What We Learned: Puzzling out the Hamilton trade, plus draft grades

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A pretty good rule of thumb with any trade is that the team that gets the best player typically wins.

Everyone knows you can’t win without stars, right? And the argument can certainly be made that Dougie Hamilton is probably about a top-10 defenseman in the world. The two guys coming back to Calgary for Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and star defensive prospect Adam Fox are certainly not on that level.

You can like Noah Hanifin (just 21) as a player with a lot of room for growth. You can like a versatile higher-end forward like Elias Lindholm (just 23) for much the same reason. But you can’t delude yourself into thinking either of them will ever be the kind of contributor that Hamilton is and has been.

Yet the Canadian media started circling the wagons pretty hard in defense of Brad Treliving, whose decision to trade Hamilton is interesting for a lot of reasons. Let’s first take the claims that Hamilton was not well liked in the Flames dressing room, which have been persistent. They were persistent in Boston, too, so maybe he’s just not a “good fit” on teams like this.

Now, because you can’t win without top talent, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for a team like the Flames or Bruins or, say, the Toronto Maple Leafs to bow to the pressure from inside the room. Hamilton would go to museums while the rest of the team went to Cheesecake Factory for lunch, and that was the big problem? Hamitlon got sick of having a hangdog expression every time the goaltending or the Flames’ lack of depth blew another winnable game?

It seems to me that the hegemonic hockey culture might need some fixing if that’s the kind of thing that leads to an irreparable rift, especially in two rooms that would certainly pride themselves on having lots of leadership. If your leaders can’t find a way to make that relationship work for the good of the team, that’s a leadership problem and not an individual problem. Because let’s be honest, the Flames outscored opponents by 13 in all situations when Hamilton was on the ice this season. When he wasn’t on, they got outscored by 45.

This isn’t even a “look at the underlying numbers” argument. This is the definition of “watch the games,” because the Flames were one of the worst teams in the league with Hamilton on the bench even when they had him, so what makes them think trading him is going to work out well?

You can make the argument, I guess, that Hamilton really succeeded in Calgary because he played with a perennial borderline Norris candidate in Mark Giordano, and before that in Boston he played with future Hall of Famer Zdeno Chara. His numbers with both those guys are phenomenal. But both suffer without him; Giordano got badly outscored last season with someone other than Hamilton as his D partner, scoring 25 in almost 525 minutes, but conceding 43. Moreover, Hamilton’s numbers with everyone who isn’t a low-tier NHL defender or worse (i.e. Jyrkki Jokipaka, Kris Russell, or Deryk Engelland) are almost as good as his numbers with elite guys. It’s almost like, I dunno, Hamitlon is a star.

Few are dumb enough to actually argue against Hamitlon as a hockey player, so that’s where the behind-the-scenes shivving comes from. Tale as old as time, in Boston, in Calgary, elsewhere. Not that Hamitlon is joining some kind of burgeoning superteam like Phil Kessel did when he got traded for being the hot dog guy or whatever, but would it surprise anyone in the world if the Hurricanes have more success than the Flames next season?

Because Hanifin looks good at 21, has a nice draft pedigree for himself, but what do you think his ceiling is? It’s almost certainly not “top-10 defenseman in the world,” which is what the Flames just gave up. And they’ve already said they’re putting TJ Brodie back with Giordano, then partnering Hanifin with Travis Hamonic. I’m interested to see how that works out in much the same way I am interested in NASCAR races for the crashes.

Hamilton, meanwhile, has the potential to turn Jaccob Slavin into a borderline All-Star.

The real key to this trade, then, seems to be the decision to swap out Ferland, who used a favorable deployment on the Gaudreau/Monahan line and a high shooting percentage to net 20-plus goals this season, for Lindholm. I think you could pick any random fan out of the opening-night crowd and have that person put up 17-18-35 over 82 games with Gaudreau and Monahan (and hell, the Flames were probably two failed right wings away from trying it). But Lindholm is indeed a top-six winger-slash-center and that’s something Calgary needed badly. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Ferland turn back into a pumpkin away from two higher-end talents, but maybe Carolina can find a buyer who doesn’t understand how shooting percentage regression works. (Dale Tallon on line 1?)

