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.
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:
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?
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.