Anaheim Ducks: Benching Adam Henrique had Positive Results

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 25: Adam Henrique #14 of the Anaheim Ducks celebrates his goal to take a 3-2 lead over the Edmonton Oilers during the third period in a 4-3 overtime Ducks win at Honda Center on February 25, 2020 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 25: Adam Henrique #14 of the Anaheim Ducks celebrates his goal to take a 3-2 lead over the Edmonton Oilers during the third period in a 4-3 overtime Ducks win at Honda Center on February 25, 2020 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

History, in many cases, repeats itself. In this current season, much like last season, Adam Henrique leads the Anaheim Ducks in goal scoring. What is a noticeable alteration to last season’s history is that 16-games ago, Henrique was dropped from the team and shuffled to the “taxi squad.” In essence, this meant that he was placed upon the waiver wire and thus able to be claimed by any other team. For this “crime” fans have been most vocal.

Yet, before we delve deeper, it should be mentioned that this season is much different from many others. A player being placed upon the waiver wire has a different impact now than it may have in past seasons. The likelihood of teams making a claim is slim. Teams all over are moving players between the taxi squad and the regular team.

Not all of those players are amongst the highest paid on the team, however, and thus the question should be asked whether or not it was warranted? The second question should be whether or not it was effective? Finally, the question should be asked of the coaching staff whether or not they know what they’re doing?

Beginning The Season Slowly

There should be absolutely no doubt that Adam Henrique started the season slowly. He’s paid to be a prime time scorer and he wasn’t able to measure up to that lofty billing. Specifically, in his even-strength play, his goal-scoring rate, total assists rate, and total points rate per 60 minutes of play each declined by ~26.2%, ~62%, and ~40.6%, respectively. It may have only been a 16-game sample prior to his benching, however, those are steep declines in aspects that he needed to be very strong in.

It is worth noting that Henrique isn’t the only player in his 30’s that has hit a steep decline in his even-strength play this season. The Toronto Maple Leafs, John Tavares, is on pace for his least productive season since his rookie year and has scored during 5v5 hockey at almost 4th line rates.

It’s been a long-known factoid that players decline with age and that goal-scoring, particularly at even strength, is one of the hardest-hit offensive categories. Conversely, declines on the power play are quite reduced and assists show lesser declines again.

However, it wasn’t just the scoring that Henrique suffered for. In fact, Henrique’s shooting percentage at even strength was ~22.8% higher than it was in the 2019-2020 season. It was that he wasn’t shooting the puck enough, nor getting those shots through the netminder.

Specifically, Henrique, prior to his benching, presented a ~30.2% decrease in overall shot attempts from the previous year, a ~36.1% decrease in unblocked shot attempts, and a ~40.1% decrease in shots on net.

Subsequently, Henrique’s also presented declines in scoring chances (~27.2%), high danger chances (~39.4%), and individual expected goal rates (~30.2%). Despite his status on the Anaheim Ducks, Henrique simply wasn’t dangerous. For a team that claimed it was attempting to contend for a playoff position this season, Henrique wasn’t rowing the boat in the same direction the team needed him to be rowing towards.

In a normal season, would the Anaheim Ducks have taken the risk to pass Henrique through waivers? I would imagine it is unlikely. However, in a shortened season, and one in which the likelihood of another team making a claim is low, I believe that the actions of the Anaheim Ducks were somewhat warranted.

Lighting A Fire

Personally, I’m not a huge believer in the idea that benching players “lights a fire under them” and pushes them to “want it more.” In most cases, we see a relatively similar level of play from the players before and after the move is made. However, in Henrique’s case, this season we’ve seen a fairly large results gap pre- and post-benching.

It is worth noting that there are potentially other influencing factors. Perhaps Henrique was carrying a minor injury that was hampering his play and the rest time allowed him to heal. Perhaps he was sick and it allowed him to recover. Perhaps he had some issues at home that were weighing heavily on his mind.

These “maybe’s” are all unlikely to some degree, however, it’s also impossibly difficult to get a straight message from the Anaheim Ducks administration. Even now (at the time of writing), regarding Jamie Drysdale, we have no real news despite most of us who watched having our own thoughts on the matter.

