It’s time to partner TJ Brodie and Dougie Hamilton

Coming into this season, there was a lot of excitement about the Flames’ defence. And why wouldn’t there be? Not only did they already boast arguably the best pairing in the league, but they added a young player who looked to already be a top pairing defenceman.

It did lead to some discussion, though. How would Dougie Hamilton shake up the defence pairings? The Flames had a pretty established top four, but he was going to disrupt it for the better.

T.J. Brodie’s pre-season injury destroyed all of that, though. But now that he’s back, and hasn’t even missed a step, it’s time to re-explore the Flames’ options – as well as return to the pre-conceived notion that Hamilton absolutely is a top four defenceman.

Time to bring Hamilton out of exile

When Brodie was injured, the solution was obvious: put Hamilton on the top pairing with Mark Giordano. It was a perfect fit: he had top pairing pedigree, and he was a righty to go with Giordano’s lefty. It would be perfect, and the Flames wouldn’t miss a beat, basically like last season.

Except that didn’t work out. The two were horrific together, and finally split up.

It’s that split that ultimately resulted in banishing Hamilton to the third pairing, which he now occupies alongside Deryk Engelland. And playing sheltered minutes together, they’ve actually been pretty good.

Better than some other defencemen on the team, really. And if “always earned, never given” holds even an ounce of merit, Hamilton would start getting more minutes than some other players on his team.

Let’s take this time to remember just how well Hamilton performed in Boston. In his second and third years in the NHL, this is what he was doing (via War on Ice):


That’s why the Flames were so excited to get him. An extremely young defenceman was playing top pairing minutes, in top quality situations, alongside Zdeno Chara and faring extremely well. Even without Chara, though, he was still a high possession player.

But the adjustment period for Hamilton in Calgary has been very real. There are a lot of reasons for that: a new conference with a different style to play in, a new city to move to, a new contract to have to live up to, he’s still only 22. Take your pick. But there’s no denying things have settled down as of late.

Kris Russell needs to be out of the top four

We already know pairing T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano results in the best defence pairing on this team. It doesn’t exactly address the other issues plaguing them, though, namely the lack of depth following them up. Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman were sheltered all of last season and still the play went against them; the exact same thing has happened to start this season. They’re a pairing that can’t play together.

But swapping the default top four of yesteryear isn’t the answer.

Russell needs to be completely taken out of the equation.

To start the season, Russell has been horrific. His GA60 at 5v5 is the absolute worst amongst all regular NHL defencemen at 6.06 (next is Dennis Wideman, at 4.47). He has been on the ice for 22 5v5 goals against, and leads the league in both that category, as well as that of goal differential (-13). And this is all with +6.24% relative zone starts: he’s receiving easy minutes and absolutely tanking with them.

It’d be one thing if this was new, but it’s not.


Russell has been with the Flames since the 2013-14 season, which is when he first started getting top four defencemen minutes. And he has never been able to handle them. Despite always being sheltered, the more minutes he plays, the more inevitable it is the play goes completely against him. We’re just seeing him absolutely crater to start this season.

He needs to be taken out of the top four, and there’s really only one other person left to put in there: someone who we assumed, with good reason, would be there to begin with.

Brodie + Dougie = the pairing of the future?

Giordano never looked Norris-caliber until he was partnered with Brodie; who knows what Brodie does with Hamilton? But fact is, they’re two young players with a histories of playing through difficult circumstances, and succeeding. They’re both fantastic skaters, and they’re both still developing offensively, but already have 40-point seasons under their belts.

Partnering Hamilton and Wideman, two righties that have experienced suspect backchecking abilities, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Giordano and Wideman have looked decent enough together, though, and while they’re both offensively inclined, Giordano’s defensive abilities can help out Wideman more than most. 

And although Brodie prefers playing the right side, he’s still a left-handed shot – and his skating is exceptional enough to adapt to pretty much any circumstance.

Giordano’s play is inevitably going to decline as he ages. Brodie, though, is 25; Hamilton is 22. They should still have several quality years before age, wear, and tear takes their tolls on them. It only makes sense to see if they should be together.

Since returning to the lineup, Brodie has been the Flames’ best player. True, it’s only been three games thus far, but the shift in the team’s play has been extremely noticeable. Their possession metrics have been at acceptable levels, but more consistently so since his return, and he’s brought elements of calm and poise to the backend.

And Hamilton is clearly too good for the third pairing. He’s thrived down there, but his talents are being wasted with the limited minutes he’s now getting. His confidence appears to be restored, and it’s time to put that to the test: by playing him with a player who should be able to support him.

