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How Travis Hamonic may fit in – and hopefully rebound – with the Flames

When the Calgary Flames traded for Travis Hamonic, they added to a defensive group that already boasted Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, and T.J. Brodie. Adding Hamonic does something that’s needed to be done for a while: it solidifies that top four, ensuring all of the Flames’ top defencemen have adequate, compatible partners.

Or at least it does in theory. There’s just one big problem: in 2016-17, Hamonic didn’t just have the worst season of his career; he was arguably one of the worst defencemen in the entire NHL.

But that was last season. This will be 2017-18: new role, new partner, new team. Let’s get into it.

The rescinded trade request

Let’s backtrack with a bit of history first. At the start of the 2015-16 season, Hamonic requested a trade to a western Canadian team – Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, or Winnipeg – due to a personal situation. However, he wasn’t forcing or demanding a trade; he wasn’t trying to handicap the Islanders or hold out on them. It was a personal request and the Islanders did their best to oblige, but couldn’t find the right return.

The Flames were still interested, though, but the fit wasn’t there at the time. Brodie was theorized to be the desired return, which is kind of funny now that they’re likely to be partners for the foreseeable future.

Eventually, though, Hamonic’s situation was resolved, and he rescinded his trade request. However, the Islanders evidently kept him on the block, as he’s now a Flame, gone for a first round pick and two seconds.

Given what the Islanders eventually got, this was the smarter time for the Flames to trade for Hamonic. Brodie was never going to happen – that would have been a lateral move at absolute best – but it makes far more sense for the Flames to give up picks now than it did a year and a half ago. No first then means no Matthew Tkachuk (disastrous) or Juuso Valimaki (probably unfortunate). No first in 2017-18 hopefully means no pick in the 20s, which is much less valuable.

The Flames, with a young core intact, are officially going for it.

Positives to getting Hamonic

  • He has played at a top four level for several seasons now, and has never averaged fewer than 20 minutes a game over a season in his career.
  • He’ll be 27 years old to start the new season – he’s just a couple of months younger than Brodie.
  • You probably aren’t going to find a better contract. Hamonic has three years left on a deal that sees him average $3.857 million per, making him the cheapest among Calgary’s top four.

Negatives to getting Hamonic

  • He’s coming off of the worst year of his career, and has been on a decline for a couple of seasons now.
  • He has suffered three knee injuries in the past three seasons.

Hamonic’s injury history is probably the most concerning thing about him, especially if it correlates to his recent drop in play. Three different knee injuries over three seasons takes its toll, so while Hamonic is relatively young and should have many years ahead of him, it’s not unheard of for some players to have their careers completely derailed by injuries, especially when he really, really needs to skate well to be able to do his job effectively.

Scoring? Not quite

Through 444 NHL games, Hamonic has scored 26 goals and 146 points, good for a points per game of .33. For comparison, Brodie – who isn’t known to be particularly offensively-minded himself – has 31 goals and 181 points through 418 games (.43 points per game).

Nineteen of Hamonic’s career goals have come at even strength, six have been powerplay goals, and one shorthanded. He’s scored 118 even strength points, 25 on the powerplay, and three shorthanded.

The Islanders used him occasionally on the powerplay, but considering the other three defencemen the Flames have at their disposal, he’s not going to displace anyone (and Hamilton should really be quarterbacking the first unit powerplay on his own anyway, while Brodie and Giordano should take the second unit). He was a regular on their penalty kill, though, and seeing as how the Flames have lost Deryk Engelland – one of their most prominent penalty killers – it’s easy to see him stepping into that role.

Hamonic’s career high in points is 33, back in the 2014-15 season; he has scored 20+ points in four of the seven seasons he’s played. Hamonic has a career 1.83 shots per game rate; for comparison, Brodie – who is known to frequently not shoot – has 1.56. Brodie does, however, put up many more assists, and has double Hamonic’s career shooting percentage (6.4% to Hamonic’s 3.2%).

Through the seasons

All numbers are standard 5v5, via Puckalytics.

Season CF60 CA60 CF% CF% rel PDO OZFO% DZFO%
2010-11 55.60 59.46 48.32 3.55 100.09 28.20 32.80
2011-12 53.33 57.04 48.32 0.73 100.28 30.26 30.52
2013 53.44 61.33 46.56 -5.44 99.30 28.73 32.64
2013-14 55.82 55.73 50.04 1.23 99.99 31.07 31.83
2014-15 61.53 59.64 50.78 -3.45 100.53 32.30 30.38
2015-16 57.02 55.52 50.67 1.86 99.59 31.00 31.31
2016-17 50.24 63.83 44.04 -4.47 99.05 28.68 35.15

I want to give Hamonic the benefit of the doubt. If he’s labelled as more of a defensive defenceman – if he’s not going to generate as much offence – then the main stat we want to look at here is CA60. How many events go against his team and towards his goalie’s net while he’s on the ice? That’s what we want to measure.

