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Eat Crow, Detractors: Dougie Hamilton Has Been Elite This Season

For all the hate spewed his direction, Dougie Hamilton has emerged as an elite defenseman.

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

On Connor McDavid day (also known as the 2015 NHL Entry Draft) Brad Treliving made a shocking move that has been his crowning achievement thus far as General Manager of the Calgary Flames. By trading just the 15th, 45th and 52nd overall picks to the Boston Bruins, Treliving acquired Dougie Hamilton, who was just 22-years-old at the time. Hamilton was already with 3 seasons of NHL experience and was coming off a season where he was a top pairing defenseman with more than 40 points. Within days, Hamilton was signed to a six year contract, significantly altering the landscape of this Calgary Flames hockey club. While the move seemed brilliant at the time and has turned out brilliant today, it has been a weird ride to this point.

A Difficult Start

Dougie had a rocky introduction to his tenure with the Calgary Flames, as he struggled to adjust to the Flames system (or lack thereof) under Bob Hartley. Hamilton and Giordano struggled when paired together to start the 15-16 season. With the abysmal play of Jonas Hiller and Kari Ramo in net, many of their mistakes ended up in the back of the net. Once T.J. Brodie returned to the line up, Dougie was moved down the depth chart and was frequently 4th or 5th in ice time among defensemen, sometimes playing less than Kris Russell, Dennis Wideman or Deryk Engelland. However, Hamilton rallied throughout the course of the season and ended up setting career highs for himself in goals (12) and points (43). While he came around with a solid season, he was still under-utilized and did not seem to receive the appropriate accolades for his play.

This season started off looking as though it was going to be the same old story, even with Glen Gulutzan as the new coach. He began the season playing the opening night with the experiment that was Nicklas Grossmann, in Gulutzan’s attempt to have one of his best 3 defensemen on each pairing. When that inevitably failed, Dougie ended up playing regularly with Jyrki Jokipakka, Deryk Engelland or Brett Kulak. He was still finishing games where he was 4th or 5th in ice time, behind far inferior teammates like Engelland and Wideman. It was incredibly frustrating to see as an onlooker, because Hamilton was actually playing quite well despite his lack of ice time and suboptimal partners. In 268 even-strength minutes of ice time before he began playing with Mark Giordano, he still managed to have a CF% of 52.1%. Still, he was not getting the ice time he obviously deserved.

Disregarded, Trade Rumours and Very Bad Takes

A lot of strange things have happened regarding Dougie in the hockey world since he became a member of the Flames.

First of all, going back to this past summer. Dougie Hamilton was snubbed for the North American team at the World Cup. He absolutely should have been on the North America. There was no logical argument for Ryan Murray or Morgan Rielly to be named to the team over him, through both productivity and possession standpoints.

Secondly, after Hamilton began this season in a limited role, ridiculous trade rumours began to swirl and absurd narratives came out to the forefront. Apparently the Arizona Coyotes offered Anthony Duclair and a draft pick that was not a first rounder for Hamilton. A good try I guess, but what a pitiful offer it was to try pry away a young defenseman with terrific potential. The rumours kept going on and on, until Brian Burke and Brad Treliving took it upon themselves to make public declarations that Dougie Hamilton would not be traded.

But, above all else, the most hilarious take on Dougie Hamilton has to go to Mark Spector of Sportsnet. Spector is an Edmontonian who obviously holds preferences for the Oilers, but for some reason has been given a position with Sportsnet in which he is allowed to write about the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. This opportunity has allowed him to write some very strange pieces on a national media platform, including last years article about how the Flames were going to trade Monahan or Bennett for the rights to Steven Stamkos.

Anyway, in December, Spector decided to release an article after Treliving and Burke had already defended Dougie Hamilton and said that they would not trade him. Perhaps he was jealous that the Flames only had to trade 3 drafts picks for their young star defenseman, while the Oilers had to trade elite scoring forward Taylor Hall for their inferior young defender, Adam Larsson. In this article, Spector cherry picked 5 scouts to help fulfill his narrative that Dougie Hamilton is a bust and the Flames are trying to trade him.

