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Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Why did the Flames make the Dougie Hamilton trade?

Why did the Flames make the Dougie Hamilton trade? Isn’t that the question?

When the rumours started flowing in that the Flames and Hurricane were heading towards central registry on the draft floor, the first reaction was: “Elias Lindholm is a Flame.” After all, he had been rumoured to be on his way out and the Flames were among the top suitors for him.

Not long after, we learned the deal was bigger than just Lindholm. It involved former fifth overall pick in 2015 Noah Hanifin as well. Uh oh. That’s a pretty significant package coming to Calgary, they must be giving up something significant in return. However, that’s what we all thought when the Flames acquired Dougie Hamilton in 2015, and it only ended up being a first and two seconds.

Not this time.

After 18 months of being the Flames’ best offensive defenceman – their second best rearguard overall – and being involved in countless trade rumours, Dougie Hamilton’s time in Calgary was over.

As Flames fans were trying to digest the fact that Hamilton was headed to Carolina for Hanifin and Lindholm, the final bomb dropped. It wasn’t just Hamilton.

Dagger.

Not only did the Flames give up far and away the best ice hockey player in the deal, but they also threw in their cheap 20-goal bull Micheal Ferland and quite possibly the second best prospect in the organization, NCAA standout rearguard Adam Fox. Carolina’s side of the deal remained the same.

Madness ensued on Twitter, where Hamilton has a throng of supporters, and rightfully so. Not only is he one of the premier young defencemen in the league on a team-friendly contract, but many identify with what appears to be a soft spoken, shy and seemingly introverted personality. To expedite him out of town because he’s different than the classic confident, bro-dude hockey player, was mind boggling.

But even so, his value league-wide should be incredibly high given both his counting and underlying numbers. Why the need to throw in a 20-goal scorer and a bluechip prospect? Well, that’s what I tried to figure out.

Why Hamilton?

What is important to understand before reading on is that I think this justification is absurd and I do not condone it. I am but the messenger of compiled information that paints a picture as to why the Flames were inclined to move on from the league’s leading goalscorer from the backend, so put your guns away please.

From the second the Flames acquired Hamilton, all we read about him was that he was a little shyer than everyone, a little odder than everyone, a little quieter than everyone. Media in Boston tried to justify their giving him away for just a first and two seconds by calling him a “loner”, and saying he had no friends in the dressing room.

Real nice.

Hamilton seems like one of the nicest human beings on this planet, and all he got for it was constant character bashing for minding his own business, and preferring to do so.

The talk about his personality didn’t subside in Calgary, and a bizarre narrative surrounding the Flames keeping his brother Freddie on the roster because he required it, so that he could have a friend, emerged on Twitter. No one seemed to notice that Freddie Hamilton fit the perfect mould of a 13th NHL forward that every team carries. He was there because of Dougie in the eyes of many. Freddie Hamilton eventually moved on to Arizona, where he played the same exact role.

I would contend that over past year, Dougie Hamilton has absorbed more potshots and hate over his seemingly introverted personality than many other NHL players, past and present, including those who have been accused of serious criminal offences.

Following the completion of the trade, Flames GM Brad Treliving joined Sportsnet 960 and Pat Steinberg to talk about the move, and indicated it was made in large part due to off-ice considerations:

It sure sounds like they felt Hamilton’s personality became an issue, for whatever reason, and that the locker room was affected by it. Sportsnet’s John Shannon was on SN960 following the trade as well and said issues with Hamilton included “when the entire team would go for lunch at Moxie’s, Hamilton would go to a museum.”

Yikes. Save that for Hockey Taeks Hall of Fame. We would be foolish to assume that Hamilton skipping out on lunch for museums is the motivator for this trade, but it sure seemed like Hamilton wasn’t as integrated into the locker room as the Flames would’ve liked.

Some of us (read: everyone at FN) think that’s an absurd reason to deal someone when they’re an incredible value add on the ice, but after the Vegas Golden Knights turned an atomic-tight dressing room bond into a Stanley Cup Final appearance, it’s clear the Flames brass feel differently.