If the Flames can get the 2015-16 Hamonic, then they’re pumped, because that guy was relatively good at minimizing corsi events against. If they end up with the 2016-17 version, however, then they’re cringing, because he was beyond brutal in that stat. It doesn’t help that his CF60 fell at the same time, helping point out just why he was one of the worst defencemen in the NHL by corsi stats, but the spike in events against him is concerning.

A few reasons for optimism: though his PDO didn’t vary by much, 2016-17 was the unluckiest season of Hamonic’s career. Also, his offensive zone starts fell, and maybe the boost of being a tad more sheltered will encourage his numbers. For reference, this past season Brodie’s offensive zone starts clocked in at 30.77% (Giordano and Hamilton’s were above 30% as well).

Ample recovery time and a reduced role may be the key to Hamonic rebounding for 2017-18. Hopefully he won’t suffer any offseason setbacks and will be as close to 100% as possible when he reports to the Flames. As for the reduced role, that’s a given: there’s absolutely no pressure on him to take the reins and lead the team. He’s slotted in as the second pairing right defenceman. He’s not about to overtake Hamilton. And he’ll have a partner who is strong across the board in most aspects of the game to work with. He should be more sheltered with Calgary, too, which could help support his defensive numbers.

Here’s how Hamonic compares to the typical second pairing defenceman, via OwnThePuck:

Shot suppression is a very, very real concern when it comes to Hamonic, and it has been for at least the past three seasons. Everything else looks to be okay (through the years his scoring numbers have been a bit lower than desired, but considering who else the Flames have, that’s not nearly as big of a concern). If he can rebound in that area, Calgary is laughing. If he can’t, well, there are three years left on his deal.

One other thing to note in hopes of Hamonic rebounding: this past season, under Glen Gulutzan, the Flames were a 50.56% 5v5 CF team, 10th in the NHL. The Islanders, under two different coaches – and remember Jack Capuano was fired and Doug Weight promoted like 10 days after Hamonic’s injury, so most of his season was played under Capuano – had a CF of 47.77%, third worst in the NHL. Flames players had better seasons under Gulutzan than they did under Bob Hartley across the board. It’s entirely possible Hamonic benefits from the same treatment.

Defence partners

Through the 2016-17 season, Hamonic’s main partner was Nick Leddy. Via @RK_Stimp’s playing styles tool, we can see just how they meshed with one another. Hamonic is orange, while Leddy is blue.

Hamonic isn’t bad at anything – he’s clearly above the 50th percentile in every aspect, and appears to be best at transition play – but Leddy’s talents were greater, and branched out further than Hamonic’s. (I should note here that Hamonic also played a fair amount with de Haan over recent seasons, but from what de Haan has shown so far, he appears to have been a slightly worse Hamonic.)

Now, let’s switch gears for a moment. Obtaining Hamonic isn’t just about boosting the Flames’ top four – it’s about fixing Brodie, too. Brodie was a phenomenal partner to Giordano, and when they were the only two defencemen on the Flames worth a damn, it worked. Hamilton’s addition – and the subsequent actually treating him like a top defender – left Brodie stranded by the roadside.

Brodie is green, Wideman is peach, and Stone is purple.

Brodie is great at pretty much everything but shot volume, where he’s very weak. Shot volume is, like, the only thing Stone appears to be good at. Wideman appears to have been a mostly adequate counter to Brodie, but wasn’t particularly great at countering his major weakness in shot volume, and wasn’t much of an upgrade (if at all – his dangerous shot contributions weren’t great) anywhere else.

Now, let’s take a look at how Brodie and Hamonic would theoretically fit together.

Brodie’s strengths are Hamonic’s weaknesses. Hamonic’s strengths are Brodie’s weaknesses. Neither is particularly good at dangerous shot contributions, but they’re a pair of lower scoring defencemen – that’s probably not expected of them, nor should it really get in the way of their actual defending abilities.

But in theory, this looks like it should work. Brodie has a similar shape to Leddy, but he’s stronger in several areas (and significantly weaker in shot volume, which, I mean, we know this, we’ve watched him for years). Hamonic, meanwhile, is much more well-rounded than any partner Brodie had in the last year, sans Wideman who was, well, Wideman; Hamonic being Brodie’s age and not teetering near the end of his NHL career will probably help massively.

Brodie should be better with Hamonic. Hamonic should be better with Brodie. They should form a second defence pairing that can hang with the best of them, sheltered by an elite unit composed of Giordano and Hamilton, on a team that values puck possession.

We’ll see if things turn out.