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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports

In defence of Dougie Hamilton

Dougie Hamilton had been doing so well.

Three penalties in Game 1 was bad enough, but against the Ducks specifically? If there was any one thing the Flames would have to do to have a chance at winning – any. one. thing – it was to stay out of the box, and he took three separate trips, all of them unforced errors.

But because he’s a top pairing defenceman for the Flames, he still got top minutes that game. He did in Game 2, as well.

And then, with five and a half minutes to go in the third period of a tied playoff game, he held Corey Perry’s stick.

Whether or not it was fair for him to get the only penalty on the play, fact is, he did hold the stick, and there was no reason for him to. It was his fourth penalty in just two games.

In these past two games, the Flames have taken 11 penalties in total. The Ducks have scored three powerplay goals. So that’s over a third of penalties that are Hamilton’s fault, and two of the Ducks’ three powerplay goals have come while Hamilton has been sitting in the box. If there weren’t already warning lights surrounding Hamilton after Game 1, we’ve upgraded to full on klaxons now.

And yet, Hamilton will continue to get big minutes for the Flames: because he remains one of the best defencemen they have, and will likely hold that title for years to come.

Think back to two years ago, when the Flames’ top pairing consisted of Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman, and Mark Giordano’s injury forced Deryk Engelland to partner up with T.J. Brodie. Going into that offseason, one of the things the Flames needed, more than anything else, was a top four guy: someone who would make the defence less of a train wreck after Giordano and Brodie. There were some names available in free agency: guys in their mid-late 20s, even, who could probably step in and help out immediately.

Instead, Brad Treliving ignored them and traded for a then-22-year-old who already had three years of NHL experience – plus 19 playoff games – under his belt.

It was a coup. It was exactly what this team needed in the worst way. It was a franchise-altering trade; for the Flames, the better. It really, truly cannot be properly stated just how big a difference Hamilton has made to this team.

And that’s with the adjustment period and the mismanagement along the way before things finally clicked earlier this season. Treat the top pairing defenceman like a top pairing defenceman, and chances are, he’ll reward you with top pairing defenceman play.

Everything is so much more amplified in the playoffs, and not necessarily in a good way. A season lasts 82 games; a playoff series isn’t even a 10th as long. Every success is blown out of proportion, just as every failure is.

So yeah – of all the Flames as of late, Hamilton has probably been the most boneheaded among them. So let’s take a moment to recall his regular season contributions, the 81-game sample size that means more than a brief two game slate ever will:

  • 50 points: first among Flames defencemen, fourth in team scoring, ninth among defencemen league-wide.
  • 222 shots: first among all Flames, fifth among defencemen league-wide.
  • 55.53% 5v5 CF: first among Flames defencemen, third on the team, sixth among regular defenceman league-wide (raw corsi only).
  • 47.93% offensive zone starts: third worst among regular Flames defencemen, ahead of just Engelland and Brodie; leauge-wide, worse than the five defencemen with better corsi (and the only one below 50%).
  • elevated Giordano from a 46.9% CF to 56.7% – only a 0.4% increase in Giordano’s zone starts.

The Flames aren’t anywhere near the playoffs without Hamilton, let alone in a position to be grumpy about his taking four penalties in two games.

Could Hamilton be better this postseason? Absolutely, and I doubt he himself would disagree. But of all the faults the Flames have experienced in these two games, his are the least concerning, because he has more than the power to make up for it.

Whether he’ll be able to within the short time constraints of a playoff series remains to be seen – but the Flames are unquestionably a better team with Hamilton on the ice, and for everything he’s achieved this entire year, he’s earned multiple chances.

Which is why Glen Gulutzan will continue to go back to him, mistakes and undisciplined play aside: because he’s still one of their best chances to win this thing.

  • Juan Valdez

    Hamilton is a human being just like everyone else. I was frustrated yesterday, but in hindsight this is playoff hockey and it was a chincy call. I am proud of the way the Flames competed last night and I will stick by this team even in the darker times.

