How quickly things change, especially in a Canadian market where every game is seemingly a referendum on the entire morale of a city or province. It was barely 18 months ago when Flames fans and front office were failing to hide their glee at heisting Dougie Hamilton from Boston GM Don Sweeney, who was still definitely only sporting a learner’s permit and should not have been operating the vehicle alone. Holy run-on sentences, Batman!
Fast forward to now and suddenly there are rumblings that Hamilton could be on the trade block. How did we get here? Well, some of it has to do with misuse, some of it perception, some of it cap problems, and some of it the lingering cloud that is the incoming Las Vegas franchise.
On the surface, trying to spread out your three plus d-men, which the Flames have, makes sense. If one is always on the ice, you shouldn’t drown too badly. There’s floor safety in it, if not a ceiling-push (the whitest form of “raising the roof,” I would think). But Hamilton has pretty much gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to partner assignments.
Last year he spent most of the season trying to clean up after Kris Russell, which if we strung out the pet metaphor the phrase “projectile diarrhea” would probably come into play. Together they put up a 45% Corsi-percentage, which clearly isn’t very good. But in 700 minutes of time away from Russell, not a short sample, Hamilton was at 52% while Russell continued to require bleach and disinfectant after his work at 45.6%. You can say that if Hamilton were truly a tide-turning d-man you could put him with anyone, but there is only so much one can do.
This year, Hamilton has mostly been paired with Jyrkki Jokipakka, and the results have been fine if not spectacular. They break even together, though when Hamilton has been away from Jyrk Chicken he’s crushing the competition at a 57.5% clip. He and Giordano have only played 40 minutes together this season but in that time have a 60.1% mark together.
In fact, over his season and a half in Rodeo Town (a great Kills song, by the way), Hamilton has essentially matched Giordano’s production. Their possession numbers are almost exact this season, while Giordano is really only getting very slightly rougher assignments, in terms of zone and opposition. Last year Giordano’s possession numbers were better, but as stated Hamilton was carrying around a battleship anchor.
Some of this might have to do with money. The Flames are right up against the cap, and the only relief they’ll see after the season is Big Money Wides’s $5.2M number coming off along with some bottom-feeders among the forwards. But they’ll also have a goalie spot to figure out, either by giving Brian Elliot a raise that he earns this season (or he’ll play himself out of one) or finding one on the open market in either MAF or Bishop or whatever else might be out there. They do not have an in-house solution. You’d have to assume Jokipakka will get a raise after they traded for him and they’ll want to keep him around. Also, Sam Bennett is due a new contract after this season with his ELC running out this season.
You would think Hamilton would be a no-brainer to be protected at the expansion draft, but it isn’t that simple. All of Brouwer, Frolik, and Stajan have no-move clauses (nice work, there). Gaudreau and Monahan do not and will clearly be protected, as will Bennett if an extension can get done during the season. That leaves room for only Giordano and Brodie to be protected, and they could risk losing Hamilton to Sin City for exactly their own dick in their hand. They’re obviously not the only ones facing this problem.
Somehow, it’s doubtful they’ll get a declining Giordano to waive his NMC, and the greater Calgary area might go up into flames (get it?) if they asked him to. It’s a conundrum.
Still, Hamilton is only 23, and his future could turn into anything including a Norris contender. The Flames are going to regret it if they actually find a way to lose him. But then we’re guessing the Flames have a lot of regrets.