The Adam Fox throw-in is just that. Calgary needed to make that deal because it was pretty apparent that Fox intends to stay at Harvard for at least one more season and had no desire to sign with the Flames.

Let’s break the trade down this way: Carolina got a star who makes just about everyone around him better — but also has interests outside of hockey, golf, and going to the Tilted Kilt 40 times a year — plus a decent bottom-six forward they might try to flip, and the rights to a nice prospect they may or may not be able to sign. Calgary got two complementary players who have room to grow but will likely never be impact players independent of other stars.

There is, of course, a chance that Hanifin and Lindholm combined contribute more than Hamilton and Ferland. But I wouldn’t bet too much on that.

In the end, if you don’t have a good amount of elite talent, you don’t win much in the NHL. So maybe if your elite talent is a little outside the norm of how hockey traditionally operates, you should do what you can to accommodate those players rather than ostracize them. Stars are exceptionally rare and must be guarded jealously.

If nothing else, it saves the Calgary media from having to spin another inadvisable trade to a fanbase that already has plenty of reason to be skeptical of this front office.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Apparently Isac Lundestrom is fairly NHL-ready, maybe a year or so away. I don’t know that this fact helps them all that much because they probably have, like, a year or two left of this team being any good — especially up front — but they did what they could picking 23rd. The rest of the picks, they got some value, but this team has immediate needs. B-

Arizona Coyotes:I doooooo nooooooooooooooot understand the Barrett Hayton pick. Filip Zadina was right there! I guess Hayton’s a center but most draft boards would have put him in the late teens or early 20s at most. At five? C’mon man! But they drafted the English kid in the seventh round so, stiff upper lip then. D+

Boston Bruins:Apparently people like the Jakub Lauko pick but he was a third-round choice and, more importantly, the Bruins’ big target this weekend went to LA instead. Don Sweeney’s gonna be scrambling to get stuff done this week, and he’s working from a disadvantage now. C-

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres finally have a good defenseman! And made a few other good picks including Matej Pekar and Linus Lindstrang Cronholm. Hard to line up against this draft, to be honest, except to say a team like this should be making more than six picks. A

Calgary Flames: When you don’t pick until the fourth round and you trade away an elite player, that’s bad, to me. F

Carolina Hurricanes: Much like the Sabres, they had a tap-in pick to make and made it. Jack Drury seems like he’s gonna be a decent college player at the very least (and he’s going to the program that recently produced NHLers like Jimmy Vesey, Alex Kerfoot, and Ryan Donato). Plus they got a top-flight defenseman. A

Chicago: Pretty easy to like the draft they turned in here. Boqvist is gonna be a player, and Jake Wise looks like great value where they got him. Plus, y’know, if you pick four times in the first 74 picks, you’re in good shape. B+

Colorado Avalanche: I’m not totally sure I get why they needed another goalie but the value is there with Gruabauer for a second and some dead cap space. That’s what teams like Colorado should absolutely be doing with their cap space all the time; get good players for nothing. Anyway, Martin Kaut, alright fine, that’s a safe pick. B-

Columbus Blue Jackets: Like Colorado, they probably made a too-safe pick in the first round but I think that’s mostly fine because this is a win-now kinda team, especially if they gotta start trading talent for fear of not being able to retain them long-term, so whatever. C-

Dallas Stars: I like that Adam Mascherin pick. He should not have been there in the fourth round but he’s 5-foot-9 so that explains everything. He’s one of two 5-foot-9 guys the Stars drafted. But to even it out, they took a guy who’s 6-foot-8 and two who are 6-foot-4. C

Detroit Red Wings: To get Zadina at 6 when he should have been gone at 3? That’s very good. To get Veleno at 30 when he should have been gone in the mid-teens? That’s great. To get a Lowell guy at 81? That’s genius! (Also of note: I don’t get the Xavier Ouellett buyout at all.) A+++++