One thing’s for certain: it couldn’t hurt any worse than insisting someone who has never performed well as a top four defenceman should remain in that position.

  • Skuehler

    Why not Wideman and Hamilton? Can we really afford to not have Brodano be a thing right now?

    Plus the former Bruins might find some chemistry, not to mention the mentoring opp for Dougie.

    • FlamesRock

      She explained why she didn’t like the idea of Hamilton and Wideman:
      “Partnering Hamilton and Wideman, two righties that have experienced suspect backchecking abilities, doesn’t make a lot of sense”

      • Skuehler

        The fact that they are both righties and have struggled a bit this year playing with other partners is the reason to seperate the leagues top pairing? Really thats it?

  • FlamesRock

    I thought Wideman and Giordano looked really bad on Saturday against Edmonton, which is why I’d ideally like Brodano to be a thing again. However, if Brodie and Hamilton can take the heavy duty minutes, it would likely open up Wideman and Gio to get some easier minutes and better offensive situations.

    • Ari Yanover

      Agreed, this is basically my thinking. Which, I know it can be suspect to throw Dougie right back into the fire if he’s playing the tough minutes on the top pairing, but I’d still love to see how he handles it alongside Brodie. It’s not like he hasn’t had success in those situations before, and he seems to have found his game again now.

      • Ari Yanover

        Too soon to do this Ari. I don’t think Gio is 100% on that arm strength & confidence out there. It was a horrible injury. Keep Brodie with Gio for at least 10 more games. It gives Hamilton more adjustment time as well.

        Would Wideman or Russell & Klimchuk get us Nikushkin from Dallas?
        Need a high end potential forward to play with Hudler & Monahan. Leave Bennett & Johnny together.

        • FlamesRock

          Yes absolutely! 29 other NHL teams are waiting to trade a star player to the Flames in exchange for their garbage!
          I always like your rediculuos hypothetical trades…

          • The Real Slim Brodie

            Wow, really?? So then Wideman is a top 4 defence man & could fit on a Dallas team who want to go for it because they have Sharp/Spezza & a solid 1a/1b goaltending tandem to go along with Seguin & Benn. Let’s see, Nichuskin the super star, what has he accomplished? Nichushkin has 1 point in 9 games, +1 & 2 minutes in penalties. Was healthy scratched for 2 other games. He played a total of 8 games all last year in an injury filled season. He was drafted 11th in the same year we got Monahan. Sven was a 13th overall & we got a 2nd. It’s not like I am targeting a former 2nd or 3rd over all here. Wideman & one of our top prospects (1st rounders in the same draft) is garbage????? Wow. Besides eating maybe a few mill of Widemans salary, I really wouldn’t part with much more. It would be a real risky trade from our part. But I guess perception is reality & yours is what it is & thank goodness mine is a lot different.

          • loudogYYC

            Thanks for not being ignorant like Nik but I find it hard to believe that Porrier or Klimchuk + Wideman (we eat some salary to make attractive for the Stars cap) isn’t a good starting conversation with Dallas. Nichushkin is a very good prospect, somewhere between Monahan & Porrier I would think. Where does Sven fit? He netted us a 2nd. Sorry but Wideman has a better perception from other GM’s than many here in FN give him credit for. Dallas want to win now, their window is open & I don’t think a kid with potential would be such a big deal if you got a 2nd pairing PP specialist & another former 1st rounder. If I had mentioned this deal last year, Porrier’s star was shining a lot brighter, this would have been a huge over payment.

          • Brent G.

            I actually agree with you. I think the perception of Nichushkin is still too high today so I could see the Flames having to throw in a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick. Still, if they were able to acquire him, it could really work out long term.

    • FlamesRock

      8 D- men won’t work.
      Here’s how it should look:
      Brodie Dougie- tough minutes+ PP2
      Giordano Wideman- semi sheltered/ tough minutes+PP1
      Russel Nakladal/ Engelland- more sheltered
      Then after the trade deadline:
      All of the above minus one or two of:
      Russel, Wideman, Smid, Nakladal
      and plus one or two of
      Kulak, Wotherspoon, Kyjlington and another farmhand or Phat Ras
      That’s how I’d like to see us squeak into the playoffs… Or just miss. Maybe another move of a Jones, a Hiller, a Raymond, or Bollig. Then one or two more prospects get to join the Local Heroes in the C of Red next spring. The experience of pushing for-and maybe making the playoffs, then having some success, was a huge developmental boost for our prospect base last spring. Look what it did for Johnny, Bennett and Ferland. If Ortio’s still around by April it might do him some good too to be behind a winning team, too.
      Brodie and Hamilton are, as you said, the future top pairing. I have no doubt they can handle the tough minutes once they have a chance to mesh. Why not make it happen now?

