Cam Fowler vowed to do something about that minus-25 mark that was a stain on a promising 10-goal, 40-point rookie season in 2010-11.
However, the 20-year-old Anaheim Ducks defenseman might finish with numbers trending the wrong way as a sophomore. Fowler entered Tuesday night's game against Vancouver with this line: Five goals, 24 assists and a minus-27 rating.
The last number left him with the worst plus-minus mark the NHL until he reversed course against the Canucks with a plus-2 mark in a team-high 27-plus minutes of ice time during the Ducks' 5-4, shootout loss.
Fowler and his coach, Bruce Boudreau, will tell you that the ugly numbers don't tell the accurate story of a season that's been about further laying the foundation for his career.
"Personally, I think I've made tremendous gains in my game," Fowler said. "Coming from last year and even at the beginning of this season, I think I've taken some big steps.
"The numbers may not show it, but I think numbers aren't important. It matters what my teammates, my coaching staff and management think. Talking with Bruce and (assistant) coach (Bob) Woods, I think they're happy with how things are going."
At 20, Fowler is handling one of the most demanding positions on the ice. His average ice time of 23 minutes, 11 seconds is second only to defense partner Francois Beauchemin, and the only thing he doesn't do regularly is kill penalties.
There have been steps forward, backward and sideways. Fowler was a minus player in eight previous games heading into Tuesday, but there is no hint of a suggestion that the Ducks are displeased with his development.
Boudreau throws Fowler out there every night because the young player has the kind of skating and puck-moving skill that most at his position don't.
"I think the numbers are a little askew," Boudreau said, "but he's getting better defensively, and he's starting to get points offensively. I still think he's a 10-plus goal guy and he's a 40-point plus guy. And I would venture to guess that next year he's going to be a plus player.
"His strides after two years in the NHL are immense."
But while he focuses on the gains he has made, Fowler admits that it is difficult to ignore the black-and-white figures that often define players.
"It is hard," he said. "It's something that people like to throw around. You cannot watch a single minute of our games this year and look at the number and (conclude) that he had a terrible season.
"They say numbers don't lie. I think in this case ... there's always things I can do better. For whatever reason this year, the bounces haven't really gone anyone's way."