FlamesNation player evaluation: Travis Hamonic

Arguably the biggest move of the 2017 offseason among the entire National Hockey League was made by the Calgary Flames when they acquired Travis Hamonic at the 2017 NHL Draft. The draft floor was abuzz, and Hamonic’s arrival automatically heralded the opening of the Flames’ window of contention. Expectations were high for the Manitoba product… and seemingly were completely disconnected from the type of player Hamonic has been since originally joining the New York Islanders in 2010-11.

By the standards of a top-flight offensive defender, Hamonic disappointed in 2017-18. By his own standards – that of a meat-and-potatoes defensive blueliner – he was uneven to start but settled in nicely.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

2017-18 season summary

Hamonic was paired immediately with TJ Brodie, and ended up playing almost exclusively with Brodie on the second pairing aside from a handful of instances where Glen Gulutzan swapped his pairings and a couple short stretches that Hamonic missed due to injury.

The challenges he had playing with Brodie – particularly regarding communications, positional tendencies and playing style – seemed to lessen as the season wore on. But the issues were prominent enough for Elliotte Friedman to make note of them in a 31 Thoughts column in January, referencing Brendan Dillon’s challenges adjusting to playing with Brent Burns in San Jose:

22. Dillon’s comments about getting used to Burns make me wonder about T.J. Brodie/Travis Hamonic’s early struggles in Calgary. Hamonic is structure, Brodie is a jazz virtuoso. It takes time.

It improved, but the duo never developed enough chemistry to be considered a strong second pairing (in the way that Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton are considered a strong first pairing). That was reflected in Hamonic’s (lack of) offensive production.

Games played Goals Assists Points TOI/GP 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF% rel OZS% PDO
74 1 10 11 20:42 51.37% -3.33% 50.00% 0.989

After being limited to 49 games in 2016-17 – a concern expressed by those nervous about his acquisition – Hamonic suited up for 74 games and played a lot of hockey. He developed some chemistry with Giordano as the top pairing on the first penalty kill unit, but he didn’t see any significant power play minutes.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

If you had hoped for another Hamilton-esque player acquired for a Hamilton-esque price, you’re probably disappointed. But if you had hoped for a Robyn Regehr-like shutdown blueliner, he was absolutely fine for that role.

Compared to last season

In everything but goal differential, Hamonic had one of the better seasons of his NHL career. He played more than he did last season and was used in a lot of situations. He only scored once, a product of his personal shooting percentage cratering to 0.9% after being 4.1% in 2016-17 in Brooklyn – the difference was another three goals. Even if he had shot closer to his career average of 3.6% he would’ve scored twice more.

Aside from his on-ice shooting percentage (6.3%, in the bottom third of regular NHL defenders), Hamonic’s underlyings and rate stats were strong. He had his second-best Corsi For Per 60 Minutes rate (his line generated puck possession) and his third-best Corsi Against Per 60 Minutes rate (his line suppressed chances well). Heck, he generated his lowest Scoring Chances Against Per 60 and High Danger Chances Against Per 60 in his career, but because nothing went in when he was on the ice – and due to the Wacky Misadventures of TJ and Travis in the first few months of the season – he was in the red quite a lot.

In short? Hamonic wasn’t as bad offensively or defensive as his counting statistics – goals, points, plus/minus – would indicate. As much as anybody who wore a Flames sweater last season, he was a victim of the bounces.

What about next season?

Hamonic will likely be back next season. He’ll play second or third pairing behind Giordano and Hamilton. If there are no personnel changes, I’d expect new head coach Bill Peters to test the waters with Brodie and Hamonic and see how things look. But considering how analytics-savvy Peters is said to be, and given the importance of a good start next season, I’d be curious if he tries Hamonic out with Brett Kulak. They played a little bit here and there last season and that duo’s Relative Corsi (+0.37%) was a lot better than his results with Brodie (-2.74%). It’s definitely worth a shot.

