The Toronto Maple Leafs need to stop giving Ron Hainsey top minutes.
It really isn’t a secret that the Toronto Maple Leafs weakness is on their back-end. That’s been the case for the better part of a decade now but the only difference is the forwards are good enough to win and win now. The Leafs do have a couple options within the organization. Kyle Dubas did address this when he took over as the General Manager. The options within the organization consist of Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin, but for argument sake I’m just going to look at NHL defensemen today.
The Toronto Maple Leafs biggest issue on the blue line is Ron Hainsey. Don’t get me wrong I think having Hainsey on the Leafs is a good thing. He brings experience and veterans who have been there and done that are never a bad thing. My issue with Hainsey is that he is playing with a potential Norris Trophy winner, Morgan Rielly and that he can’t keep up.
In the last 5 games, Hainsey has averaged almost 19 minutes per night. This is too much. He is 37 years old and can’t keep up. Hainsey has a 46.5 corsi-for percentage (CF%). This means that the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t have possession that much when he is on the ice. In addition, he starts almost 55% of his shifts in the defensive zone. It understandable that his defensive zone starts (dZS%) are high, since he doesn’t offer much value in the offensive zone. When you look at both his dZS% and his CF%, it does make sense that his CF% is so low as he’s facing strong competition in his own zone. After evaluating his dZS% and CF%, it’s not a surprise that he’s been on the ice for 27 even strength goals against.
But what other options are there?
In the last five games, Dermott averaged just over 18 minutes. Travis Dermott has an impressive CF% and it currently stands at 55.1 CF%. In addition, he starts 46.1% of his shifts in his own end. Dermott is a defenseman that can get the puck out of his own zone more often than not. Yet, oddly enough, Dermott has been on the ice for 31 goals against while at even strength. While 31 goals against isn’t great, it’s expected when you are a puck moving defenseman. A puck moving defenseman while effective is prone to giving up the puck. So, unfortunately, Dermott will see his fair share of goals against.
On the other hand, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach, Mike Babcock could place Ozhiganov on his top defensive pairing.
Ozhiganov while being right handed, has a 54.1 CF% and starts 49.3% of his shifts in the defensive zone. Ozhiganov also has only been on the ice for 20 goals against at even strength.
While his numbers aren’t bad, he isn’t seeing too much ice time. In the last five games, he’s averaged roughly 15 minutes a night.
A Potential Trade?
The third alternative that the Toronto Maple Leafs are likely considering is Colton Parayko.
Adding a player like Parayko would literally send me jumping for joy. He’s a big body, right handed, smooth skater and he can shoot the puck.
In addition, his underlying numbers are pretty unbelievable. Even though he plays for a struggling St. Louis Blues squad, his CF% is 50.2 and he starts 51.5% of his shifts in his own end. Plus, he has only been on the ice for 30 goals against at full strength. Being on the ice for 30 even strength goals might seem high, but when you take into consideration he plays almost 25 minutes a night it’s understandable.
The problem with Parayko is that the Leafs would have to give up assets to secure him. Obviously I’m just speculating as I really have no idea what is going through Doug Armstrong’s mind nor do I know how he values his players, but if it were up to me the Leafs would be paying a pretty penny for Parayko.
But, before the Toronto Maple Leafs make a trade for a defenseman like Parayko, I’d prefer to see them test Dermott or Ozhiganov on the top defensive pairing.
All statistics obtained from hockey-reference.com
featured photo image credit – Josh Tessler