As is the case with any big trade, the immediate question is what the team is getting in the players that were obtained. I offered my thoughts on the deal already in two parts.
But oftentimes, the more interesting perspective is that of writers, scouts and others who track the players on the same 82-game basis that I track the Hurricanes. Canes and Coffee is incredibly fortunate to have two very good contacts who track the Calgary Flames on an every-game basis and were generous enough to share their insight on Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox.
About the interviewees
Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell) is active on many fronts as an NHL scout, analyst and writer. He covers the Calgary Flames and New Jersey Devils for Hockeybuzz. He also writes for My NHL Trade Rumors and scouts the OHL for HockeyProspect.
Darren Haynes (@DarrenWHaynes) has covered the Calgary Flames for The Canadian Press since 1990 and is a fixture at all home games. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. In addition to his game stories and other features that can be found on the CP news wire (will also appear on the AP news wire in the United States), he also maintains a blog in which he posts stories that are more Calgary-centric and not newsworthy enough to be of national interest. His blog is called Flames From 80 Feet, which is named after his press box view, which is 80 feet above the ice surface at the Saddledome.
Reading at the interviewees’ sites
Interview on Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox
Canes and Coffee: What role did Dougie Hamilton play for the Flames in 2017-18 and how did he perform?
Todd Cordell: He played alongside Mark Giordano on the top pairing, and by all accounts they were one of the best in the league. At 5v5, that duo controlled 57.64% of the shot attempts and 58.04% of the goals despite playing big minutes against the opposing team’s best players on a nightly basis. On the power play he split time between the 1st and 2nd unit, although I think he deserved a lot more time on PP1 than he was given based on how much it struggled for the majority of the year.
Darren Haynes: For most of the past two years under coach Glen Gulutzan, who was fired earlier in the off-season, Hamilton played right defence on the team’s top D pairing alongside captain and veteran Mark Giordano. The two comprised one of the top D pairings in the NHL last year based on their analytics. While he saw top pairing minutes, Hamilton’s average time on ice per game (21:32) was third on the team and more than three minutes less than Giordano as Hamilton does not kill penalties. His minimal PK time only came when one of the regular penalty killers was the one in the penalty box. Also of note, Hamilton was only on the second PP unit until approximately halfway through the season when he was promoted onto the top unit, where he remained on through the end of the season. Hamilton tied for the league lead in goals from the blueline with a career-high 17, tying Ivan Provorov and Victor Hedman. Hamilton is a shooter, who likes to fire the puck on net whenever he can. His 270 shots were second among defenceman behind only Brent Burns.
Canes and Coffee: What do you see as Hamilton’s strengths and weaknesses as a 1st or 2nd pairing defenseman lining opposite the other teams’ best forwards each and every shift?
Todd Cordell: There’s a long list of strengths. He makes good decisions with the puck. He is excellent breaking out of the zone. He drives play. And he produces offense. The biggest knock on him is that he takes a few too many stick infractions.
Darren Haynes: The biggest thing you’ll notice with Hamilton, no pun intended, is he’s 6-foot-6, but does not play a physical game. It often leaves fans wanting more in that area as he has the size to play more physical but does not. He will occasionally throw a hit and it will stand out because it will come as unexpected. The other area of his game that is criticized is his penchant for taking stick penalties – hooking, tripping, etc. Those types of penalties are often viewed as lazy penalties and when Bill Peters was named head coach of the Flames back in the spring, this was going to be an area I was going to watch closely as Peters’ teams have been the most disciplined in the NHL. Peters spoke at his press conference very candidly about how he hates lazy penalties and how the players will quickly learn the types of penalties he does not like. Turns out we will not see this subplot play out.
Being on the top D pairings, Giordano-Hamilton often got the assignment of matching up against the top opposition line. Hamilton’s strength is definitely with the puck on his stick and not defending, but he’s an adequate defender. But Giordano is the guy that anchors that top pairing and there is truth to the notion that Giordano’s presence and solid all-round game has helped prop up Hamilton’s success. The other notable thing with Hamilton is that it took a long time to gain the trust both of Gulutzan the past two years and Bob Hartley, the Flames coach, when he first arrived in Calgary. Proof of that is there was a point early on where Hamilton was playing on the third pairing. Also, despite his elite game with the puck on his stick, he rarely touched the ice in overtime with the Flames repeatedly opting for Giordano and TJ Brodie before Hamilton. But Hamilton eventually got himself into the OT rotation a lot more in the final third of the 2017-18 season.
Canes and Coffee: What role did Micheal Ferland fulfill for the Flames in 2017-18 and how did he perform?
Todd Cordell: He spent a lot of time alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan on the top unit. He was the physical presence and did a good job of forechecking, winning battles, and recovering pucks for those guys to make plays. He was also a force around the net and was more than capable of burying chances when those guys got him the puck in dangerous areas.
Darren Haynes: Micheal Ferland has always been known as a guy with an underappreciated skill set, yet his game was plagued by inconsistency. He will play really well as he did to begin last season alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan on the club’s top line. He scored 19 goals in his first 42 games last year, which was a pace for over 35 goals on the season. But then it seems like he gets too comfortable. He is a player that is at his best when he’s playing a simple, mean game, north-south game, throwing body checks, etc., When he disappears and loses those elements of his game, he becomes ineffective. When he’s not playing that rambunctious style, his offence tends to dry up also, and eventually he plays himself off that top line and lands back in the bottom six, sometimes the 4th line in particular. Is he a 1st line guy or a 4th line guy? That’s the question with the answer probably being somewhere in the middle. He can be a 1st line guy, but has yet to prove he can do it consistently, which makes him more of a bottom-six guy, and in the eyes of the Flames, someone that carried a risk of being too expensive to re-sign when his next contract is due for 2019-20.
