While many of us have caught on to Dougie Hamilton’s beast of a season, there are some who still aren’t sold on the quality of defenceman the Calgary Flames have on their hands. Well, I’m here to tell you Hamilton has been one of the best players at his position across the league this season. Knowing he’s still only 23 years old, that’s terrifying for opposing teams. Knowing how votes are tabulated, Hamilton probably won’t end up a finalist for the Norris Trophy, but on merit, he certainly should be given serious consideration.
As it stands, Hamilton sits fourth on Flames with 48 points in 75 games, trailing only Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Mikael Backlund. He also sits sixth among defencemen across the league in points, and only by a small margin to those ahead of him save Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, and Victor Hedman. Offensively, Hamilton has been one of the most productive blueliners in the league this season.
It goes beyond, that, though. Hamilton’s underlying numbers are dynamite this season and they vault him into an elite stratosphere. Take a look at his 5v5 outputs this season. Note: All tables in this article are current as of March 25.
Let’s start with possession, as Hamilton’s shot rate (CF%) is seventh highest in the league this season. He currently trails a trio of Kings (Brayden McNabb, Jake Muzzin, and Drew Doughty), a pair of Bruins (Colin Miller and Torey Krug), and Chicago’s Michael Kempny in raw possession numbers this season, which is impressive to begin with.
However, Hamilton’s offensive zone start ratio is drastically lower than all six of the players ahead of him; he’s currently under 48% while everyone else ahead of him is up over at least 53%, if not substantially higher. Considering usage and outputs, Hamilton is the league’s best possession defencemen this year.
Where it really gets good is when we look at what Hamilton is doing offensively (compiled via Corsica). At 5v5, Hamilton ranks second in both points per 60 and shots per 60, ahead of names like Hedman and Karlsson while trailing only Burns’s stupid offensive totals (1.96 and 8.88, respectively). Note: Corsica lists Burns as a RW, if you’re wondering why he doesn’t show up in blueline rankings.
We’re talking about cream of the crop stuff from Hamilton this season, and it’s not like he’s getting the benefit of crazy luck, either. Hamilton’s PDO is right about where it should be, legitimizing his underlying counts even more. Plain and simple, the dude is having a ridiculous season. And yet, there are some who still won’t be on board even after absorbing all that. Hence, I present the next section.
He’s nothing without Giordano. This just isn’t true. As a few different people have pointed out recently, Giordano and Hamilton have made up one of the league’s best defensive pairings this season, which is a dual effort. But there is an underlying sentiment in some quarters that this is solely, or largely, because of Giordano’s efforts.
I’m not disputing Giordano makes Hamilton better, because he absolutely does. But it also works both ways here, because Hamilton has elevated Giordano’s game to a large degree, too. In fact, analyzing the pair’s time together and apart via stats.hockeyanalysis.com reveals some pretty convincing evidence Hamilton is the driving force of the two.
As the numbers show, and as everyone already knew, Hamilton and Giordano are dynamite together. But there is a much larger drop when Giordano is playing away from Hamilton than vice versa, at least when looking at the possession metrics.
Again, no one is disputing being placed with Giordano has been a huge help for Hamilton. But this truly is a pairing and Hamilton is, at the very least, an equal driving force. Hamilton is a really good defencemen regardless of his partner, but finding the right guy to pair with him has allowed things to reach that next level.
He’s not good defensively. This also really is a myth. Sure, Hamilton doesn’t defend players the same way a player like, say, Marc-Edouard Vlasic does, because he’s a different player. It’s true; Hamilton will likely never be a physically imposing defender, but that has very little to do with how well he defends away from the puck.
The pairing of Hamilton and Giordano routinely faces some of the toughest opposing competition and they do so for more than 20 minutes a night, on average. Over the last two months or so, Hamilton’s ice time has crept up to top three on the team behind Giordano and T.J. Brodie; he sees less time than the other two mainly because he’s rarely used on the penalty kill.
We’ve gone over Hamilton’s possession metrics, which are some of the strongest both on the team and across the league. Now, let’s analyze just how difficult his minutes are based on Corsica’s two Quality of Competition metrics. The first measures the weighted average time on ice of the quality of opposition faced while the other looks at the weighted possession average of opponents faced. In both circumstances, Hamilton rates amongst the highest amongst Calgary blueliners as charted below.
So, to summarize, Hamilton is killing it on the possession side of things, is not getting favourable zone starts, is taking on the toughest of competition, is playing more than 20 minute a night, and isn’t seeing the benefit of abnormal luck or good fortune. All of those things lead me to believe he defends just fine.
He’s only 23!
As we wrap things up, Hamilton’s age might be the most promising aspect of all. While not an exact science by any means, more often than not defencemen develop at a slightly slower rate than their counterparts at forward. In saying that, there’s plenty to suggest Hamilton is still on his way up the ladder en route to his ceiling. If you’re a Flames fan, that should make you ecstatic knowing how good Hamilton has been already this season.
Additionally, Hamilton is under contract for another four years at $5.75 million on a deal that looks better and better every passing day. As I said, for various reasons, Hamilton likely won’t end up as a Norris Trophy finalist, and that’s fine. Regardless of league-wide recognition, though, Hamilton is having one of the best seasons at his position of anyone in the league and that doesn’t suck.