In terms of on-ice performance, expect Hamonic in 2018-19 to look more or less the same as he did in 2017-18. He’s a stay-at-home defender through and through who will probably never post Hamilton-esque numbers. That said, his offensive results are bound to bounce back a bit after being snake-bit by preposterously bad luck last season.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

#5 – Mark Giordano #7 – TJ Brodie
#8 – Chris Stewart #10 – Kris Versteeg
#11 – Mikael Backlund #13 – Johnny Gaudreau
#15 – Tanner Glass #18 – Matt Stajan
#19 – Matthew Tkachuk #20 – Curtis Lazar
#21 – Garnet Hathaway #23 – Sean Monahan


    • kirby

      Yeah i don’t know who was expecting that lol, but he was expected to be a shut down defender and solidify our defense. But he didn’t do that either, his guys were constantly getting open and getting to loose pucks in front of the net, etc. Our defense was worse after adding him than it was before. Now of course, there are some other factors that could have played into that, but at the end of the day the fact remains: he didn’t do anything close to what he was supposed to. Didn’t contribute much in any zone of the ice. Let’s hope a new system and a year under his belt after the move helps him reach expectations, because so far he’s been a massive disappointment and a big waste of valuable assets.

      But if we were able to flip him back out this offseason for something like a top RW i don’t think i’d be the slightest bit opposed to that. Rather explore that avenue than Hamilton, that’s for sure.

    • deantheraven

      Try Brodie with Trouba. The Jets are going to let at least 1 UFA D-man go this year because they have to . Brodie’s contract makes sense for them moving forward.

  • The juice

    Having team Canada lose to the Swiss makes me question his coaching abilities. Seriously Team Canada is an all star roster. I hope he has some good assistants coming in.

    • Trevy

      An all star roster with mediocre goaltending. The US also thought they had an all star roster. Just the nature of the tournament. I was just waiting for people to start questioning Peters after this tournament. So I guess him winning Gold in 2016, means nothing and now his coaching ability is in question

    • Rudy27

      Watched the last half of today’s game and thought Canada’s team structure looked very good and they had good control of the game. I was shocked that the Swiss goalie wasn’t a star of the game. Without his play Canada would have won by a couple of goals.

  • Squishin

    Hamonic needs to go with Kulak next year, it’s the only thing that makes sense.While both Kulak and Brodie are offensive defencemen, Kulak is more positionally aware and less likely to take risks. Meanwhile, I think Brodie and Andersson would play well together.

    • Korcan

      IMO the last thing Peters should do is partner a rookie defenseman with TJ. It could completely stunt his development and destroy his confidence. He needs a partner who plays a sound, structured game. Despite his inexperience, Kulak would likely be a better match for Andersson. In the end, it may be a mute point as I really don’t expect to see Brodie here come Fall (if he is he will likely be paired with Hamonic again, for the above reason).

      Ideally, I would partner him with Gio — he has a proven history of successfully mentoring young D. The problem with that move is who then would become Hamilton’s partner. I think, in the end, Andersson will likely be third pairing with either Stone (if he’s still here) or with Kulak.

      Who knows, maybe Valimaki will blow the doors off at camp and we’ll see the following: Gio/Dougie, Valimaki/Hamonic, Kulak/Andersson. That would be interesting.

      • Mickey O

        Those are the pairings the team should be aiming for. Kulak and Andersson have played together in Stockton as well.
        Hamonic is the structured guy that can mentor Valimaki. Also agree that throwing any rookie with Brodie would be a bad move.
        Those pairings look to be the set up in 2 years, why not roll the dice and push things up a year. If Valimaki doesn’t look overwhelmed at all, then hopefully he has a real shot of skipping the minors all together.

        • Squishin

          I personally don’t think Valimaki will make the NHL out of camp this year, partially due to his contract situation (the potential year slide) and partially because I am guessing the Flames will think he needs one more year. Those pairings would look great the following year I think.
          There should be a WWYDWB article (what would you do with Brodie) because he doesn’t seem to fit anywhere.

      • canadian1967

        He has the offense in his game, but he played within himself for the first 60 games and then in the last 20 we started to see him come out of his shell.