  • Skuehler

    It’s at least worth trying, and what better opportunity to experiment than against Colorado.

    Brodie – Hamilton

    Gio – Wideman

    Russell – Engelland??

    Man I wish the Flames would have signed Schlemko! I really liked him and Russell together.

    • The Real Slim Brodie

      Remind me of the trade for Reinhart? What did that cost you? Played 4 games and didn’t even manage a shot on goal. IR now, but was a healthy scratch for a team that doesn’t even have a top pair.

      What did you pay to get Sekera? How much did you give away for Reinhart?

      • TRAIN#97

        Why do you reply “what about Sekera,what about Reinhart?” We are talking about Hamilton
        If “always earned, never given” holds even an ounce of merit, Hamilton would not have got 6 mil a year to play between 12-15 minutes per game,and is at the bottom of the league in +-. Your best dman Brodie is making 3.9 ml this year and Hamilton gets more?
        Such absolute Hypocrites here. Flamers say Hall is overpaid?? Hall is 7th in league scoring ,that is what I call an earned contract!

        Another thing Reinhart right now is playing 3rd pairing and is making under 1 ml per season.
        Hamilton is playing 3rd pairing making 6ml.

        • Brent G.

          When Reinhart plays he’s likely on the third line, yes. Unfortunately he’s being outplayed by a bunch of really bad hockey players.

          The whole article written is talking about how Hamilton is being under utilized. It also talks of how Hamilton has earned more than the third pairing time he is given.

          Do you even read the articles or just come to troll. I still like your contributions way more than Oil City Roller’s, so there’s that…

        • TRAIN#97

          The poster was talking about Hamilton’s trade value, which was compared to Reinhart’s. Still following troll?

          The other reference to Sekera was in case the illiterate troll was referring to salary, in which case I asked how much Sekera was making.

          By the way, before you argue about player salaries, you should look them up. TJ is actually making more than Gio this season.

          • The Real Slim Brodie

            Hey isn’t that what edmonton said the last ten this is too easy..1st overall cha ching watchem pile one day we will be an average team and our fans can make fun of other teams because we are finally ahead…by 1 point…but we are winning…right?…guys…guys..Ahhh…hey first overall…we winning! !!

          • Ari Yanover

            Just curious if you come here for an actual discussion or to just insult and trash Hamilton?

            Hamilton needs to be better to live up to his contract. No doubt about it. But don’t you think it’s kinda ironic how you call Hamilton over paid when your team has more amount of cap hit as him playing on your ahl team?

            Hamilton- 5.75 cap hit – actually playing in the NHL

            Nikitin, Scrivens – 6.8 cap hit – riding the bus

          • The Real Slim Brodie

            Also known as bad management..which is why the oilers will continue to suck and win 1st can’t continue to pay these heart breaks for you when they go somewhere else and reach your expectations

          • Cfan in Vic

            A real grim reality these clowns will be staring down is that the Oilers only have a 3 year window left before the very latest the team is going to get dismantled. That seems short based on the youth of their players but the hard cold reality is that in 3 years, Oilers should have success. These top picks do expect to get paid, if Nurse, Reinhart, Yaks, Drisaddle are successful, they will get more than what Klefblom got. Add to that Mcdavids 10mil, & the fact Hall, Nuge & Eberle contracts are getting set to expire & will need to get extended (they will still be in their prime years) & if Talbot is the one, this pending UFA will command at least 5.0mill for multi years. Well, one of my Oiler buddies & I did an analysis & they will be spending 67 mill on 13 players & chances are that cap will be around 75 mill., maybe. So yes, they have 3 years for their window max before this group will be dismantled. God love the hard cap world, it’s the only anti suck Oiler weapon we have left.

          • The Real Slim Brodie

            You call it cutting the fat, I call it terrible team managment

            You’re the worst team of the decade, a bottom feeder for the 10th year in a row, and yet youre somehow up against the cap. You have 6.8m in cap hit playing in the AHL, and yet you’re coming on here calling Hamilton over paid?

            Nikitin, 4.5m AHL Dman
            Scrivens, 2.3m AHL backup goalie
            Fayne, 3.6m healthy scratch
            Purcell, 4m 3rd line winger
            Ference, 3.2m healthy scratch

            Let’s do some math – that’s 17.6 million dollars on players that don’t belong in the NHL! And you’re complaining about Hamilton???

