How much were Dougie Hamilton's possession numbers affected by Patrice Bergeron?

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Since Dougie Hamilton was traded for three lottery picks, people have tried to rationalize his departure. "Not enough cap space", "His initial ask was too high", "he was an uppity loner", "he wanted out" - you name it.

There's one argument questioning Hamilton's value I wanted to address: while Hamilton is not a bad player, his possession numbers in Boston were greatly inflated by Patrice Bergeron. Last year with Bergeron, Hamilton had a absolutely insane 64.1 SAT% with 55.0 D-Zone Start%.

Bergeron without Hamilton dropped to 54.2 SAT% but increased his DZS% to 58.3. But Hamilton's numbers without him felt down to 50.1 and 48.5 respectively. Ouch. To put those numbers in perspective, the Bruins had a raw Corsi% of 51.7. To make it worse, Chris Kelly and Milan Lucic, bad possession players themselves, have better Corsi% numbers without Bergeron than Hamilton. Does this mean Hamilton will be exposed as a flame? After taking a deeper look at his numbers, I think it's unlikely.

Hamilton DID get to play a ton of even strength minutes with Bergeron last season, but the latter didn't win three Selke trophies in the past four years because he's merely a great player (this is the 4th year in a row his SATRel% is 7.5 or above); everyone's possession numbers get a significant boost when he's on the ice.

This raises the question: how does the 22-year-old defenseman affect his teammates without the Bergeron effect? I did a WOWY chart for Hamilton when the Quebecer was not on the ice last season, with the players he spent 150+ even strength minutes with under those circumstances.

Dougie Hamilton WOWY, without Bergeron

  • Look at Zdeno Chara and David Krejci, that's amazing. Looking at this table and Bergeron's numbers without him, it's easy to conclude Hamilton makes the best players on his team even better.
  • Hamilton made seven out of the nine players better. The others took a small -0.6 SAT% drop.
  • The two exceptions, Lucic and Gregory Campbell, and the only other player who didn't see at least a 1.0 SAT% increase with Hamilton (Kelly) all saw a huge drop in defensive zone starts when they were not playing with him.
  • On that note, it's pretty clear on the rare occasions Bergeron wasn't on the ice, Hamilton's deployment by Claude Julien was the toughest barring Campbell's.

All in all, Hamilton is an elite defenseman, with or without Bergeron.

So how should he be deployed?

The numbers indicate he's a first pairing defenseman who makes great players even better and Hartley should treat his new asset accordingly. I believe it means Hamilton should play with either Mark Giordano or TJ Brodie, not Kris Russell or Dennis Wideman, and pair him up with Mikael Backlund as well (being Bergeron-lite and all).

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