  • withachance

    Kind of off topic from this article, but do you guys think this trade is realistic?

    Brodie + Rights to Fox for ROR (with 1M or 1.5M retained by Buffalo)

    • Korcan

      I don’t think Buffalo will see that as enough – they know O’Rielly’ s value (and it’s MUCH higher than Brodie’s). Something like Brodie and Jankowski, or Brodie, Gillies, and Fox might do it, in exchange for Buffalo retaining 1.5-2M of salary. That would be my guess.

    • freethe flames

      The more I think about this idea the more I wonder if it is the right move. I wonder if the move will be with the Rangers who actually need D. Buffalo is a little less desperate than NY at D. Zibby is a RHS while RoR is a LHS but is a better face off man. WW suggests Backlund for RoR and that might fly. But all we can do is speculate and wait.

      • Korcan

        Another ‘out there’ idea: Carolina has apparently announced that they are open for business and their only untouchable is Aho (hard to believe with that young d-core). That’s Peters old stomping ground. Maybe he will have some insight on who could be a potential gem had for a relative bargain. A player who comes to mind is Elias Lindholm, a young (24yrs?) right shot RW who can also play center. He reportedly has a very good two-way game with good offensive upside. Could be a much cheaper option than O’Reilly or some of the others mentioned.

    • supra steve

      Just a practical thought…
      Brodie’s wife, Amber, has health concerns. Anyone know where Amber is from/where her family is? That could play a serious part in whether/where he is traded.
      I know if my wife had a pre-existing medical condition, I would not be looking at moving to the USA where medical insurance could be impossible to get. Yes, TJ makes good $, but healthcare for a sick family member can get expensive.

      • Beer League Coach

        Brodie is from Chatham, ON. About a 1 hr drive from Detroit or a couple hrs from Buffalo. Maybe 4 hrs from Columbus. Any of those could be close enough to home base for him to drive home and be with his wife on off days. Columbus might be a stretch but Detroit & Buffalo are definitely a possibility. He could play for the U.S. team and still be close enough to home for frequent visits. Chicago might even be close enough.

        • supra steve

          How many “off days” do you get as an NHLer? We thought he might be distracted the last few years, how would he be if he lived separate from his wife?
          Toronto could be a good fit for TJ. His wife could be from Calgary or Michigan or Barrie (where he played OHL hockey), I don’t know, but that could be a factor in any trade TJ scenario.

          • Beer League Coach

            Agreed his wife could be from anywhere. When her health issues became public knowledge I had heard that they were childhood sweethearts. I don’t have any connections that can confirm or deny that info. I just assumed she was from Chatham/Dresden area where he came from. It would be possible for him to commute daily from Chatham to Detroit but I’m sure that would also become tiresome by the midway point of the season. 1 hr each way (or more, depending on border delays) and crossing the border twice a day. Toronto or Buffalo he could probably make the drive once a week or if they had 3 days between games. Columbus or Chicago could be once a month sort of thing. If she stays with family in Ontario and he plays in Calgary I doubt if they see each other more than a couple times a year. Christmas and whenever Flames play in Detroit and/or Toronto.

      • WillyWonka

        The other option is to stick with TJ Brodie, and support he and his wife Amber. To be diagnosed with a challenging case of MS at that age would kick anybody in the groin. I don’t think there’s a need to bail on the Brodie family unless they would prefer to move back to Ontario. In spite but the tough go he’s had over the last couple years there is still great people and he still a great hockey player.