            Go back to ON, you can’t win any debate over here

  • ronipedia

    The problem, as Ari says, is that Wideman and Russell have been horrific defensively. So I propose this, instead:

    Keep Brodano. They are colossal. Just make Hamilton-Engelland (Engelton?) the second pairing. Engelland has the best GA/60 and CF% of Flames defencemen who have played all 12 games. I know.

    Certainly he has been sheltered to some degree and he probably can’t sustain that but it’s obvious that for now, Wideman and Russell need more sheltering, because they are a gong show. Give em 12 sheltered minutes, and put Wide-dog on the 2nd PP pairing until things improve (#TradeWidemanAndRussell).

    • FlamesRock

      Engelland has been fine this year when on the bottom pair, but when he’s moved up in the rotation (or gets ambushed by a scoring line, which happens far too often) we see the Engelland of last season. Hamilton’s skating ability (along with their preposterously limited minutes) has been enough to bail them out lately, but with more responsibility (and more scoring line matchups) I think they’d get caved in pretty regularly.

      My preference is any configuration that: separates Russell and Wideman, and: kicks Russell out of the top four.

      So really, there’s only one solution that meets both criteria.

      • ronipedia

        You say you want to separate Russell and Wideman, but your way would put Russell and Engelland together. I would argue that’s a worse bottom pairing than 6&4. (somehow.) If Hamilton has to carry Engelland at least you get Gio and Brodie production, in a pair that can legitimately shut down the Kopitars and Thorntons of the league.

        I do see your point, it’s just a question of whether you’re trying to balance things out or have more disparity between the top and bottom of the lineup.

        I’d rather have the potential top pairing in the league in Brodano. You run the risk of 6 & 4 being together but by diluting the pairings I think it puts the whole D underwater.

        anyways. Play Russell less: the FlamesNation rabble has spoken

  • Danomitee

    Brodie is going to play well regardless of his D partner. Hopefully this brings out the best in Dougie but then theres the Gio problem. Pairing him with Engelland means Wideman and Russell are still together, even if it is just 3rd pairing minutes we all know how that works. That means Gio has to play with Wideman unless you decide to straight up bench Russell and right now I’m not exactly opposed to that idea either.

  • Rock

    Russell and Gio bad numbers come from playing with softer then downy Mr Hamilton. But let’s put him with Brodie and we will see Brodie’s numbers get crushed also. Shelter minutes for soft players been working out with England why change it until he can play some tougher minutes I don’t think Hamilton is what everyone thinks he is and if he is the same as Jaybo well trade him for a first overall pick cause watching Jaybo was horrific

  • MattyFranchise

    I don’t see any area on defense where Russell really helps at this point in the season.


    It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when through 12 games you are consistently getting outplayed by Engelland.

    I’m not sure what the pairings are like on the farm but I would imagine that Kulak and Nakladal have been getting a lot of minutes, not sure if they’re together or not, but I have no problem with Nak being the 7th d-man because a) he’s 27, what you see is what you get with this guy at that age, and b) he’s already been pro for a number of years, I’m sure he knows that being scratched isn’t always an indictment of his play.

    Either way it’s time for Russell to be either scratched or demoted because he quite simply is among the worst d-men in the league so far this season.

  • loudogYYC

    I really like the idea of a Brodie-Hamilton top 4 pairing, but that unfortunately leaves a Russell-Engelland 3rd pairing and those 2 alone could drop the team save % into the .700’s.

    It sounds really weird to say considering how many Dmen we have, but we need a few solid stay-at-homers. We may already have them in Kulak and Wotherspoon, but they won’t get a chance as long as Russell and Smid are kicking around.

    In an ideal situation:





  • MontanaMan

    Might be unpopular but I support being patient with Russell. Yes he has struggled (alot) this season but he was top four last year and was a soldier in the final 20 games and through the first round of the playoffs. I think he deserves a pass and 30 games to get it together before being tossed onto the scrap heap. Just my take. Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age but I’m hoping he gets it going soon.

    • Rock

      I agree 100% why dump on the people who were so successful last year and give free passes on people who were not here last year.

      Listening to people wanting to fire coach of the year after a few months into a season craziness. That would be like trading last year’s Vizena trophy winner cause he had a bad start to the season.

  • The Real Slim Brodie

    Well said..I still think hamilton will look like a win sooner than later he has the offense coming he just needs to find his way in our system and earn his ice time. The flames are going to be solid for years to come..The ducks are off to a slow start aswell but will soon pass edmonton as will the flames

  • Cfan in Vic

    So far, projected D-pairings against the Avs:

    Flames site has Russel with Wideman.

    Daily Face Off (updated yesterday) has Russel with Brodie.

    If they put Russel with Wideman again, I swear I’m going to break something. I really hope it’s not expensive.