Where Does Dougie Hamilton Fit In Calgary?

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Earlier today, the Calgary Flames made a big splash at the Draft by trading for Dougie Hamilton – sending a trio of picks heading the other way to Boston. The assets you acquire at an entry draft are, almost always, untested and unpolished. You don’t know what they are, have vague ideas of what they may become, and in many respects you’re trading lottery tickets as much as you’re trading picks.

So in essence, the Calgary Flames trade a trio of lottery tickets for a really good young defenseman.

But now that the Flames have a shiny new toy for Bob Hartley to work with, there’s the question of what you can do with Dougie Hamilton and where he could be used.

LIFE IN BEANTOWN

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In three seasons in Boston, Hamilton was used more or less how you’d expect them to. They sheltered him a lot in terms of zone starts and competition, and he split time between playing with Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara. There seemed to be some chemistry with Hamilton and Chara, so Boston’s coaching staff more or less sewed him to Chara’s side for the balance of the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.

And since Hamilton seemed to do well against poor competition in terms of his possession stats, they ratcheted up his ice-time, the quality of his competition and gave him progressively worse zone starts. And his possession numbers remained strong, as he was able to use his size and skills quite well. He more or less progressed the way you would hope a player would in your wildest dreams; normally possession stats take a slight dip at some point when the heat is turned up, but Hamilton’s stayed very strong.

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As you see here, Hamilton and Chara were thrown to the wolves in terms of their deployments. A good chunk of the team’s non-Krug/Trotman defenders struggled against middling competition, but Chara and Hamilton thrived.

RELATIVE TO CALGARY

How would Hamilton’s numbers fared in Calgary? Really well, even when corrected for the fact that Calgary is a bad possession team and Boston is a pretty good one.

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In other words, in terms of possession stats Dougie Hamilton was to Boston what Mark Giordano is to the Calgary Flames. That’s incredibly valuable, in large part because the Flames only really had three players on the blueline that were positive possession difference-makers: Giordano, T.J. Brodie and David Schlemko. Now that they have added another, it gives them many options.

BALANCING ACT

The big question regarding where Hamilton fits in regards what Bob Hartley wants to do in terms of match-ups and deployments. Last season he went with the familiar, leaning heavily on Giordano and Brodie because they were the only reliable NHL pairing to start the season. After a bit of shuffling, he settled on a second pairing of Russell and Wideman and, when Giordano went down, he switched them to tough match-ups. That was probably because T.J.Brodie was moved to a pairing with Deryk Engelland, and they didn’t want Engelland to drown against top lines.

If Hartley wants to try to create a top-heavy top two pairings, expect Giordano and Brodie to stay together, and Kris Russell to be paired with Hamilton. I don’t think the Flames really know how good Kris Russell can be, as he’s always been relied upon as the better player in every pairing he’s been in since he arrived. He’s been the responsible one, and as a result, I think his possession and counting stats have taken a bit of a kicking as a result. But when paired with Dougie Hamilton? With a big, physical, reliable partner, Russell could explode.

The Flames got a grim reminder of how teams need to be constructed in order to succeed in the NHL when they faced the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks were smart; they had three reasonably balanced defense pairings, and beat the Flames in part because they rolled lines and just grinded the series out. (It helps that they’re deep.) So if Calgary tries to fight fire with fire, they might try to balance their top six. In that case, maybe Brodie stays with Engelland, Russell stays with Wideman, and Mark Giordano gets a protege in the form of Hamilton. All three pairings would maintain a left-shot/right-shot balance, and the drop-off in skill between the three pairings wouldn’t nearly be as big as Calgary had throughout this season – when they had to use Corey Potter at times.

SUM IT UP

Where does Dougie Hamilton fit in? He could fit in anywhere, and he gives the Calgary Flames a lot of flexibility and depth on their blueline.

The Flames have new-found flexibility in their roster, and in the Virtual League of
Hockey
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  • Big Ell

    “The Flames got a grim reminder of how teams need to be constructed in order to succeed in the NHL when they faced the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks were smart; they had three reasonably balanced defense pairings, and beat the Flames in part because they rolled lines and just grinded the series out. (It helps that they’re deep.) So if Calgary tries to fight fire with fire, they might try to balance their top six. ”

    Really? The Hawks played three d and won the cup. I think our top 3 could be better than Chicago’s.

  • KiLLKiND

    Wow what a trade I had no idea how good Hamilton was until I started researching him today.

    Unrelated… I can’t believe Roy and kylington are still on the board! we should trade up immediately to get one! I know we have good D now but there is never too much and I strongly believe both will be solid NHL players.

