Puck moving defensemen series: Calgary Flames

The Flames had a successful season in 2016/17, reaching 94 points and securing a spot in the post-season.  In addition to strong talent up front in Gaudreau, Monahan, Tkachuk, and Bennett, the flames boast a solid back-end led by two studs in Giordano and Hamilton. While it’s been Giordano’s blueline over the past couple seasons, the emergence of Hamilton as a dominant defensemen may signal a new sheriff in town.

***Note: For further detail on methodology and explanation of the chart, please refer to the first installment of this series (Montreal Canadiens)

24JUN2017 -- flames puck moving d -- v1

The New Sheriff in Town

Dougie Hamilton was simply superb as a puck moving defenseman in 2016/17. It should come as no surprise that he’s taken the next step given his stellar statistical season (13g, 37a, 50pts, +12) but the advanced data show step-change improvement.  His puck moving factor (PMF) score of +6.13 is among the best in the entire NHL.  For example, consider his play with Sean Monahan.

APART from Hamilton, Monahan played 740 mins with a Corsi of 47.0

ON THE ICE with Hamilton, Monahan played 340 mins with a Corsi of 56.8

There are other factors, of course, which get baked into the model, but at a basic example level, the impact is quite stunning. This is also despite starting more shifts in the D-zone than the O-zone (33% vs 31%) and facing top opponents.

Giordano is still a stud and an excellent puck mover at age 33. He scored the second highest PMF on the team (+2.85) which may seem low relative to Hamilton but might be tops on half the other teams in the league. Like his defense partner Hamilton, Giordano routinely faced against the top players on the opposing team.

Rounding out the defense

Brodie (-0.55) and Wideman (-0.28) posted similar PMF scores. However, Brodie started more shifts than Wideman in the defensive zone (35% vs 33%) and faced significantly tougher opponents.

Stone, Bartkowski, and Engelland struggled as puck movers, although Stone faced against top opponents (many from his time in Arizona) and began more shifts in the defensive zone (39%) than any other Flames defender.

Examining the Hamonic trade

The Flames acquired Hamonic and 4th for a 1st round pick and 2 2nd rounders. To get a deeper assessment of Hamonic, we looked at the past 3 seasons. Overall, Hamonic is a slightly below average puck moving defenseman (past 3 year average PMF of -1.15).

2016/17 was a tough year for Hamonic as a puck mover, posting his lowest PMF of the 3-year span (-3.48). To his credit, he has faced the top players on the opposing team and started 35% of shifts in 2016/17 in the defensive zone (vs 29% in the O-Zone). Still, these numbers could be very discouraging when you trade 3 high picks for a defender.

Verdict on the deal: Hamonic is a below average puck mover and likely an average 2nd pairing defenseman in the NHL.  That said, he is only 26 and comes at a reasonable cap hit of less than $4M per season. He will most likely play alongside TJ Brodie on the 2nd pairing for Calgary next season.

The Verdict

The future is bright in Calgary. In addition to an improving forward group, the Flames have a strong back-end led by Dougie Hamilton and Mark Giordano. If Hamonic can find his 2015/16 form (PMF +1.06), him and Brodie can emerge as one of the better 2nd pairings in the league and rival Nashville for the top blueline in the NHL.

 

 


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