When is too soon to give up on Ron Hainsey?

Uhhhhh…. If I’m seriously answering my own question, it was probably last November that was too early, but by January when it became evident that Hainsey’s slumping numbers were more of the story than his October/November bump, then yeah, it was time to move on.

That being said, here we are still playing Ron Hainsey on the top pairing. Good grief.

I think I’ll need to start off by saying what this post isn’t. There’s not going to be any pining over Connor Carrick. Connor had numerous chances to show that he’s more valuable to the Leafs than Ron Hainsey, and if anything he seemed to further play himself out of a job. I get the argument that Ron Hainsey was also playing himself out of a job. That’s what this post is, an acknowledgement of that, but a case can be made that all of Dermott, Borgman, Holl, and Rosen showed a lot of promise in that time, and perhaps we should consider playing those guys more instead of trotting out player who’s last true value comes as the veteran presence in the room.

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Beyond what you saw there, I’m not making a case for any of those defensemen. Or Marincin. Although Marincin does seem like the obvious replacement.

We’re Talking About Ron Hainsey Not Being Good.

To start, let’s look at his rolling game score (via Corsica)

I guess you could say that over the past decade, the common theme is that even if Hainsey starts strong, he runs out of gas at some point in the season and stops producing. Or he’s generally not that great to begin with, although game score does lend itself to offensive contributions ahead of defensive ones.

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The rolling game score about is based on 25 games, but if we shrink that number down to a five game rolling average, Hainsey doesn’t look much better…

There were a couple of late season flashes of brilliance, but generally this is not what you’d hope to see from a top pairing defender. By comparison here’s Morgan Rielly…

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Awwww yeah, that’s the stuff. Of course, this leads to the obvious argument that Rielly and Hainsey are very different types of defensemen, and that’s very true. Rielly, for example, is good, but let’s look specifically at what Hainsey should be doing and that’s repressing shots…

CA/60 Rel CA/60 DZS%
Borgman 58.21 -1.56 28.16
Carrick 52.58 -7.63 27.25
Gardiner 58.77 -0.73 33.77
Rielly 60.09 1.25 34.72
Zaitsev 61.61 4.19 34.48
Polak 63.15 2.53 35.73
Hainsey 62.16 4.27 35.65
Dermott 53.11 -7.75 31.52
via corsica.hockey

Nope. That’s not happening either. Hainsey and Zaitsev are the two players giving up the most shot attempts. They, along with Roman Polak also have the unfortunate luxury of starting in the defensive zone more often, but I still feel like it’s worth noting that defensive specialist Ron Hainsey isn’t something we should be comfortable with, and should explore other options (this is me not mentioning Martin Marincin.)

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Last season at 5v5, Hainsey played over 1022 minutes with Morgan Rielly, his next most common partner, Jake Gardiner, he played 126 minutes with. The impact on Rielly was that Hainsey was a boat anchor. Away from Hainsey, Rielly’s CF% jumped from 49.39% to 56.14%. This is also likely due to Hainsey not getting offensive starts in those situations, but away from Rielly, Hainsey’s 49.39 CF% dropped to 41.73%. That’s gross, and again can be partially contributed to defensive starts, but if he’s doing that bad at those, why continue to give them to him?


Yeah, Ron Hainsey kills penalties. So do a lot of other defensemen who aren’t very good. Generally since there is a lower expectation about controlling the puck, you trot out guys like Hainsey who you just hope are good with standing in front of the puck, or could potentially clear a path for a goaltender to see the puck better. Doing what Hainsey does the Leafs had the 11th best penalty kill in the league last season, and we shouldn’t scoff at that, especially after the Wilson and Carlyle years. What this does say is that you think that Ron Hainsey is a critical part of the penalty kill, he’d probably be even more efficient if he was rested and he probably shouldn’t be playing top pairing minutes.


The answer is still yes, if we’re talking about a top pairing defender. Really he never should have been in that role, but the divide and conquer approach with Rielly and Gardiner seemed necessary and there was definitely an appetite at the beginning of last season to get Rielly back on the left side of the blueline.

