Ron Hainsey came to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2017 offseason, as a fairly “meh” signing. Coming off playing big minutes in Pittsburgh’s top four (and winning a Stanley Cup), Hainsey’s acquisition wasn’t exactly met with waves of excitement. With the Leafs seemingly never quite having a great option on the right side of their defence, channelling that with a left-handed, late 30s defenceman playing on his off-side wasn’t exactly inspiring Toronto with confidence.
Things started out pretty solidly, as Hainsey appeared to finally be the veteran presence needed to stabilize the other half of Morgan Rielly’s pairing. After a down year for #44 in 2016-17, the two clicked well together early on and the Leafs were rolling out of the gate, winning six of their first seven games.
But then Hainsey started to play. And play and play and play. While he wasn’t on the team’s power play, if there was a penalty, you can bet that Hainsey would be out there. Hainsey picked up the third highest average time on ice among Leafs’ skaters, behind Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev.
Hainsey’s 314 PK minutes dwarfed everyone else in the league, with Zdeno Chara coming in a distant second.
And while the Leafs had a decent PK, operating at an 81% kill rate, it clearly wore out Hainsey, who saw his results drop off over the course of the season.
If you're hard matching 37-year-old Ron Hainsey to top lines while giving him tons of PK time, he's probably not going to be very effective after about December (which was the case last season) pic.twitter.com/0PAzjCyLZl
— Ian Tulloch (@regressIan) September 10, 2018
Hainsey was clearly dog-tired by the end of the season, and it turned from a promising season to one where you’d be hoping that he’d be off the ice.
Hainsey is perhaps the perfect example of the idea that just because someone is playing a lot of minutes, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re performing exceptionally in them. Sure, he may cushion Travis Dermott in order to play against lesser competition, but his own results have taken a fairly massive hit.
Hainsey put up a 47.0% Corsi at even strength, in contrast to… 51.6% from Morgan Rielly, his most common partner. If that doesn’t scream “anchor”, what does?
He contributed okay offense, contributing four goals and nineteen assists in 80 games, but nothing world-beating.
Well, this was definitely a goal! Hainsey potted this goal in Montreal… which was the first of a 6-0 rout.
Hainsey starts the year on the top pairing, but could end up on the bottom pairing by the end of the year. Who knows, really? He’ll play a ton in a contract year, but it’s probably his final year in Toronto. Arguably, the least exciting player on the roster.