The exclusion of Mark Jankowski from the Calgary Flames’ opening night roster received mixed reviews from fans. While some viewed the move as a temporary paper transaction and had faith that Jankowski would find his way back to Calgary soon enough, some felt quite a bit worse about cutting a young player who definitely proved he deserved a shot in the NHL. For some reason, this outcry morphed into a courtroom trial for Freddie Hamilton, as fans felt he cost Jankowski a job and were calling for his head. He deserves better.
First, a quick background on his NHL career. Freddie was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 2010 NHL draft, and after bouncing between the NHL and AHL, found his way into the Colorado Avalanche organization in 2015. Shortly after the Flames traded for Dougie Hamilton, Freddie was traded to Calgary for a conditional seventh round pick – a pick that the Flames ended up keeping because Freddie did not play enough NHL games.
Complaint #1: Freddie isn’t useful to have an extra forward
Saddled with fourth line or extra forward duties for most of his time in Calgary, Freddie has made a living being a utility forward who can slot into the lineup wherever necessary. Though he spends most of his time in the press box, he brings energy and positional flexibility whenever he is asked to suit up for a game. He played 26 games for the team last season, scoring two goals in a limited role.
Sure, Freddie isn’t a guy who will put up significant numbers or make flashy plays. He’s a grinder, but it’s important to keep in mind that these types of players are incredibly useful to every team.
For example, Joseph Cramarossa may not have turned heads during his PTO with the Flames this year, but many pundits saw serious potential for him to earn a contract with the team solely due to his ability to play in any situation and with any linemates. He ultimately signed an AHL deal with the Stockton Heat, partially due to the fact that the Flames already had Freddie on an NHL deal.
Complaint #2: Freddie actively hurts the team’s chances of winning
He isn’t a Corsi beast by any means, but it’s simply untrue to say that Freddie lowers the likelihood of a team win. He plays in every fourth game, and when he does play, he fits in seamlessly onto the bottom line. Last season wasn’t his greatest, but taking into account his past two years in Calgary, his numbers actually show he can be an impactful fourth liner. Via Corsica:
In comparison, other depth forwards had significantly worse relative Corsi ratings; Garnet Hathaway at -0.2%, Curtis Lazar at -5.9%, and Tanner Glass at -6.5%, just to name a few. Freddie has the potential to help the team win every time he plays and definitely deserves a bit more recognition than he gets.
Complaint #3: Freddie is only here to keep Dougie happy
It would be naive to ignore the timing of Freddie’s trade to Calgary. It is no secret that Dougie’s transition from Boston to Calgary was a difficult one, and as a cornerstone of the franchise for many years into the future, it was important for the Flames to show Dougie some love. While I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they traded for Freddie as a way to bring some familiarity to Dougie’s recently upturned life, that reasoning cannot be applied to Freddie’s inclusion on the team this year. Dougie and Freddie have a very close relationship. They live together and are rarely seen apart (except on the ice). Even Wikipedia shows that being Dougie’s brother is among the most noteworthy facts about Freddie.
But is this a bad thing? Maybe Freddie doesn’t play a ton of games or play in high stakes situations. Maybe he isn’t a game breaking player who can turn the tides and carry a team on his back. But his brother is. Even if Freddie was as useless a player as Tanner Glass, the mere fact that he makes Dougie feel more included and more comfortable in Calgary should be more than enough reason to keep him around. Dougie is among the best defensemen in the league, and is the key cog in an elite blueline. If Freddie keeps Dougie at his best, there is no reason to complain.
He’s number one in Dougie’s heart, and he should be number one in yours too.