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NHL Career Plus/Minus Leaders

Updated on August 20, 2008

Larry Robinson

Wayne Gretzky

New York Islanders Stanley Cup Players


So you want a real statistic that measures the value of a hockey player? The NHL has used the plus/minus statistic since 1968, and it's a simple yet very telling stat, awarding a player a +1 for every goal scored for his team while he is on the ice and a -1 for every time he's on the ice when his team gives up a goal. Two-way players like Larry Robinson and Bobby Orr were the best ever at this, and what follows is an all-time Top 10 for plus/minus, at least since it became an official statistic.

Larry Robinson (730)-Defenseman Larry Robinson was part of those great Montreal Canadiens teams in the ‘70's that won four straight Stanley Cups. He played for Montreal from 1972 to 1989 and then three seasons for the Los Angeles Kings. Robinson never had a minus season, and leads the NHL with a career mark of +730. His best in the category was in 1976-77, when he was an astounding +120. Robinson was on the ice for 218 of his team's goals and scored 19 of his own with 66 assists, both career highs. He also was a head coach at the NHL level for eight seasons.

Bobby Orr (597)-Bobby Orr was one of the greatest defensemen ever to play the game of hockey. Orr played for the Boston Bruins for most of his career, and a few seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. Orr is second in NHL history with a career +597 mark, and he holds the NHL record for a single season, with a +124 in 1970-71. That year, Orr was on the ice for 258 of his team's goals and had 37 of those goals and a career best 102 assists.

Raymond Bourque (528)-Raymond Bourque is another all-time great defenseman, and played most of his career with Boston, from 1979 to 2000, and then a few more seasons with the Colorado Avalanche. Bourque had a few minus seasons, but he ranks third in NHL history with a +528 mark. Bourque's best season in the plus/minus area was his rookie year of 1979-80 when he posted a +52 mark.

Wayne Gretzky (518)-Number 99 was probably the greatest player in NHL history, and his massive offensive numbers are the reason he's fourth in league history with a +518 mark. He's also the first front-line player (center) on this list. Gretzky had 894 goals and 1963 assists in his 19-year NHL career, both of which are career records for the league. Gretzky was -25 for the Kings one season and -23 for the Rangers in his final NHL season, but was almost always on the plus side. Gretzky's best season +/- wise was 1984-85 when he had 73 goals, 135 assists and a +98 mark for the Edmonton Oilers.

Bobby Clarke (506)-Center Bobby Clarke played his entire NHL career with the Philadelphia Flyers, from 1969 to 1984. He ranks fifth in NHL history with a +506, and his lowest +/- total was his rookie year, when Clarke posted a +1. Clarke's best season in the category was 1975-76, when he was +83, with 30 goals and a career high 89 assists.

Serge Savard (460)-Defenseman Serge Savard also played on those great Montreal teams in the ‘70's, and then finished up his career with the Winnipeg Jets. Savard ranks sixth in NHL history with a +460 mark, and his best season was 1976-77, when he posted a +79 mark, with 9 goals and 33 assists.

Denis Potvin (460)-Defenseman Denis Potvin played on those great New York

Islanders teams that won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-83. He was also the captain of the team, and with his career mark of +460 (tying him with Savard), that distinction was well-deserved. Potvin posted a career best +71 mark in 1978-79, with career highs that season in goals (31) and assists (70).

Guy Lafleur (453)-Right wing Guy Lafleur played most of his incredible career with the Montreal Canadiens, where he manned the right side of the ice from 1971 to 1985 before playing one season with the New York Rangers and two with the Quebec Nordiques. Lafleur was a "sniper" who scored 560 career goals, and ranks eighth in NHL history with a career +453 mark. Lafleur's best plus/minus season was 1976-77 (note that Robinson and Savard also had career best marks that year) when he posted a +89, with 56 goals and a career high 80 assists.

Bryan Trottier (452)-Center Bryan Trottier also played on those great Islanders teams along with Potvin. Trottier had a penchant for winning face-offs, giving him a slight edge every time he took the ice. Trottier ranks ninth in NHL history with a +452 mark, and his best season for plus/minus was 1978-79, with a +76. That season, Trottier scored 47 goals with a career high 87 assists.

Brad McCrimmon (444)-Defenseman Brad McCrimmon was a journeyman player with Boston, Philadelphia, Calgary, Detroit, Hartford and Phoenix from 1979 to 1997. McCrimmon ranks tenth in NHL history with a +444, and his best season for the statistic was in 1985-86 with the Philadelphia Flyers, with a +83 mark. That season, McCrimmon had career best numbers in goals (13) and assists (43), making it clear that this guy was, for the most part, a true defensive defenseman.


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      Ray Litcomb 5 years ago

      Orr was a +1 per game ? Over his entire career ? I can not grasp that. Is that a misprint ?

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      Louis Demarco 5 years ago

      I agree Matt,Orr dominated his sport more than any other player in a team sport.After Grets.left the Oilers he was actually a minus player after he turned 28.

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      Matt Hooper 5 years ago

      Orr's +1 per game throughout his career may be the most fantastic and dominant statistic in the annals of Sport. This statistical dominance left the opposing Team down by 1 goal before every game Orr played in ! Orr won (4) Major NHL Awards in 1970. No one- even over a 20+ year career ever equaled that feat. In Baseball terms, he won the Cy Young, a Gold Glove, and the Triple Crown, not to mention the Championship. Amazing.

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      Mike 6 years ago

      I got to see Bobby orr play at the Boston Garden about 10 times during the hey day years. Clearly the greatest ever out there on the ice. Gretzgy may have had control from the blue line in the offenseive zone...but Orr controlled the entire rink.

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      louie demarco 6 years ago

      You are right on dcp.Ray Borque said Lemieux was better than 99.

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      dcp 6 years ago

      I'm fed up with the automatic assumption that Gretzky was the best ever. Maybe he was, but personally i believe that Orr was the best ever.

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      louie demarco 6 years ago

      If this doesn't prove that Orr was the best by far,your not paying attention.

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      yo momma 7 years ago

      lidstrom is almost there and he's still active!

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      gymguy30 7 years ago

      Orr managed to come in 2nd all-time while playing less than half a career, the other 4 of the top 5 (Robinson, Bourque, Gretzky and Clarke) are all superstars who played long, full careers. If you don't understand why so many people think he should be called the greatest of all-time over Gretzky, here's a good reason why we believe this.

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      icehockey1 7 years ago

      wtf? no bobby orr on here?!

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      kit troyer 8 years ago

      the thing which is astounding is that orr managed his +597 in just 596 games. most of the others had to play 1000 games or more to amass their totals, sometimes in the area of 1500 games.