FlamesNation Player Evaluations: Dougie Hamilton

Douglas Jonathan “Dougie” Hamilton came to the Calgary Flames in a dramatic manner, moving from the Boston Bruins to the Flames for three draft picks the afternoon prior to the 2015 NHL Draft in Florida. National media waggled their tongues, simultaneously wondering why a 22-year-old would want out of Boston while salivating at the possibilities of Calgary’s impressive blueline bunch.

Unfortunately, the bar was perhaps set too high initially for Hamilton. Was his play to the standard of a top-four blueliner making $5.75 million per season? Eventually, yes. But Hamilton’s season trajectory was basically a microcosm of the entire club’s: they were lost without T.J. Brodie acting as a safety net in October and once they got their wits about them by about mid-to-late November, they were too far out for it to make much of a difference.

SEASON SUMMARY

Brodie missed the first nine games of the season. Hamilton started the season alongside Mark Giordano facing the big dogs of the NHL, rather than spending time on a secondary line getting his feet wet and wrapping his head around a system that was much different than the one he was used to in Boston.

It went poorly. Despite playing reasonably well given the circumstances, Hamilton never looked comfortable – it also doesn’t help that the team’s PDO lineup-wide cratered in October, so every single mistake Hamilton or Giordano made together was amplified by a red light going on behind their goalie.

As this fancy chart indicates (the Y-axis is the time on ice of the players Hamilton played against), Hamilton got slid down the depth chart a bit to regain his confidence and actually learn the systems:

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 5.37.32 PM

He seemed to find his stride and swagger by mid-December and was moved back up the depth chart again. It wasn’t until the Wideman suspension and Smid injury caused a major shuffling of the defensive deck – and by that point the Flames were beginning to unload bodies and prepare auditions for next season.

He set career highs in goals and points (12 goals, 43 points), and was 22nd in NHL in scoring among D-men; of the 21 ahead of him, 19 had more power-play points.

IMPACT ON TEAM

He began season with Giordano, then moved to Engelland, Russell and Brodie.

Hamilton faced tougher competition (measured by average time on ice of those players) than everybody but Brodie and Giordano, which makes a lot of sense given he’s basically the #3 defender. He received more consistent offensive-zone starts than every regular blueliner save for Dennis Wideman (which makes sense given both of their skill sets and Hamilton’s positioning as the next-gen Wideman). Given the circumstances, he had pretty solid possession numbers.

Hamilton played a bit with every regular defender on the roster, though primarily with Brodie, Engelland, Giordano and Russell. How’d he impact his teammates?

douglas

Of his most common linemates, Hamilton made every single one of them better (or they stayed roughly the same) except for Russell. Frolik, Backlund, Ferland and Bennett saw both their numbers and Hamilton’s improve when they played together, while the remainder were about the same or were improved at Hamilton’s expense.

He’s 22. Aside from a player that was an established possession punching-bag, Hamilton made everyone better (or didn’t impact them much at all). Considering that his age makes it likely that he’ll get better in this regard, Hamilton’s off to a great start.

WHAT COMES NEXT?

Hamilton is signed for another five seasons (through the end of the 2020-21 season), and he’s due to turn 23 in June. He’s super-young, signed forever, and likely to keep improving here and there for the next little while at least.

The big question right now is just how good Hamilton can become. There’s a million things he hasn’t done, but just you wait.

  • Rad

    One thing about Dougie: he has a heavy wrister, that he has a knack for finding the net with even through heavy traffic.

    Now that BH is out of the picture, can we all agree he belongs on the first power play unit now and forever?

    Also, he’s 22. So yeah.

  • Baalzamon

    The Bruins had an awful 2015 draft, especially in the first round. Zboril, Senyshyn, and DeBrusk were all off the board (except arguably Zboril) and all of them instantly flopped.

    I mean, it’s only been one year, but it’s not looking good for Sweeney.

    • FlamesFan1489

      Agreed. I think DeBrusk will be a decent NHLer (he’s definitely a Bruins type player but likely a decent energy guy or 3rd liner) but outside of Zboril, they had some major reaches. The fact they passed on Barzal three times is insane. You could argue most of the players selected after them in the 1st round were already better than them AND also took bigger steps forward in their development this year.

    • flamesburn89

      And the Oilers gave up a similar package of picks, compared to what the Flames gave up for Hamilton, to acquire Griffin Reinhart.

      Dude looks like he’s destined to be a bottom-pairing defenceman at best.