    • KiLLKiND

      Maybe, although they might have their eye on a forward (Christian Fischer?) now. I don’t really blame them.

      I was SHOCKED that Merkley lasted so long. I mean I was never particularly enamoured with him but 30th? He should have gone A LOT closer to 15th than he did.

      Related: Boston really bombed those three picks, on paper. Zboril is fine, but a bit of a reach that early. DeBrusk is a bit of a reach as well. Senyshyn? Holy.

    • everton fc

      As fans we had the players you mentioned as well as Merkle and others much higher. We base this on watching these kids play a few games primarily on television. The NHL scouts spend millions$$ on actually watching these kids on a daily basis for sustained periods of time.

      They obviously have a different opinion of what value these players have vs the armchair GM’s…..

      • everton fc

        The talk of Roy’s speed, that he may not be the fleetest of foot, cost him. At this point, I’d take a fly on Kylington of the two, but there may be an exciting, big, skilled, under-rated forward ready for the picking when we get our first pick tomorrow.

    • beloch

      Whatever it is that’s been in the Oiler HQ’s koolaid mix for the last decade, I think Chiarelli took it with him to Florida and spiked Sweeney’s and Neely’s scotch with it.

  • Big Ell

    This is interesting from Steinberg’s twitter, Treliving says “we weren’t close” to getting back into the first round.

    I bet he has a different feeling now. He seems to be brutally aware of the limitations of this team and makes moves to address them.

    I am trying to remain calm but other than some FA signings, I think he has done a great job so far. To be fair he could have done nothing and with the Hamilton trade had my approval.

    With the rumors that Hamilton wants 5.5 for 8 years, I am hopeful he can pull a Brodie/Backlund and get 5 million for 8 years. One can dream.

  • everton fc

    A tweet from Jason Gregor:

    “Joe Haggerty just told us that Hamilton ask was much higher than $5.5 mill/year. That is why they looked at trade.”

    Not surprising, why would a kid with his potential sell himself short.

    • everton fc

      This is what I’ve felt all along, and why I think Burke and Treliving will take a quick shot at a deep run in the playoffs by having a d-corps of Gio, Hamilton, Brodie, Wideman, Russell and one of Engelland/Schlemko/prospect. Once the season ends, Gio may be moved.

      Hamilton will go for at least 6-6.5/season for 7-8 years. This is why they cut him loose. Wy they also cut Lucic loose. This is how I see it – make a run with arguable the best defence in the league, then continue the rebuild. Sans Gio, who’ll be 33.

      It’s a business, hey?!

      The only way it works where you keep Gio and Hamilton, Gio until he’s 36-37, Hamilton until he’s 28-29 – is cutting loose Wideman. But we don’t need to cut him loose now. I think we stay the course with the addition of Hamilton, and see what we do next season.

      • SoCalFlamesFan

        I agree somewhat. Who stays and who goes will depend a lot on what the contracts for Gio and Hamilton are. As well as where they see contracts for Monahan and Gaudreau. At any rate the Flames don’t need to be in a rush to decide, their cap situation for next season is still just fine and there are always options that one can’t see just yet. We’ll see how the rest of the summer shakes out.

  • jeremywilhelm

    Well done by Calgary I really like what I saw in Hamilton and he is 22 the Flames fans should be very happy. Maybe the best D in the NHL now so lets get the battle of Alberta going again and love to hate each other just like the old days and pound on Vancouver.

  • MWflames

    Been thinking about this all day…

    Who has a better top three next year than gio/brodie/hamilton?

    Add on russel and wideman for depth, and wotherspoon probably ready for regular minutes. Before injuries/trades, this is a very intriguing defense corps all of a sudden.

    I’ve been saying this for a while, this team really badly needs a #3 to round things out. They got better than that today, and now they are a close to a perfect circle if you know what I mean. My first thought is this:

    Gio/Brodie (best pairing in the league amiright?)
    Russel/Hamilton (“With a big, physical, reliable partner, Russell could explode”.. yup)
    Wotherspoon/Wideman (great mix, and more than enough talent for the 3rd pairing)

    This is a fantastic trade.

  • wot96

    The feeling I had when the Flames picked up Hamilton was the same as when the Flames picked up McCrimmon all those many years ago. I was just over the moon and thought as soon as I heard the news that Calgary had a real shot at a cup.

    Little early to say that, but this is huge. Now all we have to do is get rid of some of the over-priced 5 – 7 D men we have.