It’s no secret Treliving felt his player mix was an issue and contributed to the team missing the playoffs, and trading Hamilton for Hanifin – who is already tight with Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk through USA Hockey – would be an upgrade in the room, if not on the ice.

Hanifin is just 21 years old, and was drafted out of the NCAA as a projected 1D, though his progression through two seasons doesn’t rule out his developing into exactly that. The issue is that Hamilton, at 25, already is that.

What this also does is return TJ Brodie to his safety blanket Mark Giordano, and the Flames will bank the “Brodano” pairing can return to its once elite state. They were never as good as Giordano-Hamilton were, but they were excellent nonetheless. It also removes Brodie from his dumpster fire pairing with Travis Hamonic, who looked good when separated from Brodie last year. The Flames will hope Hamonic can combine with Hanifin to create the coveted 1B pairing they had in mind when they acquired Hamonic in the first place.

It’s a lot of hope, but if the Flames turn their one elite pairing and one trash pairing into two above average pairings, then the merits of this trade perhaps begin to show themselves. History has shown though – *cough* Taylor Hall *cough* PK Subban *cough* – giving away the best player in a trade is usually the kiss of death.

It’s clear the Flames have – at least at the time of this writing – downgraded their defence on the ice. Will the same be true one year from now? Three years from now? Does the dynamic in the dressing room change for the better? Time will tell.

Why Ferland and Fox?

Treliving also offered insight as to why the other two pieces were included in the deal, as well.

He said the Flames had “strong concerns,” emphasis on “strong,” about Fox’s signability, and it seems his inclusion in this deal is similar to Brandon Hickey’s in the Mike Smith deal a year ago. Hickey has since been moved again, to Buffalo. If Fox’s inclusion in this deal was the make or break, the Flames may have accepted that giving up extra value they would’ve had to trade anyways in order to get two pieces they coveted was preferred over shopping Fox some other time for an unknown return.

Not sure if I agree with that logic, but I can understand it. The Nashville Predators had a similar situation with another highly regarded third round pick that played in the NCAA, Jimmy Vesey. They chose to hold Vesey’s rights through all four years of college, and when informed he wouldn’t sign with them, scrambled to deal him. In the end, they got a measly third rounder for him. The Flames likely didn’t want to jeopardize what they felt was an important trade over a “what if.” Make of it what you will.

As for Ferland, Treliving made it clear he was a very difficult inclusion, and they really valued his character. However, Ferland is scheduled to be a UFA in 373 days, and scored 21 goals last year. Even though he scored 19 of those before the All-Star Break, and was a non-factor in the second half of the season, he will still be due a raise on his $1.75 million AAV. Lindholm is an unquestioned upgrade on Ferland, if only from a consistency standpoint.

Lindholm is also three years younger and boasts a significantly higher ceiling, especially if he plays beside Monahan and Gaudreau.

Conclusion

After the initial shock wore off, the reasons for this blockbuster from a Flames perspective have come into focus. That doesn’t mean they’re good reasons, but they are reasons.

It’s clear that shaking up the vibe in the locker room was a priority for Treliving, and by moving out someone who appeared to sometimes isolate himself in Dougie Hamilton, and someone who was very popular in Micheal Ferland, Treliving accomplished his goal.

Team control was also a significant factor, seeing as the Flames felt they were likely to lose Ferland to free agency in a year, and Fox to the same in two. Both Hanifin and Lindholm have team control for the foreseeable future, and assuming they don’t like museums, factor into the Flames’ perceived window of contention.

There will be tons more analysis about how the Flames come out of this trade heading into the summer, but the reasons for its consummation are clear now. The Flames seem to have downgraded their blueline, and possibly their roster as it stands, but as we saw last season, the roster wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.

It’s all about how that roster translates to the ice, and we won’t know that for another three and a half months.