    • Kevin R

      Here Here! It was a chincy call in light of similar uncalled infractions during that game. I think the Hammy & Brodie penalties were a lot of frustration compounded by pure horsecrap luck the way that winning goal went off Bouma’s skate. Ducks could try to bank that shot in 25 more times & it probably wouldn’t go in the way it did. Watching other playoff games, I see the same bull crap officiating that were driving fans wild, especially in the Minny/St Louis game. The NHL have a big problem overall with the consistency of how games are called & quite honestly, I don’t know what the solution is. NHL officiating is the worst out of all the professional leagues.

  • trox

    Spare me the Dougie took a dumb penalty narrative. Call a spade a spade: Perry clearly interfered with him and created a 2 on 1 in the process. Hamilton only grabbed the stick after illegal and unpenalized contact was made by Perry. To try and equate this with the genuinely dumb penalties he took in game 1 is absurd. The refs blew this one.

    • Captain Ron

      I’m careful in picking my spots when criticizing the officials but they blew this one. Should have been offsetting minors if anything in a game like that. Just kills me how a guy like Perry always gets away with that crap.

  • Franko J

    No doubt Hamilton is having a rough series. I still think he is better than the alternative if the Flames didn’t trade for him. Bad call sure, but the bonehead penalty by Brodie is what sunk this team. Basically the series boils down to the Ducks capitalizing on their opportunities and Calgary failing on theirs. That is why this team is down 0-2.

  • kid presentable

    it was a bad call, especially at that time in the game. the result ended up being what we’re all used to at the honda centre. the thing with penalties like these to dougie and brodie is that they will learn and continue to play at a high level, whereas watching brouwer fail to help the team in any way in his 16 minutes doesn’t hold the same promise.

    same with watching bartkowski mess up routine passes under no pressure again and again all season and all series. if people want to blame dougie, they should blame gulutzan/stajan/bouma/brouwer/engelland/bartkowski for never doing much to help the flames build offensive pressure

  • class1div1

    With all the available technology,analytics,stats hd video,and numerous cameras,teams have been able to dissect each and every second of a game and precisely pick out all the mistakes made.
    Apparently all this technology has not caught on with the Officials Association of the NHL.
    If it had caught on it would tell a tale of inconsistency and poor work.
    Lets put these officials in a position to be accountable for there work. They should receive a grade for every game.
    Let the media ask the official at the end of the game why he gave Tkchuk a 4 minute penalty for a accidental high stick with no blood, that resulted in the sticked player remaining on the ice for the pp.
    There is absolutely no accountability with officials and they answer to no one.
    The league will eventually have to make them accountable.Cant happen soon enough.

    • FuNky ANGER

      A player does not have to be leaking so much blood that its visible to the viewing audience for the doubke minor penalty to be give … there just has to be blood. In the Tkachuck’s case it was probably a very small amount behind the Ducks players lips … but it was still there. We don’t need any more conspiracy theories about how the refs hate us so much.

      • FlamesfaninSask

        Just so you know the blood rule being a double minor is not true. Nowhere in NHL rule book does it say blood equals four minutes. So it was just the ref deciding that it was worthy of four minutes. I think the ref should have to answer why an accidental high stick was deemed worthy of a four minute penalty

  • RedMan

    What is Brouwers role on the team?
    I thought he was the playoff guy it was going to show up and take over in the playoffs. Maybe he’s waiting tell the right moment in the playoffs?

    • Flamethrower

      He has been such a disappointment all season why should his play change now. Tre will have to choke on this one.
      Going forward the right move is to insert Hamilton & Lazar for Brouwer & Bouma, try to create something. Replace Bouma on the PK and Brouwer on the PP.

  • Pizzaman

    I am sorry but the reason that GG will continue to back Dougie is because GG doesn’t make changes or lose it. How come it took until a January train ride to Montreal from Ottawa to get angry at the players? Why did he stick with Grossman for so long or Bartkowski/Brouwer so far? He took a long time to pair up Dougie with Gio, and increase Dougie’s minutes. Still hasnt increased Ferlands minutes. So as Ari indicates GG will do the right thing in this case which is stick with Dougie – but for the wrong reason, he doesn’t like to make a change!