Dougie Hamilton Seems A Lot Better Lately

Dougie Hamilton must love T.J. Brodie right about now.

Before Brodie came back from injury, the focus for fans of the Calgary Flames was Dougie Hamilton as he took Brodie’s spot on the right side of the top defensive pairing. Why wasn’t Hamilton performing well yet? Why hadn’t Hamilton and Mark Giordano “clicked” perfectly as a tandem yet, despite being seemingly well-suited for one another? Had the Flames made a big mistake giving up three top-60 picks for this guy?

But T.J. Brodie’s return took the spotlight away from Hamilton, and soon thereafter Hamilton seemed to find a comfort zone. I had the chance last weekend to ask around the rink about Hamilton’s adjustments since he’s joined the Calgary Flames.

JOE COLBORNE

Joe Colborne played in Boston’s minor league system for a season (or so) before moving onto the Toronto Maple Leafs and, eventually, the Flames. He’s fairly familiar with Boston’s playing system and personnel, as well as playing in three markets where hockey’s pretty important (notably Toronto, where hockey is everything unless the Blue Jays are good). He also had to adjust, as Hamilton has, to changing teams as a young hockey player who only ever played on one NHL team with one NHL system. I chatted with him on Saturday morning after practice.

He had this to say when I asked him about the challenges of changing teams and systems.

“You get comfortable in a system and then
it’s like you’re going and you’re learning a whole new language
almost. It takes some time. You do it in your head and you work on
the video and you go out and perform it, but you’re always thinking
about it full-time. It doesn’t become second nature until you’ve
actually put some time in and have done it over and over and got the
repetitions.”

I was curious if, perhaps, Hamilton could’ve prepared too much for playing with Mark Giordano – as in, maybe he was trying too hard to play like the absent T.J. Brodie rather than playing his own game. Colborne acknowledged the possibility, but thought Hamilton was merely adjusting to a new team and role.

“Dougie’s a top defenseman in this league
for a reason, and you kind of almost have to let him grow into
himself on this team, and I think he’s doing that right in front of
our eyes right now. He’s playing some great hockey as of late. It’s
never easy coming into a new team and then when you’re getting thrown
out against the top lines, top guys in the world that you’re going up
against every night and playing 24, 25 minutes a night, that’s a tall
task for anyone with a fresh team. You know what, he’s really come
into his own and I think we’re starting to see the Dougie that we’re
going to have for a long time. He’s the whole package.”

BOB HARTLEY

Following the Flames’ 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night, I asked Hartley in his post-game press conference whether he felt that Hamilton had finally settled in on the Flames blueline.

“I think that over the last seven to ten
days, we see Dougie Hamilton feel way more comfortable in the group,
around the system, around our game, and that’s huge tonight. He was
skating very well, he broke some plays in our defensive zone, and
that’s why we went to get him. But at the same time, let’s remember
he’s only 22 years old, he still has lots to offer, and we’ll take
our time with him and he’ll be alright.”

I think the last part of Hartley’s answer there may be the key (and it ties into something Colborne mentioned in terms of ice time).

ROLLING 3-GAME TRENDS

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 11.05.23 PM

(Above: rolling three-game Corsi For percentage)

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 11.08.14 PM

(Above: Rolling three-game even-strength ice time)

Based on these charts, Hamilton’s underlying numbers DID really turn around starting around…seven to ten days ago, as Hartley identified, as his ice-time dropped and his underlyings increased nicely. But the main thing that seemed to really change Hamilton’s fortunes around were changing partners and deployments – he played with Deryk Engelland for a few games before transitioning to the right side of Kris Russell, which is where many of us thought he’d end up eventually.

But it’s hard not to think that Brodie’s return didn’t help set everything off for Hamilton, as Brodie jumping into the top two pairings (first with Russell, then with Mark Giordano) gave Hartley the flexibility to change how he used Hamilton and allowed the 22-year-old to translate some of the hard lessons he learned when Brodie was gone into some on-ice results.

One has to wonder what the “sweet spot” for Hamilton will end up being in terms of partners, ice-time and deployments. For now, second pairing duty alongside Kris Russell seems to be a perfectly fine spot for him, particularly with Giordano and Brodie rounding into their old form on the top grouping. We probably won’t know what the “real” Dougie Hamilton is, in terms of his performance and ideal placement in the Flames line-up, for at least another month or so (when he’s played another 10-15 games in a red sweater). But recent indications are that he’s finally figuring it all out.

  • KACaribou

    I agree that Hamilton has tightened up his D-zone play – like the whole group really.

    Okay I know what Pike thinks, I know what Colborne thinks, and I even know what Hartley thinks.

    Wonder what Hamilton thinks? Could have a real story here if we knew that.

    • supra steve

      Hamilton has denied that there is an issue with adjusting to a new team, as you might expect any player to do…he’s not blaming the system, just himself. In this case teammates and coaches may actually give an answer that is closer to the truth.

      • KACaribou

        I just feel like a good piece of journalism would be to ask Hamilton directly all the pieces of speculation brought up here. Flames TV and Rogers 960 who work for the Flames may not have the stones to press the issue, but a real journalist and sports writer would. I think there might be a lot less speculation if the player himself was pressed for an honest answer. I don’t see how being honest would be difficult for Dougie. I find him to be an upfront athlete, from what I have seen.

