Dougie Hamilton Gives Calgary Flames League’s Best Blue Line


The Calgary Flames did not make a selection during day one of the NHL Draft last night, but that didn’t stop them from being the talk of the National Hockey League at the end of the day,

The Flames held the 15th overall pick at the start of the day, as well as a plethora of picks later in the draft including a trio of second round picks and a pair of selections in the third round. General manager Brad Treliving did some wheeling and dealing, shipping out the 15th, 45th and 52nd overall picks to the Boston Bruins for Dougie Hamilton.

Hamilton is a recently turned 22 year old defenceman who was chosen 9th overall at the 2011 NHL Draft by the Bruins. Since being drafted by Boston, Hamilton has developed into a solid top pairing, right shot defenceman who excels at both ends of the ice.

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At 6’5″ and over 215 pounds, it is not difficult to envision Hamilton being a punishing, physical defender in his own zone, and he leared from the best, playing alongside 6’9″ Zdeno Chara with the Bruins. Hamilton played primarily with Chara, when the biggest Bruins defender was healthy, averaging 21:20 per game and helping out on both the power play and penalty killing units.

Hamilton’s offensive game really blossomed last season, as he scored ten goals and 42 points in 72 games.   He had scored 41 points in his first 106 career games over his first two seasons with the Bruins. The fact that he just turned 22 a few weeks ago tells us he has a very high ceiling when it comes to both his offensive and defensive potential.

He began to steal some time from Chara on the Bruins top power play, and combining his booming shot with his smooth skating and ability to make a smart read on a play and feather a nice pass coming out of his own zone, Hamilton is the type of defenseman who can control the play and push possession int the opponent’s zone.

Feb 16, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton (27) and Calgary Flames left wing Jiri Hudler (24) fight for position during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Looking a little more in depth at his stats from last season, Hamilton posted incredible possession statistics. While he was on the nice at 5 on 5 last year, the Bruins had control of 55% of the pucks thrown towards the net. His possession stats were even better than the Flames top pairing of Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie who dominated last season.

Speaking of Brodie and Giordano, when I heard the Flames had acquired Hamilton, I assumed Brodie would be going the other way. However, Calgary was able to keep their homegrown defender, and will now be able to roll out the best trio of defenders in the league.

Giordano has regularly been in the Norris Trophy discussion the past few seasons and may have won the past two if he were not injured late in the season. In 2013-14, Giordano scored 14 goals and 47 points in just 64 games and had a nearly identical season this year. The Flames captain followed up his exceptional 2013-14 season by scoring 11 goals and 48 points in 61 games this season before being injured for the rest of the year.

In both cases, Giordano was among the league’s scoring leaders among defencemen and was definitely in the conversation for the best defenceman of the year award, and will be among the favourites to win the Norris next season.

Giordano’s regular partner, T. J. Brodie, was drafted in the 4th round of the 2008 NHL Draft and has developed into a steady top pairing defenceman. He scored 31 points in 2013-14 and stepped up in Giordano’s absence this year by scoring 11 goals and 41 points.

In the past few seasons, while watching Flames games, it seemed that the ice tilted as soon as Brodie and Giordano stepped on the ice. While they dominated every shift, the Flames blue line was fairly top heavy and the rest of their blue liners struggled mightily compared to their top duo.

Dec 4, 2013; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames defenseman Mark Giordano (5) and defensemand TJ Brodie (7) celebrate Giordano

Adding Hamilton from the Bruins is going to change that dramatically for the Flames in the future. Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman played well at times last season, but were a little overmatched when Giordano was injured and they were asked to be top three defensemen.

While Russell is great on the penalty kill and Wideman’s skills are best suited for the power play, they aren’t an excellent pairing at 5 on 5. Bringing in Hamilton is going to move each of these defensemen down a slot in the lineup, where they will be better fits and won’t be asked to play above their comfort zone anymore.

Pairing Rusell with Wideman in the past, highlighted the defensive deficiencies of the pair, but a second pairing of Russell with Hamilton will be able to control possession infinitely more, which will take a lot of strain off of Russell next season.

This pushes Wideman down to the third pairing, and though his cap hit doesn’t suggest he is a number five defenseman, he should be able to post much better numbers at 5 on 5 next season while playing against third lines and not top six forwards. Wideman is a great skater and puck mover, and much like his former teammate Mike Green in Washington, he will see his game improve when he is slotted farther down the lineup.

There will be a number of players in and out of the lineup to play with Wideman on the third pair next season, including Tyler Wotherspoon, Deryk Engelland, Ladislav Smid and possibly David Schlemko if he is re-signed. These players bring much different skill sets to the table, but when they are in the lineup they won’t be asked to be dominant or put in a role where they face tough matchups. All of them are capable of being number six defensemen and with the added depth, that’s all they will be asked to do next season.

The Flames already had one of the top defence pairing in the league with Giordano and Brodie. They had solid defensemen behind their top duo, but they were slotted just a tad too high in the lineup which brought out the flaws in their games.

With the addition of Hamilton, not only do the Flames now have three players who could be considered number one defensemen, but they have a couple of number four type guys in Russell and Wideman who will battle to play on the second pairing and then have one of them left over to play on the bottom pairing with a good young defenseman like Wotherspoon or a veteran like Smid of Schlemko.

Name another team in the league that has that kind of top end talent on the blue line, and that kind of depth to support them? I know I can’t think of one.

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