For anyone catching up, a menu of previous player (and also coaching and GM) report cards can be found at the bottom of the article. If you missed them over the weekend, scroll down and find links for Noah Hanifin and Ryan Murphy’s report cards.
Ron Hainsey’s starting point for the 2016-17 season
After arriving as an emergency replacement when it was learned that Joni Pitkanen would be unable to continue his NHL career after a devastating food injury, Hainsey quickly settled in as a sound and solid minute-eating defenseman. That is largely the role he served during the 2015-16 season playing alongside Justin Faulk on the team’s top defense pairing. After averaging 22:19 of ice team as a fairly steady top 4 defenseman in 2015-16, he exited the season under contract and with the expectation that his role would be similar for the 2016-17 season.
Ron Hainsey’s 2016-17 season with the Carolina Hurricanes
With the departure of John-Michael Liles at the 2016 trade deadline, Ron Hainsey entered the 2016-17 season as the gray beard on a Carolina Hurricanes’ blue line that was undergoing a youth transformation. He started the season in second pairing role alongside Brett Pesce, but a slow start for the defense and the team in total yielded a quick lineup shake up. Youngsters Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce were united and ultimately became the team’s shutdown pairing, and Hainsey and Faulk were reunited.
The Hainsey/Faulk pairing struggled defensively from the beginning and never really reached the level of play needed from a second pairing. At a basic level, Hainsey/Faulk was not horrible positionally, but they just were not assertive enough in terms of controlling gaps, attacking pucks and taking away time and space. The result was that elite scoring lines preyed on them in the defensive zone. At home, Peters was able to shield the Hainsey/Faulk pairing and give the tough match ups to Slavin/Pesce. But on the road where opposing coaches could dictate match ups, the duo struggled. At the point when Hainsey was traded to the Penguins, he had amassed a minus 19 in 29 games with the Hurricanes.
Before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline, Hainsey logged 56 games with the Hurricanes and averaged a bit 22:20 of ice time. He finished with 4 goals and 10 assists and a minus 16. He also deserves significant credit for his role on the team’s strong penalty kill and for providing veteran leadership for a young blue line.
Grading Ron Hainsey
Graded as: Veteran top 4 defenseman capable of serviceable play in at least a second pairing role.
Grade: C. Be it because of his escalating age, struggling regaining a rhythm and chemistry with Justin Faulk (which is odd since they paired fairly well in years past) or just a tough year for Hainsey and Faulk, the Hainsey/Faulk pairing and Ron Hainsey individually had a sub-par 2016-17 season defensively. I think one could make a case that Hainsey was just overslotted in a #4 role in a situation where his partner (primarily Justin Faulk) was also struggling to play at that level defensively. As noted above, the duo’s struggles were most noticeable on the road where opposing coaches regularly matched their top scoring lines against them and were rewarded for it. Hainsey deserves credit for his role on a strong penalty kill and for providing leadership for the young blue line, but he still nets a C in my book when graded as a top 4 defenseman for the 2016-17 season.
Looking forward to 2017-18
After finishing the 2016-17 playoffs with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ron Hainsey will become an unrestricted free agent. His run in the top half of a depleted Penguins’ blue line shows that the 36-year old is still capable of playing at the NHL level. (He is second in ice time behind only partner Brian Dumoulin.)
I actually think Ron Hainsey could be a great fit as a depth defenseman for the Hurricanes but also that it is unlikely simply because of roster math. On a lesser contract ($1.5 million for one year) in a lesser role (stable #6 defenseman), Hainsey could fit on the 2017-18 Hurricanes. He is a known quantity in the locker room and a secondary leader for the young defensemen. He could play on the penalty kill and importantly has some experience (and comfort doing so) playing on his off side which adds the element of flexibility desired in a depth role. The biggest issue is that the Hurricanes already have two players under contract (Klas Dahlbeck and Ryan Murphy) who slot roughly in the same place in the lineup, so I think it would take one or both of Dahlbeck and/or Murphy being moved to create an opening in a lower slot for Hainsey.
What say you Canes fans?
What do you view as the cause for Hainsey/Faulk’s struggles especially on the road during parts of the 2016-17 season?
Would you consider re-signing Ron Hainsey if it was for a lower salary and for a lower role that slotted him in the bottom defense pairing?
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