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Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Just how good has Dougie Hamilton been?

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.

His season

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.

Dispelling myths

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.

  • Raffydog

    Totally agree. There were a lot of fans bemoaning that we gave up a first round pick for him, but I always saw it as we drafted one of the best dmen in the league in the first round

    • SmellOfVictory

      There were? I don’t remember a single person bemoaning that trade. Everything I read was people being ecstatic that the Flames acquired an awesome player so cheaply.

      • Captain Ron

        It was an unbelievable score at the time. Accelerated our rebuild in a big way. Take him out of the lineup right now and look at where we would be. The future is very bright and that deal alone should buy the GM a lot of goodwill time. I haven’t been this satisfied watching games at the Dome in a long time. I love how this team plays and it is only going to get better as time goes on. I used to watch the good teams come through town and think to myself man I wish we had a team that played like that. Love watching them play live now. Fun times right around the corner!

    • Kevin R

      & those Fnnnnng Leafs wanted to scoop him on pennies on the $$$. If we can get Brodie a great D partner & get that 2nd pairing up close to the calibre of Gio & Hammy & look out, we can afford to groom some of our high end home grown talent. I like Stone, just not sure if it’s the trade effect or what, not totally sure he’s the guy. At a reasonable price he certainly could be a good option.

  • ALL THE WAY IN

    I am looking forward to a Brodie, Hamilton combo sometime down the road. I think Gio would be the perfect mentor for a players such as Rasmus Andersson/Fox/Kylington.

  • scoopz

    I want to see Andersson on the second pairing with Brodie and Stone with Kylington on the third.

    I think that Gio eventually gets bumped down to the 4/5 slot maybe even as soon as next year depending on the kids.

    Brodie/Hamilton
    Kylington/Andersson
    Gio/Stone

    Kulak goes to Vegas, I think.

      • scoopz

        Pretty sure I said maybe as soon as next year. Have watched every game this year. I’m not advocating for it now, or even into next season, but as time goes on, this will be the next logical progression. I can’t help but wonder if you guys are paying attention, as it’s fairly obvious that he will not be giving production worth $6.75M for much longer.

    • HOFer_dirty30

      Gio isn’t putting up the same points as a few years back but he is a top nhl dman defensively. Like have you watch many games? He shuts down the oppositions top players all game. Putting him on the 3rd pairing makes no sense.

  • Arminius

    Let’s all take a moment to thank Peter Chiarelli for going into trade negotiations swinging his fat gut around and blustering how he was prepared to offer sheet Hamilton from Boston..Pretty much ensuring he would never be a Coiler

  • stuhfan

    Great analysis Pat. I’m sending this to every annoying Bruins fan I know.

    The fact that some of our guys get criticized for “not using their size” – Monahan & Hamilton primarily – is amusing. I’d rather have players who can score, defend, and generally play their positions well. A few supporting characters to paste the opposition through the glass every now and then doesn’t hurt, but not everyone on the team needs to play this way.

    • ComeOn

      The only problem I have with him is that he does use his size defensively…he uses it to maintain separation from the guy coming at him…a guy that invariably uses that space to take a shot. Its a basic defensive issue that, unfortunately, takes away from an otherwise great player.

      Close up that space Dougie…

  • jupiter

    The stat’s say he’s better than Gio.The eye test says he plays a more confident game when he is paired with a quality veteran like Gio.It’s the chicken and the egg story. You left out sample size. He’s getting better and better playing where he is, and was a steal of a deal for Calgary.He will surpass Gio but he hasn’t done that yet.

  • Azim

    That trade with Boston in the summer of 2015 cannot be overstated. Finding a potential franchise-defenceman at the beginning (or before his prime), yet with enough experience to make an impact right away? Just a huge game-changer for the Flames. He’s had some bumps along the way (like the first-half of last season), but if he continues to develop, he will soon become the team’s clear #1 D (can argue he’s there already) and be in the Norris conversation on an annual basis.

    • Arminius

      And I think everyone is willing to forgive that start chalking it up to a new team and new system. It can’t go understated. Look at the Flames.this year with new coaching ..it takes time. Even
      Look at us now..God damn..Gully with one of the best first year coaching numbers in a Cow town area code!

    • deantheraven

      Especially when you look at what they did with the picks. Whenever Gio passes the mantle, Dougie will carry it to Norris Land, maybe even Conn Smythe country.

  • Burning Ring of Fire

    What makes it even better is that the Flames have some solid D prospects waiting in the wings. Could be a really solid defensive group in the near future

  • SeanCharles

    Before we got him he was on my short list of players I dreamt about acquiring. He’s a big, young RH dman that has massive potential.

    I was soooo stoked when we got him and so annoyed when everyone crapped on him earlier in his tenure here. I knew in time ppl would change their tune because he is just too good to be utilized as 4-6 dman like he was for a while there.

    Thanks Brad for getting him. I think our dcore will be the envy of the league in the near future when we can compliment our top end with guys like Andersson, Kylington, Hickey and Fox. I’m not giving up on guys like Kulak, Ollas Mattsson and Falkovsky either.

    Things look good on the back end and the acquisition of Hamilton further underlines the organization’s realization that we needed to stock the cupboards with some young talent back there.

  • canadian1967

    Flamesnation should post a bracket that we can fill in for the remaining Cgy, Edm, SJ and Anaheim games to see where we predict the standings will end up.
    after making my predictions I have the standings finishing like:

    2. Anaheim 100pts 41ROW
    2. Calgary 99pts 43ROW
    3. Edmonton 99pts 41ROW
    4. San Jose 97pts 43ROW

  • Fan the Flames

    If Dougie continues to progress he is going to be a cornerstone for the Flames for a long time . He has the ability to get his wrist shot through traffic . He knows when to jump into the play and although not real physical he can break up the cycle in his own end better than any other Flames defencemen. He has been fun to watch this year .

  • C Watson

    As good as Dougie is, I don’t believe he will reach his ceiling for another 3 or 4 years. This is a good thing. I don’t even need him to be overly physical as with his size he only has to be “in the way” to be defensively effective.
    Some changes on the blue line are inevitable for next season. Smid and Wideman will be gone and most likely Engelland as well. I don’t see Bartkowski as a viable piece for the future. If the Flames are able to retain Stone that still leaves three spots open, two to play and one for the popcorn booth.
    As much as I would like to see promotion from within I actually expect Treliving to acquire an NHL proven Dman in the off season.
    Without that acquisition this is how the blue line might shape up in my fantasy scenario:
    1st pairing – Brodie – Hamilton
    2nd pairing – Gio – Andersson
    3rd pairing – Kulak – Stone
    Popcorn booth – Wotherspoon (until either Fox or Killington is ready)

    • Burning Ring of Fire

      I think LA packed it in a while ago – so maybe rephrase to “Edmonton played as hard as they could against a team that packed it in a while ago.”