Lindy Ruff’s tenure was a mixed one, to be sure. The team led by young superstars was fraught with Achilles heels, but 2015-16 gave us a glimpse of just how sweet things could be when everything worked like it was supposed to. The four years with Ruff went something like this:
2013-14: “Hey, playoffs! Cool!”
2014-15: “Goalies. Not cool.”
2015-16: “EVERYTHING IS COOL DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE GOALIES FIX ‘EM LATER.”
2016-17: everyone and everything is broken forever help
Dan Hamhuis’s season was not unlike that bipolar cycle. After finally being allowed to play for the team he wanted to join last trade deadline, game one saw the presumptive veteran partner for Klingberg relegated to the second pairing in favor of Jordie Benn. This was a sign of things to come, it turned out.
Hamhuis would be paired with Klingberg for the next four games before being bounced to the Lindell pairing. Two games later, Lindy Ruff would hand Dan Hamhuis his first healthy scratch in 14 years, bring him back beside Jordie Benn, reunite him with Klingberg, and then give him a second scratch later that month while Julius Honka was in the midst of giving us all the vapors.
The Hamhuis-Klingberg pairing wasn’t great, and that’s the truth; Hamhuis was not looking comfortable, and there were worries that the steady vet had become too slow to be effective in significant minutes. Still, the mystifying thing about those scratches was that they came after Hamhuis had started trending up, relatively speaking. Check the third graph down, and realize that the second healthy scratch came after Hamhuis’s best shot-differential stretch of the season:
To be fair, you can’t minimize some of the mistakes in-game that get lost in the bigger numbers, but I’ll go to my grave saying that Klingberg was the main issue with that pairing, as the young stud took a while to fight past himself after the departure of his longtime defense partner in Alex Goligoski. After his game settled down, Lindell had been stapled to his side, and Hamhuis was left to do the fix-it work on the lower pairings.
I’ve said it before, but the phenomenon of veteran players suddenly needing healthy scratches was not a pleasant one to witness during Ruff’s tenure. From Ales Hemsky and Dan Hamhuis to Cody Eakin and John Klingberg, there was a disturbing amount of formerly solid players suddenly losing their game. That might have been rotten luck for Ruff, or there might have been systemic problems that exacerbated the ups and downs that every season brings. I suppose we’ll never know for sure. You can look at each of those players (Hamhuis included) and say that they needed a jolt of some kind, and maybe they did. Personally, I’d just love to have a solid veteran come onto the team and not need to be thrown in a freezing lake to wake him up for once.
What we do know for sure is that Hamhuis settled down as the season wore on, eventually becoming the most stable defender to spend significant time on the team. Hamhuis made Stephen Johns look good in an otherwise rough season for Johns, and he helped Julius Honka impress everyone except those in charge of his ice time. On a young blueline, steadiness and reliability are as invaluable a commodity as there is.
At age 34, one thing jumps out about Hamhuis’s career numbers: his average time on ice dropped a full two minutes from even his rookie seasons in Nashville.
Again, this might say more about what the coaches thought of him than how he played, but you would expect someone in his mid-thirties to lose a step or two, and maybe the gradual ice time chop helped Hamhuis stabilize as the season wore on. Sometimes coaches know what they are doing, let’s remember.
Ultimately, I’ll remember Hamhuis for playing on the second power play in favor of Esa Lindell for what seemed like an eternity. I’ll remember him for becoming relatively trustworthy on a defense filled with the unfortunately not uncommon defensive haplessness of Nemeth/Oleksiak/Lindell/Klingberg/Benn. I’ll remember him for scoring a birthday goal that looked almost exactly like Kevin Connauton’s first NHL goal.
Also, I’ll just leave this here. It definitely means nothing, UNLESS IT MEANS EVERYTHING:
Grade Dan Hamhuis’s season, you arrogant, judgmental person, you.
This poll is closed
A-nother season like this one? Sign me up!
B-etter than I thought it might be.
C-all it average, at best.
D-on’t care to see another one like this.
F-or the disenchanted, Vegas offers some hope.