To say that Travis Hamonic was a controversial deadline pickup by Pierre Dorion this year would be a massive understatement. When the trade was announced, Vancouver fans were elated while Senators fans were furious and analysts were just confused.
There was no end to the reasons why the trade made no sense for Ottawa. Hamonic had not been playing at the level of a top-4 defenseman. There were better options available for cheaper. He makes the same amount of money that the team was refusing to pay Nick Paul. The list goes on and on.
With all that being said, Hamonic is here now and we might as well get used to it.
To his credit, the newest addition to the right side has surpassed expectations in his first ten games with the club. He’s displayed flashes of good defensive awareness and proven himself capable of using his size effectively - not to mention that his heavy point shot has created a few good scoring chances. His pairing with Michael Del Zotto has at least been competent, a clear improvement over the third pairings we’ve seen this year.
There’s a nice piece of defending by Hamonic. Ends up making a great read to find Brown infront, and Ottawa gets a quality opportunity up the ice. pic.twitter.com/KFlgcmLD7O— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) March 25, 2022
So, ten games in, how does he match up against other Sens defensemen?
It’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions from such a small sample size, but so far Hamonic’s underlying numbers are more or less in line with what the eye test tells us: he hasn’t been spectacular, but he’s been good enough to justify a spot in the lineup.
Over the last 10 games, Hamonic has stacked up pretty well against other Sens defensemen at 5v5. According to Natural Stat Trick, he’s first in hits, blocks, and scoring chances. His shots, corsi and expected goals numbers are all about where you’d expect them to be - below Zub and Brännström, but above Mete and Zaitsev.
Sens Defensemen - 5v5, last 10 games
|Player||Position||GP||TOI||Shots||SH%||ixG||iCF||iFF||iSCF||iHDCF||Rush Attempts||Rebounds Created||Giveaways||Takeaways||Hits||Hits Taken||Shots Blocked|
|Michael Del Zotto||D||9||153.87||14||0||0.4||30||18||4||0||0||1||9||2||7||18||13|
His pairing with Michael Del Zotto has been consistently middle-of-the pack for the Sens, mostly just breaking even in each on-ice metric, with better defensive numbers than most other pairings. Here’s another Natural Stat Trick table:
Sens Defense Pairings, 5v5, last 10 games
|Player 1||Player 2||TOI||TOI/GP||CF/60||CA/60||CF%||FF/60||FA/60||FF%||SF/60||SA/60||SF%||GF/60||GA/60||GF%||xGF/60||xGA/60||xGF%||SCF/60||SCA/60||SCF%||HDCF/60||HDCA/60||HDCF%||HDGF/60||HDGA/60||HDGF%||On-Ice SH%||On-Ice SV%||PDO|
|Erik Brannstrom||Artem Zub||136.48||15.16||64.62||47.92||57.42||50.12||38.25||56.72||35.61||29.01||55.1||2.2||2.2||50||2.6||2.46||51.38||25.5||20.66||55.24||8.79||10.11||46.51||1.32||1.76||42.86||6.17||92.42||0.986|
|Michael Del Zotto||Travis Hamonic||134.52||14.95||52.63||53.08||49.79||36.58||36.13||50.31||27.65||24.98||52.54||2.68||1.78||60||2.04||2.06||49.66||23.19||24.53||48.6||9.37||8.92||51.22||1.78||0.45||80||9.68||92.86||1.025|
|Nick Holden||Nikita Zaitsev||128.25||12.83||46.32||65.03||41.6||34.15||53.33||39.04||23.86||42.11||36.17||2.34||2.34||50||2.37||3.31||41.73||25.26||35.09||41.86||9.82||14.97||39.62||0.94||1.4||40||9.8||94.44||1.042|
For a more visual representation of how Hamonic stacks up against other Sens defensemen, we can look at this graph from hockeyviz. Players higher in the graph are doing a better job at limiting scoring chances against while they’re on the ice, and players further to the right are doing a better job of creating scoring chances. Hamonic and Del Zotto are doing slightly better than most other Sens defensemen at limiting chances - individually they’re both in Zub territory but can’t quite match Bernard-Docker’s numbers, except when they’re on the ice together. They’re also the furthest to the left, which means they’re not really creating offense when they’re on the ice.
It’s a small sample size, but it’s promising, at least!
Other options on right defense
Here’s the thing with Hamonic. Even if he does end up being a marginal improvement over other Sens defensemen, he’s still going to be taking a roster spot from a young defenseman who could probably benefit from NHL experience.
Natural Stat Trick has a tool that lets you compare two players to each other. Looking at Hamonic’s numbers compared to those of Lassi Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker gives us mixed results. When we look at individual numbers - so, how many shot attempts, scoring chances, expected goals, etc. that a player has created himself - Hamonic comes out on top. When we switch to relative on-ice numbers - which tells us how the team performs with that player on the ice, kind of like plus/minus but with shot attempts and scoring chances - the edge goes to Thomson and Bernard-Docker. Of course, the massive caveat here is that both Thomson and Bernard-Docker were paired with Thomas Chabot for most of their time with the Senators, whereas Hamonic has spent most of his time next to Michael Del Zotto.
I don’t know if Lassi Thomson or Jacob Bernard-Docker would be getting better results than Hamonic if put in the same situation. What I do know, however, is that both young defensemen are supposed to be important parts of this team’s future, and both have looked just about ready for the NHL in their short stints with the team. There’s certainly some benefit to letting them develop in the AHL, but do we really plan on keeping them both there for all of next season as well? The Sens couldn’t have kept up that thing where they were bringing each one up for a few games then sending him back down?
At the end of the day, Hamonic is an improvement over Zaitsev and Josh Brown, and probably not as good as Lassi Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker, but still capable of holding down the fort until they arrive.
Trying to predict next year’s right side
If we’re just looking at players who are on one-way contracts through next season - so no pending RFAs or two-way deals - we get a lineup of:
Chabot - Zub
Holden - Hamonic
Del Zotto - Zaitsev
Obviously, that’s not going to hold. For one, there’s still a good chance Erik Brännström gets re-signed in the summer and stays in Ottawa, even if he is a polarizing figure on this team. There’s also Jake Sanderson, who will certainly get at least a few games in the NHL, although it remains to be seen whether he’ll spend more time in Ottawa or Belleville. Lassi Thomson and Jacob Bernard-Docker both impressed in their few games with the Sens this season, so there’s good reason to believe they’ll get another year of back-and-forth between the NHL and AHL.
Since the Sens will want to carry a 7th defenseman, that’s four guys competing for one spot. However, it’s no secret that Del Zotto wants out, and based on the way the organization has been talking about Hamonic, it sounds likely that Zaitsev is also on his way out. That leaves us with something like this:
Chabot - Zub
Sanderson - Hamonic
Holden - Brännström
That’s… not terrible? One of the youngsters will have to start out in the AHL, but that’s not the end of the world considering that injuries are bound to happen, and the Sens will probably want to have the option of sending any of their young players down.
Maybe Dorion was right, and we should wait until training camp to evaluate the team. If Dorion can find a way to get rid of Del Zotto and Zaitsev, the right side will at least be NHL-calibre. A lot will depend on the development of those young players.
Crucially, we’d better hope those youngsters pan out, because unless a defenseman is involved in a trade, this team isn’t going to bring in the legit top-4 defenseman they keep promising.