If we’re looking at this from does Ron Hainsey still belong in the roster at all? I think the answer is more complicated. While I’d still lean towards yes, giving Ron Hainsey a bottom pairing assignment isn’t something I’d object to at this point, especially if you are someone wanting to make the case for him being a unique penalty killing talent (I’m not making that case, but if you want to, I’m not going to stop you here and now.) If you want Hainsey to be that veteran presence, let him be that presence next to a less experienced player, like Justin Holl or Igor Ozhiganov, or Andreas Borgman. Hell. Pick on Travis Dermott if you want to, but let’s try to give Rielly a fighting chance.


If for some reason you want to read more on Ron Hainsey, check out the TLN Preseason Player Preview on him here.

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  • Leefer16

    I have to say that I too have begun thinking along these lines. I wish our up and coming RD were a year or 2 more advanced cus if they were, I could see Babs lining either one of Lilly or Sandman on Reilly’s right side.

  • leafdreamer

    Rielly is the problem. Your own numbers should tell you that. The only reason Rielly’s Corsi is good without Hainsey and Hainsey’s is no good without Rielly is because of zone starts. Heinsey’s only role in life is to cover for Rielly’s atrocious defensive game (and to shield the kid from criticism and take it all for him). We should be building the guy a statue in Toronto instead of dumping on him. It’s Rielly that needs to be dumped on and dumped. Hainsey and Gardiner would be an awesome pairing. Zaitsev – Dermot and Marincin – Ozhiganov/Holl should make up the rest. I’m sure any one of the remaining defensemen would be able to collect points on the Marner-Tavares-Matthews power play jus as well as Morgan Rielly. Rielly’s a one-trick pony and it’s high time we acknowledge that in Toronto.

    • Bob Canuck

      Certainly defensive zone starts has an impact on Corsi. However, Matt Cane had an article in 2015 that stated that about 51% of a player’s ice-time at 5v5 is a result of changing on the fly. Therefore, the impact of zone starts on some metrics can be overstated.

      From the same article, adjustments were listed that could be made to Corsi For (CF/60) and Against (CA/60) figures to account for zone starts differences. For example, CF/60 would be increased by a factor of 1.25 for D-Zone starts; CA/60 would be reduced by a factor of 0.80 for D-zone starts.

      The data that I used was sourced from Natural Stattrick and is 5v5 for the 2017-2018 regular season.

      I took the zone-starts percentages for Rielly and Hainsey when they were away from each other and applied the noted adjustments to their respective CF/60 and CA/60. The result is that Rielly’s adjusted CF% is 57.1% when he is away from Hainsey; Hainsey’s is 47.2% without Rielly.

      Therefore, the data indicates that, after adjusting for the impact of zone start differences, Reilly’s possession improved away from Hainsey and Hainsey’s was worse when away from Rielly.

      Going back to the Natural Stattrick data, I found it interesting that Hainsey’s scoring chances for per 60 (SCF/60), high danger scoring chances for per 60 (HDCF/60), and high danger chances against per 60 (HDCA/60) were almost identical with Rielly as they were without him. Hainsey’s scoring chances for per 60 (SCF/60) were 7% lower when away from Rielly.

      For Rielly, his SCA/60 was similar with or without Hainsey. His SCF/60 improved by almost 29%. Rielly’s HDCF/60 improved almost 5% away from Hainsey; his HDCA/60 was 15% lower when not playing with Hainsey.

      In summary, in the 2017-2018 regular season at 5v5, Rielly’s possession, share of scoring chances, and share of high danger scoring chances was better without Hainsey than it was with him.

      • Bob Canuck

        I incorrectly stated that, in the case of D-zone starts, Corsi For is increased by 1.25 and Corsi Against is reduced by 0.80. The correct wording is that Corsi For is multiplied by a factor of 1.25 and Corsi Against is multiplied by a factor of 0.80.