The quotes in this piece include:

Really? It is hard to do anything but laugh at those comments. All those scouts were anonymous obviously, but I am glad they do not have anything to do with calling shots in the Calgary Flames organization. Perhaps the funniest thing about that article was that it was published on December 2nd. While Dougie Hamilton did start the season playing in limited minutes, he had been playing on the top pair with Mark Giordano since November 15th. In that time he was playing first-pairing minutes and together they had posted a 57.2% CF. So not only were those poor opinions overall, they also held no bearing to what was transpiring at the time. It was that sort of rhetoric that Hamilton had been facing for the majority of his tenure with the Calgary Flames.

NHL: Calgary Flames at Minnesota Wild Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

As It Turns Out, Dougie Hamilton is Actually Elite

At the time of writing (prior to the matchup against the Washington Capitals), Dougie Hamilton has proven to be a top defenseman in the entire NHL. While he is not anywhere in the realm of Erik Karlsson or Brent Burns and may not quite be at the level of Mark Giordano, he is on an upward trajectory for a 23-year-old and is near the top of all league defensemen in some very important categories.

  • Tied for 5th among all NHL defensemen in points, at 47 (11 G, 36 A)
  • 2nd among all NHL defensemen in 5-on-5 points-per-60 minutes at 1.63. Only Brent Burns scores at a higher rate.
  • Among all NHL defensemen to play over 700 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5, he is sixth in the entire league in CF%, behind 2 defensemen who play for the Boston Bruins and 3 who play for the LA Kings, which are teams notorious for their strong possession numbers.

With all that information in hand, can anyone say he has been a bust? Can anyone say he is overpaid? To me, it looks as if he is an elite defenseman, among the very best in the NHL.

People like to give the credit to Mark Giordano as to why Dougie Hamilton has emerged. While I absolutely agree that Giordano makes Hamilton a better player, Hamilton makes Giordano a better player as well. While taking on the toughest match ups, the pairing have the best performance together among all of the Calgary defense.

Some like to focus on what Dougie does not excel at. Okay, he could hit a little more. But, maybe it does not matter that he is not the most physical player if he is consistently managing to have the puck more often than the opposition does.

Yes, he does give the puck away at times. That happens when you have the puck all the time and are routinely making offensive plays. Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban are all players that give the puck away a fair bit, yet they are all players with elite possession and production.

He Also Seems Like a Good Guy.

So he is a terrific player on the ice through a variety of metrics. But, he must be a cancer in the locker room. After he was traded to the Calgary Flames from Boston, there were articles coming out in the Boston media from “sources” that said that Dougie was traded because he was an “uppity kid” a “loner” and “his teammates don’t like him”.

That is not something I have gathered from what I have seen and heard of about Dougie Hamilton. Yeah, he does not seem to love doing those intermission interviews, but maybe that is because he is shy and interviews are not something he feels particularly comfortable doing. Which is completely acceptable, not everyone can be Curtis Lazar and have a beaming smile on their face while being asked routine questions about hockey. I doubt I would.

Since Hamilton has been a member of the Flames, there have been photos of him going to youth hockey practices to play with kids, dressing up as a princess with some teammates to attend a Children’s Hospital and recently he has become a meme lord in the post-game interviews for the Flames during their terrific run lately.

There You Have It, Dougie Hamilton is Great

So between elite play on the ice and great work in the community, I am not sure how any Calgary Flames fan could be anything but thrilled with the Dougie Hamilton acquisition. The craziest thing is that Dougie is only 23-years-old at this time, so as good as he is now, he has not even hit his prime. He is a part of one of the best top-pairings in the entire NHL and he is going to be a major part of the team’s success moving forward. Time for his detractors to eat crow.