The Ottawa Senators find themselves with a bunch of former Toronto Maple Leafs. After completing a blockbuster trade that sent Cody Ceci and Ben Harpur to the Leafs for Nikita Zaitsev and Connor Brown, the Sens also went out and acquired some ex-Leafs in free agency. One of those names was Tyler Ennis, who should provide some forward depth. However, one was Ron Hainsey. Hainsey played a big role with the Leafs last year and Ottawa brought him in to help out their young team. While there is a risk in playing him too much, here is how Ron Hainsey can be a useful player to the Senators.
Ron Hainsey Can Help the Senators
We won’t get too far into this as intangibles are often very overrated hockey. To the point where fans will justify spending multi-million dollars just for what a guy “brings to the room”. This could be despite horrid on-ice play.
However, Hainsey is entering his 17th year in the NHL and has seen it all. He has been on a Stanley Cup-winning team with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has also been on some poorer teams like the Atlanta Thrashers. Hainsey has been a part of everything and can certainly help the younger Senators players in the haul of a long year. He is known for being more of a straight-forward and quieter guy. Not known for really bursting the bubble, Hainsey can be a calming presence in the Sens locker room.
Now, let’s get to what really matters. It is more than possible to find guys with good leadership qualities elsewhere, so, what made Ottawa spend 3.5 million dollars on Ron Hainsey and throw in a 10-team NTC to boot? Let’s explore different ways he can help this young sens team on the ice this year.
The first area Hainsey can help the Sens defence core improve is with his entry defence. Entry Defence has been split into three categories, Breakups/60, Possession Entries Allowed / 60, and Possession Entry Percentage allowed / 60.
Taking a look at the tableau from CJ Turtoro and the tracked data from Corey Sznajder, we can see that Hainsey shines when it comes to preventing entries. Comparing this to someone he might be replacing the minutes of and it’s easy to see where the value can come from.
It is known that the rest of Hainsey’s game really isn’t strong but his ability to break up entries can be a very useful skill to have. Learning how he does it can also help some other Senator defenders. Here are some other names on the Sens blueline to see how they stack up. This is one of the few areas at 5v5 that Hainsey can help Ottawa improve. His overall play isn’t great but his entry defence isn’t bad.
The biggest area where Ron Hainsey can help the Senators out is on the penalty kill. Hainsey has been known as a PK expert, however, is that because he is actually very good or just because he got used a lot? For this, we will look at rate stats. Rate stats go by a per 60-minute basis so you can get a better understanding of how players play, even if they have a difference in minutes. These rate stats work better because a player won’t get punished for playing more.
When looking at said rate stats from NaturalStatTrick, we will use a cutoff of 75 minutes of PK time in 2018-19 for defenders. This gives us a sample size of 134 defenders, or roughly 4 per team, two units worth. In CA/60(shot attempts against per 60) Hainsey ranks 71st out of 134 defencemen with a 95.06 CA/60. He also ranks 66/134 when it comes to xGA/60(Expected Goals Against Per 60) with a 6.33xGA/60.
At first glance, these numbers don’t look awesome. It becomes clear that Hainsey isn’t actually the best penalty killer out there. However, he is still very serviceable. Both of his rates place him as a roughly average penalty killer. Ottawa’s numbers, on the other hand, aren’t so great. Last season, Ottawa had a 104.52CA/60, meaning for every 60 minutes they gave up over 100 shot attempts. This ranked 28th out of 31st in the league, part of the reason their PK finished 23rd overall. They improve when it comes to xGA/60 as they have a 6.58xGA/60 ranking them 19th. However, in both cases, Ron Hainsey will help the overall Senators penalty kill.
Who He Is Replacing
Hainsey will likely only be in Ottawa for the short-term. However, it is very likely that the massive penalty kill minutes he’ll be replacing would be those of Cody Ceci. We know Hainsey had a 95.06 CA/60 and a 6.33xGA/60, how does that compare to Ceci?
Ceci ranked 123/134 with a 110.03CA/60 and ranked 98/134 with a 7.14xGA/60. He absolutely bled shots while on the PK compared to league average and Hainsey was a huge step up last season. Ceci played 185 minutes on the penalty kill and led the team by far in that category. Considering his results were so poor, Hainsey even being average would be a massive upgrade for this Senators team.
Ceci’s 185 minutes ranked him 37th in the league for all defenders for TOI on the penalty kill. Ottawa already does a decent job at sharing the workload but trying to spread it out, even more, could be key. They have lots of skilled and capable players that can help out and an approach by committee tactic could be in their best interest.
What To Do and Not To Do With Ron Hainsey
Ron Hainsey is a short-term deal that can help the Senators in a few ways. He can provide experience and leadership to what is a very young hockey team. He can also help the team on the ice through break-in attempts against and also on the penalty kill. Eating up a lot of penalty kill time so the big guys like Thomas Chabot and Erik Brannstrom can eat minutes at 5v5 or the power play will be huge. He may even be dealt at the deadline for a return if his play is good enough. There is enough benefit to justify him being on the team for the season.
However, what coach DJ Smith and the Sens need to avoid is having him do too much. Sure, this season likely won’t mean much anyway but it should still be about the youth. Having Hainsey take players ice time wouldn’t be beneficial. It would also be more beneficial to have someone like Chabot play with Dylan DeMelo, someone he was used to playing with successfully last season. Overall, the Sens need to use Hainsey in a mentor and leadership way, not a workhorse on the top pair. Limiting his role to just helping the team and playing to his strengths will be the best use of Ron Hainsey this season.