To begin the season, Joel Hanley was around 10th on the depth chart for the Dallas Stars. However, with injuries sustained by John Klingberg, Marc Methot, Stephen Johns and Connor Carrick, Hanley has found himself in the lineup logging respectable minutes night in and night out. He’s one of the defensive call-ups that Jim Montgomery has recently praised as “saving their season.”
Hanley has played in 15 games for the Stars, and logged an average ice time of 13:46 while registering eight shots, no points, and 16 hits. You might say under your breath, “What’s so special about that? I could record those in my sleep.” My response? His offensive stats aren’t what made me want to write this article; it’s his underlying defensive stats. Joel Hanley has been excellent defensively. He’s been a conservative, shot-suppressing monster for the Dallas Stars. It wasn’t until I started digging into the numbers that I realized he can make a case for staying an NHL regular even when Methot, Johns and Carrick eventually return.
The Shot-Suppressing Monster
If you’re an NHL defenseman in this league going 15 games without a single point, you better have the defensive metrics to back it up — and Joel Hanley does. First, we’ll look at how he stacks up in comparison to his team, and then we’ll look at how his numbers stack up league-wide. They’re fun.
Within the timeframe of when Hanley joined the team and for players with a minimum TOI of 100, here is where he ranks on the team in some 5-on-5 per 60 defensive metrics:
- Shots Attempts Against: 1st
- Shots Against: 1st
- Goals Against: 1st
- Scoring Chances Against: 1st
- High Danger Scoring Chances Against: 1st
- On-Ice Save Percentage: 4th
Across the board, he has been excellent in his own zone. Now I do want to preface this, as well as the rest of the article, by saying that I understand his quality of competition isn’t like what Heiskanen or Lindell sees on a nightly basis. However, if you’re looking for a solid third-line guy to play safe and conservative minutes so that Heiskanen, Lindell and Klingberg to catch their breath, then you should look no further than Hanley. We’ve seen how he stacks up against the Stars, but how about the rest of the league?
As seen from the above image, he’s not just good at suppressing shots and pressure, he’s great. He is top 10 in many /60 metrics that covers all defensemen who have played over 100 minutes (236 total players). Even on a team that is usually outshot, he is able to go out there and put up very impressive numbers. There’s a reason you don’t hear his name called all that much during the broadcast and these stats really tell why. He’s not coughing up pucks and giving up good chances. He’s not panicking with the puck or creating his own trouble. Hanley is doing all you can ask for from a third-pair defenseman, which is to negate shots and chances until your top pairs are ready to roll.
He Makes It Work
We’ve looked at how Hanley’s stats look in the defensive zone. So let’s see how he contributes offensively. Hanley has zero points, eight shots, 22 shot attempts, and three scoring chances in his 15 games played this year. These are obviously not the best. In a league that is getting quicker and more offensive, ideally a defenseman should be able to create chances.
However, Hanley is only one of the three players on the Stars with a positive CF% (Fedun and Radulov are the others). He has the best Scoring Chance For % and High Danger Scoring Chance For % on the entire team. What do those fancy stats boil down to? Even though he doesn’t have a lethal shot or shifty blue line moves, he’s finding a way to create offense when on the ice. Whether it’s fluid breakouts from the zone, getting the pass off to the right people, or just making the correct small plays, Hanley in his 15-game sample size is creating more offense than defense. That is not easy to say about a player on the Star’s roster this year.
I’m not saying Joel Hanley is the next best shutdown defenseman in the league. I’m not even saying he should be a second-pair player. (Even though Hanley and Heiskanen have played 60 minutes together and are currently the second-best ranked pair in Expected Goals Against... just sayin’.)
But for a league-minimum defenseman who was deep in the depth chart in training camp, he’s done everything you could ask from him and more. The Stars have the firepower in Heiskanen, Klingberg, and Lindell. It isn’t a terrible thing to have a guy like Hanley who can hold the fort down until they’re ready to roll for the next shift. He not only leads the team in multiple metrics, but he is highly ranked league wide. He also carries a very cap-friendly deal ($650,000) for a team who may need to make a move at the deadline. Hanley has a lot going for him and I believe it’s his very strong resume 15 games in that may keep him in a Dallas Stars sweater even when the blue line finally gets healthy.