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Will Pavel Kubina Make Ron Hainsey More Effective?

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Hainsey played with a variety of partners last season. His two most common partners were Garnet Exelby and Boris Valabik. On a playoff caliber team, both Exebly and Valabik are probably third pairing defenseman.Personally, I think that Ron Hainsey had the difficult challenge of being a top 4 defenseman who was paired with a bottom pairing partner for most of the season last year.

In fact, if you look at the data, Ron Hainsey turned in some pretty solid numbers when he was NOT paired with Exelby or Valabik last year. Let's a take a look at how Hainsey fared in this non-XLB and non-Boris situations.

The numbers below show that Hainsey was outshot very badly when out on the ice with Exelby and Valabik but posted a nice positive shot differential when paired with other Thrashers defense.

Even Strength Shots on Goal

  • -82 Ron Hainsey + Garnett Exelby (155 SF -237 SA)
  • -43 Ron Hainsey + Boris Valabik (188 SF - 231 SA)
  • +35 Ron Hainsey + anyone other than Exelby and Valabik (234 SF - 199 SA)

If we add in missed shots the pattern becomes even more stark. The Exelby plus Hainsey were outshot by almost 100 while the Hainsey plus anyone else was a net positive.

Even Strength Shots + Missed Shots on Goal

  • -96 Ron Hainsey + Garnett Exelby (228 SAF -324 SAA)
  • -57 Ron Hainsey + Boris Valabik (261 GF - 318 GA)
  • +35 Ron Hainsey + anyone other than Exelby and Valabik (288 GF - 252 GA)

Shots and missed shots are one measure of offensive pressure. More often than not the team that exerts more pressure is more likely to win the scoring battle. At the end of the day, what really matters is not just shots but goals. You have to win the goal battle to win the game. And season team Goal Differential predicts the NHL Standings with 93% accuracy.

 

A common mistake is to use plus/minus to mreasure defensive ability--it doesn't do that. It measures both offensive and defensive ability. But the official plus/minus numbers are contaminated by Short Handed Goals and Empty Net Goals for and against. Below is Adjusted Plus/Minus which is the net team Goal Differential ONLY when the number of skaters is even (4 on 4 of 5 on 5)--no SHG no ENG are included.

Using Adjusted Plus/Minus we see  a similar pattern. The Exelby-Hainsey was out chanced by badly and their plus/minus was -10. The Hainsey-Valabik combo was not as bad but still finished with a negative shot differential and we can see that they were outscored 12-17 at Even Strenght last season. When we get to the Hainsey+everyone else we see the positive shot and chance numbers translated into a positive Goal Differential of +4 last season.

  • -10 Ron Hainsey + Garnett Exelby (11 GF -21 GA)
  • -5 Ron Hainsey + Boris Valabik (12 GF - 17 GA)
  • +4 Ron Hainsey + anyone other than Exelby and Valabik (18 GF - 14 GA)

Conclusion:

Ron Hainsey demonstrated that he could be a positive defenseman last year when paired with some stronger defenseman. Pavel Kubina has been a top four guy for several years. Hainsey strength as a defender is his mobility and passing skills. Kubina is not the most mobile but uses his size effectively and he passes well. If Hainsey and Kubina can learn to complement each other the Thrashers could really benefit from having a top 4 pairing that can put up a positive goal differential.