, that might explain it.

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