      Good times 🙂

    • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

      Don’t get too high on the highest paid defense in the league.sure they put up lots of points but like it or not they were not so good defensively.
      You can blame that on your goalies if you want but a great defense would not give up the number of shots they did.
      With what that defense was paid this year they should have been top five not bottom five.?

      • ChinookArchYYC

        You worry too much about the Flames. Once Wideman, Engelland and Smid are gone after next season, the team will open up nearly $12M of cap space and still have Giordano, Brodie and Russell plus a full stable of young D in the AHL.

        The Oilers on the other hand . . . not so much.

      • piscera.infada

        I get what you’re trying to say here, but the Flames were actually 11th in the league in shots against.

        There were periods this year where the Flames were a complete mess defensively, but part of that is a systematic issue, where the wingers were clearly directed to fly the zone early. This created a lot of odd man scenarios below the goal-line, which for a team that already has a tough time defending the cycle is a death knell. I have no doubt that with the correct coaching hire, and the jettisoning of some over-paid and severely under-performing veterans (Wideman, Smid, Engelland, Russell [already]), you’ll see a top-tier team defensively soon enough. Thanks for coming out…

        • Juan Valdez

          Russell didn’t underperform. He played the same way he’s played his entire career. He blocked shots, but couldn’t make an outlet pass to save his life. There was at least one goal in game 7 against the Blues that was a direct result of him turning the puck over in the neutral zone.

          Dallas got fleeced.

          • piscera.infada

            No argument here. I meant under-performing in a more broad sense: their contract value and/or their spot in the line-up. For example, Russell should not be a number 3 defenseman–to say nothing of more than that in the case of injury (remember he and Wideman played ahead of Brodie post-Gio last year).

  • KACaribou

    When the season began, Dougie was so bad and was coughing up so many pucks, that many of us were actually questioning that trade (AKA “The Fleecing”, though it is realistically too early to conclude).

    Fast forward and not only has Dougie proven to be the third best D-man on the team, he has our only real chance to be a Norris Trophy threat. His size, mixed with his skating ability and his nose for the net make him better potentially than even TJ (mostly because he has twice the shot).

    Not sure it’s possible, but if Dougie can mix a little mean into his game and gain 10-20 lbs, the kid could be a real force and become our second best player on the team.

    I have been critical of his early play, but he has unbelievable talent and we’re lucky to have him.

    • FlamesFanOtherCity

      I wonder about that statement of Hamilton being our only real Norris threat. Gio is pretty consistent in being in the top 10 in defense scoring. Brodie has a similar p/gp as Gio, with far less PP time.

      Brodie may never get the Norris votes that Gio does, but he is much more well-rounded player. Once he gets used to shooting more, or playing a role on an effective PP unit, the points will start coming.

      This year two out of three Norris finalists are tops in points for defense, while Doughty is 9th (Gio is 6th). Doughty is 5th in +-. I would be fine with Doubty winning the Norris, since I don’t feel that scoring should be the only important part. Both Karlsson and Burns are minus players, even with all those points.

      • KACaribou

        Yes you are right.

        But…

        Although Gio gets a lot of points, I don’t see him ever competing for top scoring D-man. Brodes doesn’t shoot enough, and seems to have an inferior shot to Dougie – a much bigger man.

        I think in the last couple of months, Hamilton showed his PPG can be right up there with the top D-men in the NHL. I never checked the stats on that, so I could be wrong, but it seemed like that was the case. He certainly has more potential to score like a Karlsson from my vantage point.

        Norris voting is oblique as you say, and certainly doesn’t pinpoint who the best defenseman is. Unfortunately to win the Norris, you have to score a sh#tload of points.

        • FlamesFanOtherCity

          Last season (2014/15) had Gio at the top in scoring, until his untimely injury. He got votes even though he dropped off due to his injury. If both Gio and Brodie are healthy, there is no reason to think they can’t be near the top of Flames scoring.

          Brodie is as skilled as a forward on the rush, so he can easily add points that way.

        • Baalzamon

          The biggest thing for me with Hamilton is he needs to stop defaulting to poke checks in tight. Like, he’s got a long reach and there’s no harm in using it to his advantage to break up plays, but with his size there’s no reason why he shouldn’t initiate contact in close quarters rather than try to shrug it off.

          I was very excited when the Flames traded for him, and nothing has dimmed my optimism since. He was easily my favorite player in the 2011 draft class (obviously this was before I was familiar with Gaudreau).

  • Franko J

    If he continues to learn how to use his frame and reach on the defensive side of the puck watch out.
    Hamilton became more comfortable as the season progressed. Just has to come up with a little more edge to his game, if he does he reminds me of Hedman in Tampa.