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  • Jobu

    Jobu feel bad for the Dougie! There is a slim-to-none chance that he can win anything substantial in Carolina over the 3 years of his contract, with a cap strapped team that has no identity, no goaltending, and “managerial issues”. His prime years will be wasted with that franchise.

  • MDG1600

    I don’t blame BT for shaking up the dressing room. Do people not remember all the listless and flat performances last years team had? It seemed the bigger and more important the game the worse they played. Like it or not Dougie had to be a prime target for a dressing room shake up. Winning teams need leadership and they particularly need it out of their best players. I don’t want a top pairing d man who wilts under pressure like Dougie did against Anaheim in the playoffs

    • everton fc

      Gallant proves the right leader behind the bench can make miracles happen. Almost! 😉

      Trotz is a similar leader. Ditto Babcock, Cooper, in Tampa. Others. Gulutzan never appeared to be the kind of guy men would die on the hill for. Gallant was as a player. He is as a coach. That’s the difference.

      Hate to say it, but I wonder how positive Gaudreau is, in that room. This is where veteran leadership comes into play – sometimes (and I don’t mean Brouwer). Then again, times have changed. Players have changed. Loyalty to a franchise is not what it was, 10-20-30 years ago.

  • oddclod

    The lindholm signing has the Optics of having pitbulls Bennett and Tkachuck in together in training camp look good. If Tre somehow links them with Tavares I’m getting a boston pizza face tat.

  • UpTkachuk

    Great debate everyone…very few are indifferent about the trade and I think there are equal numbers that love it or hate it. Without putting too fine of a point on this, the proof will be in the pudding. …makes me want to see the season start tomorrow…One thing that I will give props to BT about is that the trade is out of the conference. It will introduce a different style and attitude to a team that desperately needs one.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      What this trade shows more than anything is Tre the snake oil salesman. First, let’s assume that Tre was well aware that Dougie was cancer when he acquired him from Boston. Tre did the deal thinking the leaders in his dressing room would rein in the enigmatic Hamilton. That didn’t happen.

      Second, he hired Gully presumably because he thought he was the best available coach for the job, and that was an out and out disaster.

      Third, following the 2016-17 season, Tre thought his club was a Travis Hamonic away from being a playoff lock, so he trades away high picks for a guy on the decline.

      Now, he throws Dougie under the bus and proclaims the new guys as being just what the doctor ordered.

      How many bad reads and terrible moves is Tre going to get before he is shown the door?

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Flame fans spinning on a dime and punking on Dougie reminds me of the spring of 1987 when the heavily-favoured Calgary Flames–a team studded with a plethora of future hall of famers–got smashed into a million pieces in the first round of the playoffs by the meh Winnipeg Jets nd their lone future hall of famer Dale Hawerchuk. Upon being bounced, Flame fans demanded that Badger Bob be run out of town. It was no loner a great day for hockey in Calgary. The kid who spray painted “Yankee Go Home” on Badger’s garage door following the Flames crushing loss in Game 6 was lauded as a folk hero by many locals. For those here who were not born in 1987 or too young to remember, the vitriol Flame fans had in ’87 for the legendary Badger Bob made the fan denunciations of the recently-fired Gully seem like the Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

    Now I am seeing it again with Dougie. For all you who are taking runs at Dougie, and how spent most of last reason torching Gully, at least fess up that Gully was not the lone reason the club sucked.

    • Slowmo

      None of us have any idea what goes on behind those doors and perhaps dougy was a cyst that needed to be popped? but I believe it is time to roll out the rug for BT and show him the door he has failed in every sense of the word given away our future our top D and blaming every one but himself. GG was his coach fail Dougy was his trade 1-2 fail harminc 1-2-2 2019 or 2020 ouch what a fool. when are they going to stop the bleeding? We hoped he would make up for it by bringing in help but instead he gave away the top scoring D in the NHL Ouch again. Stop the bleeding Please remove him before he does a Sutter and another 7 yrs with out playoffs.