For special teams, Ferland played some power play, a role that took a while to come, but also a role that he lost his grip on in the second half. He does not kill penalties.
Canes and Coffee: What type of role do you see Ferland capable of? Does he have enough pace and skill to be a complementary physical forward on a scoring line with Aho/Teravainen? Or do you see him as more of a depth forward on a lower line?
Todd Cordell: Yes, I think he is capable of filling a role on a scoring line. Over the last two seasons Ferland has mostly played on the top line and he scored 36 goals in that time, most of which came during 5v5 play. I think he’s a very good complementary forward, and at times he can surprise you with some of the plays he makes. He is smart and has good touch for a big guy.
Darren Haynes: It is a similar situation to what I mentioned above. He has the ability to play up in the lineup. He has decent vision on the ice, good speed and a dangerous shot. But when he complicates his game, the physicality disappears and so does his effectiveness. I would expect a similar pattern in Carolina where he earns some looks up in the lineup, but he ends up in the bottom-six most of the time.
Canes and Coffee: Do you have any other thoughts/comments on what the Hurricanes are getting in Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland that are not covered by the questions above?
Todd Cordell: In 2017-18, Hamilton was one of 14 right-handed defenders to average more than 20 minutes per game, produce at least 40 points, and post a positive Relative Corsi For%. He has four straight 40+ point seasons to his name. He’s rare and he’s elite.
Darren Haynes: Hamilton’s character has been under scrutiny since the trade. He’s been traded twice now, first from Boston and now this deal three years after Calgary spent a first round pick and two seconds to get him from the Bruins. For a top-10 draft pick (in 2011) who just turned 25 that has the type of offensive totals that he puts up that is very, very unusual. On the ice, he is the exact type of player organizations do not trade as a right-shooting defencemen with size and the ability to pile up points. He is a different guy off the ice. Much was made of his dependency and insistence on having his big brother Freddie Hamilton with the organization too. Freddie was his roommate and did the cooking and did the driving. But he barely played. When Calgary eventually, after a year and a half of him being mainly a healthy scratch, put him on waivers last January and he was claimed by Arizona, Dougie reportedly did not handle it well and some of his actions afterwards did not land very well in the front office. General Manager Brad Treliving has emphasized in the past that he wants his team to be a tight group as he is a big believer in the power of chemistry, and it seems that Hamilton did not really fit in with the rest of the guys. He reportedly would often do his own thing rather than join team get togethers, etc. One also wonders about his level of emotion. He is quiet spoken and wins or losses never really seemed to generate much emotion from him. Calgary has a couple fiery competitors in Matthew Tkachuk and Mike Smith and they are looking for more guys that cannot stand to lose versus guys that just like to win.
The big thing with Hamilton is despite what did/didn’t happen around the dressing room and despite the criticisms to his on-ice game, he was a remarkable man away from the ice as him and his brother had a very impactful presence in the Flames community. This tweet from Blake Heynen (https://twitter.com/BlakeHeynen/status/1012085915773067264), who used to head up the club’s community relations initiatives, provides some great insight into that. While Hamilton has his critics, the great majority of fans were Hamilton fans, there’s no question about that. It’s the loss of Hamilton in particular that has made this a contentious trade.
As for Ferland, the thing you need to know about him is that he has gone through a tremendous fight off the ice for sobriety and now has been sober for several years. Much has been written on this. I think he did some hard-living in major junior where he had a real intimidating presence, who would drop the gloves with anyone and would win most of those fights. Now he is married and has a young daughter who he is really proud of. Ferland is another player that will be missed in Calgary, but his potential next salary ask is what issue and the other is he is just one season away from being a UFA.
Canes and Coffee: What can you tell the Hurricanes fan base about blue line prospect Adam Fox who was also included in the deal?
Todd Cordell: At 5’10’, he’s a little undersized but he is a tremendously smart defender who possesses above average puck skills. He has quietly developed into one of the better defense prospects in the league. I think the only reason the Flames parted with him was due to signability concerns.
Darren Haynes: He is a third round pick, who very quickly established himself as a top prospect, who quickly rose up the depth chart. In my bi-annual team prospect rankings, he ranked number 3. He enjoyed great success with Team USA and at Harvard, where this fall he will begin his third season. Yes, Harvard. With Adam Fox, he is a different cat, very smart as one would expect. This is not a rocks-for-jocks guy that tries to get by in University by studying geology, he’s taking courses around Darwinism. He is a top prospect, on the smaller side, but elite with the puck skills already. But the well-documented concern with him is was Calgary going to be able to sign him? If Fox goes the full four years of college and then waits until August 15 of that year, he would become an unrestricted free agent. The Flames were starting to wonder if he would be a risk of not signing, so they gave up on the asset, while there was still value.
Canes and Coffee would like to send a HUGE thank you to Darren Haynes and Todd Cordell for sharing their from the rink insight on Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox.