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Ron Hainsey

December 4, 2007

Ron Hainsey

It’s a contract year for the 26-year old defenseman from Connecticut, and he’s getting some attention both locally and nationally.

There are still some things that pop up to me when watching a game that bother me a little, especially the “aw crap the puck just popped over my stick and out of the zone on the power play” moments that seem to stick in everyone’s head more than a well-executed breakout pass. But overall it’s seemed to my untrained eye that Hainsey has improved from last season to the current one. From the Dispatch story, there are quotes from those that should know that back up this casual assessment. I’ll pull a few, and provide a little numbers analysis to go alongside (yes, the experiment continues… you’re still here).

“When I got here last season, we had to hide Ron Hainsey,” Hitchcock said. “We had to try to sneak him in here and there at just the right time during the game.

“We didn’t feel comfortable putting him on the ice against the other team’s best players. And when the better players came out on the ice, we tried to get him off as soon as possible.”

Hitchcock said[,] “And we trust him. The stuff we had to do last year, we don’t have to do that anymore.

As noted in the article, one of the basic ways this is articulated to a player is through ice time. Last year, Hainsey saw an average of 22:53 TOI/G. This year, 21:54 TOI/G. So how does Hitch say that Hainsey is more trusted if his overall ice time is down? To get the answer to the question, you have to break down the ice time into basic situations: even strength (ES), power play (PP), and penalty kill (PK).

Hainsey TOI

Looks like Ron should be thanking Scott Howson for bringing Jan Hejda in so he doesn’t have to play too much on the penalty kill this year (I’d like to thank Mr. Howson for bringing Hejda in as well, for many reasons). When I saw this I was most surprised by the huge increase in Hainsey’s PP minutes, a little over 25% more than last year. Not because I don’t think he belongs there, as I believe he does more than any other defenseman currently on the CBJ active roster. It surprised me because my casual thought was that not much had changed on the blueline since last year.

Where did those minutes come from?

In the 2006-07 season, the Blue Jackets were averaging 5.34 power play opportunities per game (fourth highest in the NHL). This year, it’s actually a bit less at 5.11 PP/game (third highest in the NHL). So the difference has to be personnel. Who’s missing on the power play that was seeing time at the points last season? Here’s a few names for you: Duvie Westcott (led the team with 4:59 PP TOI last season, though he did only play in 23 games), Anders Eriksson (didn’t eat up a huge amount of time per game at 2:49, but did place 7th on the team in total PP TOI), and Sergei Fedorov (spent a lot of time manning the point on the PP as the season went on). Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, Aaron Johnson, Bryan Berard, Marc Methot, and Derrick Walser did not figure in the PP mix for a variety of reasons. The big variable not mentioned by me so far is playing time awarded by the coaching staff. I’m not Ken Hitchcock, so I can’t say how much is doled out by the staff and how much is out of necessity. But there was this final nugget from Hainsey on Hitchcock’s expectations:

That Hainsey has drawn so much power-play time is proof that Hitchcock likes what he sees of Hainsey at even strength.

“It’s a privilege,” Hainsey said. “We’re reminded of that often.”

Elsewhere in the internet

Looking back up to the links provided above, the forum members at HFBoards debate the merits of Hainsey. I occasionally venture into the HFBoards to get the pulse of what other CBJ fans are talking about, but I don’t participate in the discussions at this time. I save all my rantings for this site, and I simply don’t have enough time in my day to make the same arguments in two, three or four different places. Check out the referenced thread, and form your own opinion.

Also noted above were two posts from hockey blogger extraordinaire, James Mirtle. In the first, he mentions Ron Hainsey as one of the 14 players he’s tabbed as “unsung heroes” at this point in the season. Hainsey is certainly not on the tip of the tongue for most hockey fans, so this makes a bit of sense for me. In James’ second post I referenced, he mentions Ron as one of his Honorable Mention picks for the Lady Byng (though it should be noted that Mirtle only picked defensemen for this award). In any event, it’s nice to see #6 of the CBJ getting a little recognition outside of the greater Columbus area.

As I mentioned to open, Ron is in the final year of his current contract with the Blue Jackets. He’s currently making $900,000 and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. If he keeps playing like he is now, here’s guessing the Jackets may have to pay just a bit more than they would have thought last summer to keep him here.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench. Come back soon.

– Drew

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