Nonetheless, since Henrique has returned to the lineup he has performed more or less in line with expectations from previous seasons. His goal scoring rates have improved by ~86.7% from prior to his benching, and even exceed last years rate of 1.22 goals per 60 minutes by ~37.7% Similarly, his overall points rates have improved ~110% from before the benching and ~24.8% on last years rates, respectively.

At face value, it’s hard to argue that Henrique’s scoring hasn’t improved dramatically following on from him being sent through to the taxi squad. Some may certainly argue that the results may have come regardless through simply regressing to the mean and while there is an argument to be made for that, I’m not entirely sure that it’s absolutely accurate either.

For instance, Henrique’s individual Corsi attempts have increased by ~25.4% following on from his benching (9.6 to 12.04 per 60 minutes). A similar increase has been seen in unblocked shot attempts (~34.4%) and shots on net (~75%).

This suggests that Henrique is playing in a different manner. What that manner is, is outside the scope of this article, however, one doesn’t just start shooting more via regression. It’s a conscious effort.

One area that regression is likely to hit, however, is shooting percentage. Nevertheless, frighteningly enough, Henrique’s shooting has become more deadly since his return to the lineup, increasing by ~6.7% This is a ~31% improvement from his 2019-2020 shooting, thus there is a foreboding thought that his currently hot scoring will start to fade. Nonetheless, Henrique shooting pucks towards the netminder at closer to last season’s rates will help keep him somewhat relevant as a scorer even should his shooting percentage dip away.

As can be expected with an increase in shot attempts, there is a correlation between scoring chances, high danger chances, and expected goals. With each presenting increase in the “second” half of Henrique’s season of between ~11.7% and ~30.7%.

What is notable that, each of these metrics shows a decrease from last season. That is to say that even having improved from earlier in the season, Henrique shows clear signs of decline as an offensive threat from last year.

Tracking that decline over 5-10 game blocks may show a greater trend, however, at present, it’s worth at least keeping in mind that Henrique’s currently inspired play simply isn’t as good as it maybe was 12 months ago.

As an aside, it’s also worth noting that Henrique has reduced his turnovers/giveaways by ~44% following on from his benching. It was a clear issue for the Anaheim Ducks team as a whole earlier in the year, thus it’s notable that one of their leaders has made a concerted effort to improve his play in this facet of the game.

Taken together, we can certainly see that Henrique, despite what many may suggest, has clearly improved his individual performances following on from his benching. I may not personally believe in benching to improve play, but in this instance, for whatever reason, the results are clear. Adam Henrique has been better since passing through waivers and returning.

Are The Calls To Sack The Anaheim Ducks Coach Realistic?

You know the fan base is disillusioned with a coach when they try something that actually works and the fan base calls him stupid and a poor judge of talent/character.

More from Ducks News

Certainly, there is a case that maybe Henrique would have turned it on anyway. Goalscorers are streaky like that. Yet, there is an equal chance that he may not have. The Anaheim Ducks were in a rut making some classic mistakes on a game-to-game basis. I personally, can’t speak for Henrique’s character and personality, yet the coaching staff and management who are around him each and every day felt that the move was within an acceptable margin of error.

In the end, we’re left to criticize a move they made that actually worked. Conversely, if it doesn’t work we’ve all the ammunition in the world. If they don’t make a move, we’re able to criticize our cold, dead, hearts away, regarding how the team doesn’t care and how they’re not trying anything. We could even comment about how they persist in playing NHL players instead of some random NPC they brought in from Europe who now plays for their AHL squad (no disrespect to any players intended).

Given ice time is one of the few carrots or sticks that a coach has at his disposal, and the results that are now on the board, it’s hard to argue that the current coaching staff hasn’t used one of their few weapons effectively. At least in the case of Adam Henrique.

There are plenty of reasons to throw stones at Dallas Eakins and the Ducks’ upper management. But to do so over a move that actually has worked out as desired and intended? Perhaps this is why the Anaheim Ducks don’t deserve nice things.

Next. Prospect Spotlight: Jacob Perreault. dark

All stats can be found at and All stats are current through to 03/29/2021