        • Korcan

          Yes, MS sucks at any age, but to be diagnosed that young is crushing. It is in scenarios like this that the business of professional sports can seem very callous. The Flames, however, have always been a very organization when it comes to looking after their players, so i would suspect that if TJ is to be traded the brass will do their best to trade him to a team close to their families.
          And though I think this will be the likely outcome (he appears to be the best trading chip they are willing to part with), there is always the possibility they keep him on to see if he can perform better under Peters, et.al

          We’ll see

          • freethe flames

            As someone who has two members of my family with MS and two close friends with it as well it is an extreme roller coaster ride. None of my family or friends have the kind of assets Brodie has available to him and his family(nor the kind of pressure he is under) but from my experience he and his wife need to be in as supportive of community as possible. The Flames have been for years a class organization in caring for their players. But it might be better for the Brodies’ to be close to home not so that TJ can travel to be with his wife but so that family can can come and be supportive of them. Even with the assets available to them support from immediate family and friends would be of extreme worth. There is also from what I am led to believe where MS manifests itself more intensley than others. The prairie provinces seem to be harder on suffers than others at least that is what I have been told. Here’s hoping that between the Flames and the Brodies’ that the best decision can be made. I would not wish the problems of MS on anyone and their families.

  • freethe flames

    If as most of us speculate BT trades both Stone and TJ that leaves us with 4 NHL defenders 2R and 2L and Anderson as another R. Is BP willing to let Kylington or Valimaki be the other LD and who is the 7th. Should be interesting over the next 6 weeks to see if BT pulls the trigger on anything. Hopefully it will not be long before the announce the Assistant Coaches; then we will have something tangible to talk about.

  • Franko J

    For what the Flames traded for to obtain Hamonic his overall performance was very disappointing. Another player who did not play up to expectations.

    From what I watched on a gamely basis, he couldn’t keep up with the pace of the game and too many times he lost position in front of his net. As well, he rarely was in position to block shots. To say he struggled would be an understatement. The guy is a great ambassador for the game and does a fabulous job off the ice. Hopefully with a year under his belt in the WC, he can settle down and simplify his game. If not this would another bad move from Treliving.

    • WillyWonka

      So you say. I completely disagree. Same kind of silly goofy Comments we heard about Dougie Hamilton after his first year. Good thing we didn’t trade him off right?

      • Franko J

        So Willy, you think he was worth the first and second based on his play last year?
        I just hope that he can bounce back from a sub-par performance on the blue line. I wouldn’t trade him and like with Hamilton it is hard to find quality RH defensemen. I think he would be first to say he didn’t have the greatest of seasons in the blue line.

  • BendingCorners

    Brodie is a good defenceman. Neither he nor Hamilton is overly physical but they do well in spite of that. If BT keeps the current D roster then Brodie-Hamilton // Giordano-Andersson // Kulak-Hamonic would be a very good rotation, top to bottom. Stone would be overpriced as a 7D but his physical edge makes him useful – he would certainly be a better 7D than Bartkowski ever was.

  • BendingCorners

    On the other hand if BT does trade some D, I could see Brodie fetching a good top six RHS RW, and Stone fetching two picks, a 2nd and a 3rd. (Seems like a lot but “hockey guys” seem to love defencemen that hit people). This would also be okay, since it makes room for Kylington and possìbly Valimaki too (Kulak would lose out as 7D unless Andersson and the rookies sat now and then).

    • Beer League Coach

      Agree with you that Brodie should fetch a top 6 RH RW. If you can get 1 3rd rd pick for Stone you should take it. If you can get a 2nd rd pick grab it and run before the other GM can change his mind.

      • freethe flames

        Who fits the top 6 RH Forward you are talking about? Which teams have a surplus of top 6 RF forwards and a need for a 3/4 D who plays over 20 minutes a game, can play PK and PP and have averaged 36 points a season for 5 years? That is the question that BT must answer. The other question that needs to be addressed is if you move both of them and assuming Andersson is the answer who fills the other spot? Is Kylington ready? Valimaki? Does BP have some else he likes? All interesting questions that will be answered in due course.

          • freethe flames

            Gallagher would be a good option but are Habs in need of TJ? IMO a better partner is the Rangers their D looks like crap. Interesting to see all the draft picks both NYR and the Habs have; I wonder if both loaded up with draft picks to go after Karlsson? Would also not surprise me to see NYR look to sign the other Carlson. I just want something happen.

    • Franko J

      While I have no proof or any statistical data to backup, but I think it is more difficult to adapt to playing in the West compared to the East. Just from the travel and slight differences in playing style.