        ————–FN MODERATOR: You are free to debate and disagree with people’s opinions and encouraged to add to a good discussion on FN. Personal attacks and criticisms of someone’s work are off limits. Please try to remember that the FN writers work hard to put quality content on this site, and that you consume it for free, without obligation.

        • supra steve

          Hey man, this is NHL hockey, not the Watergate cover-up. No one presses these guys for honest answers, and they are under no obligation to be entirely honest with us. Someone wants to come to my workplace and press me for answers about a problem I have had at work…I’m telling them to go @%$*! themselves. Afraid we’ll just have to live and die without the answer to the Dougie Hamilton Mystery.

          • KACaribou

            There is a huge difference between someone who is a private citizen and someone who accepts becoming part of the public domain by being a celebrity.

            It is part of the job of being a celebrity and getting paid huge money to do so. That’s why people are allowed to give their crazy opinions publicly about people like Dougie Hamilton. If they said the same about you they they would be getting their a$$e$ sued off because you are not a celebrity and didn’t put yourself in the position of a public figure.

            I was just asking for a little better journalism, rather than just drumming up speculation all the time – actually trying to find out!

            As for the moderators, I can’t figure out why making a suggestion like this is such a criticism. They don’t mind people cracking on others, just not the original author. That is off limits… huh.

            Plus quit saying this is free: there are ads on here!

            ————–FN MODERATOR: Go ahead an criticize the opinions, don’t attack any person or their work. FN provides 100% free content for you to consume, if you don’t like it, read and contribute somewhere else.

        • TRAIN#97

          Just curious .are you writing these blogs for free? If you’re working for free I see your point but if you are getting paid to do it at least it should be open for criticism.

          • KACaribou

            Exactly! And regardless of being paid or not, I doubt the Calgary Herald sports writers are sensitive and lily-livered. The way I look at it: if you want to take shots at all the hockey players every chance you get publicly, you’ve kind of put yourself out there for the same kind of treatment. I don’t honestly care for the omnipresence and teacher/pupil attitude.

          • ChinookArchYYC

            Speaking of teacher/pupil attitude, where are your journalism credentials? You were not there, and you don’t know the dynamics of the conversation. A journalist can ask lots of questions, but they’d better be judicious and ensure they have as access to an athlete for the next interview.

            If you want to provide constructive criticisms for one of the writers send an email, don’t come here and post it publically.

  • Christian Roatis

    I always wondered about the “East to West Adjustment Period” people talk about and questioned its validity, but seeing Hamilton get worked in his first few games in the West, and then slowly get better has made me believe in its merit a whole lot more.

  • DestroDertell

    I doubt Hamilton’s issues had anything to do with Hartley’s system or his deployment. I think it has nothing to do with it. He was just a nuisance in the slot or anywhere near the boards.

    He has improved /a lot/ at not getting beat or taking dumb penalties close to the boards, but he’s still really bad in the slot.

  • Captain Ron

    Not concerned about this guy at all. Hamilton has all star potential at some point in his career. Even though he has struggled at times to adjust to his new system and surroundings early on as many players would have I am just as excited today as I was when it was announced that we had acquired him. Opportunities to get players like this are few and far between. I don’t care if it takes him a full season to adjust to his new team.

  • RKD

    Maybe he needs more time, he went from playing in the East on Boston with Chara to going to the top pairing in the West here with Gio. Let’s not forget the whole team including Gio was not up to speed. Plus with all the losing and poor defensive coverage and his contract size, Hamilton had become a very easy target and much more was expected of him right away. I think it would be wise to keep him sheltered a bit like he is now until he can get his game going.

  • TRAIN#97

    Pike ! You’re nothing more than a dictator . You are like a kid taking his ball cuz he is mad at the other kids. You erase people’s opinions because they don’t agree with everything you say?

    Why did you erase this?

    TRAIN#97 wrote:
    Just curious .are you writing these blogs for free? If you’re working for free I see your point but if you are getting paid to do it at least it should be open for criticism.

    Quit acting like a dictator.

    ———FN MODERATOR: The moderators have warned you many times, and you continue to be a nuisance. You are simply not welcome here because your act has worn thin. Ryan did not delete your post, I did. Everyone here gets a long rope, you chose to hang yourself with it.

    • KACaribou

      I read Train 97’s comment and there was absolutely no need to erase it. In fact I have never figured out what the problems have been with his comments.

      This is Canada. Shouldn’t everyone have an opinion and be able to state such?

      Write without fear or favour. Let everyone have an opinion even if it doesn’t agree with yours.

      Do you really think everyone comes here to read the exact same opinions as they also have?

      ——–FN MODERATOR: Please don’t try to make this about freedom of speech. Train#97 has been trolling this site for months and the moderators have had countless complains specifically stemming from this commentor. The pattern is all too predictable, start with a complement, then ask a vailed question about the Flames which goads responses from irritated fans, then straight to fighting with FN commentors. I understand your disatisfaction with my actions toward you, but leave Train out of it.