Edmonton Oilers: Evan Bouchard at 10, maybe a little bit of value there since I mostly saw him listed in the 6-8 range. But that Ryan McLeod pick at 40 seems like it could be a real smart one. He’s one of those protypical “first-round talents available in the second round” that GMs always talk about to reassure fans that their picks are actually good. B+

Florida Panthers: This kinda felt like a whole draft of playing it safe. Which, I don’t understand that organizational philosophy since this team needs higher-end talent to take a step. Then again, Florida is good at finding talent in the draft, generally speaking, so I’ll give them a little bit of the benefit of the doubt here. C+

Los Angeles Kings: The guys they picked this year are largely immaterial because they got Ilya Kovalchuk and, in doing so, prevented a few teams in their division from doing so instead. Pretty good! B

Minnesota Wild: That Filip Johansson pick was a huge reach at 24. An almost “what are you DOING?” pick. But Jack McBain might really turn into something. Puts it somewhere in the “this is fine” range, especially because this is another team that’s gonna really need a serious rebuild in like two or three years. C

Montreal Canadiens: You knew they were gonna screw it up and they did screw it up. They really think Koktaniemi is gonna solve their problems. And it seems like they were mostly drafting for need, which is never a good idea. D

Nashville Predators: Only four picks, none before No. 111. Not ideal but this team is barely thinking about the draft. They probably shouldn’t have even shown up. Just Skype in next time. C-

New Jersey Devils: A 5-foot-11 point-a-game defenseman at No. 17? Seems like a bit of a value pick there, a little, maybe. But hey, it’s 2018 baby! Why not? Of course, they also didn’t pick again until the fourth round, so that’s not ideal. C+

New York Islanders: I like the Wahlstrom, Dobson, and Wilde picks. Ruslan Iskhakov seems like a bit of a reach but he’s going to college so he’ll have plenty of time to develop and he’s just a little guy. Looming over all that, however, is the Tavares thing. B

New York Rangers: Woof. Baffling. If you have three first-round picks you just have to do better than this. It’s not quite the Connor-Barzal-Kylington goof-up but it’s not far off. I truly don’t get it, even if I think the guys they did take are, like, fine. D+

Ottawa Senators: For the one millionth time: I like Brady Tkachuk’s game a lot, but he shouldn’t have gone fourth. There were mitigating factors behind his weirdly just-okay production, but it seems like Ottawa (and others) really talked themselves into this one. People were saying Tkachuk can be a center but if you’re not a center in your draft year, in a development league, you’re probably not an NHL center. Miss me with the “Koktaniemi played wing but he’s a center” argument, too, because that guy played in a men’s pro league. If you’re picking a wing, take Zadina. Not hard. C-

Philadelphia Flyers: They got Farabee basically right where they should have. Jay O’Brien, on the other hand, seems like a bit of a reach. Split the difference and maybe you say they’re a little below where they ought to have been? C-

Pittsburgh Penguins: Calen Addison looks like he could be a good gamble but they only had four picks so that’s tough to come back from. C+

San Jose Sharks: Huge reach on Ryan Merkley, didn’t get Kovalchuk, might get Tavares? I’ll be nice and not give them a D because, well, maybe they get Tavares. C-

St. Louis Blues: Looks like they got nice value on Dominik Bokk but I really liked that Scott Perunovich move at No. 45. Nice little draft. B

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Bolts, of all the teams in the league, picked a bunch of tall guys and an okay-scoring QMJHL winger. Not sure I get it. D+

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs took four defensemen and all but one of them were under 5-foot-11. Again, it is 2018. B-

Vancouver Canucks: I love Quinn Hughes so much and Jett Woo looks like he could be a good one. Vancouver…. did well? A-

Vegas Golden Knights: Yeah, an expansion team with one pick in the first 99 is not doing well at a draft. And even Ivan Morozov (No. 61) seemed like a reach of sorts. No thanks. D+

Washington Capitals: Alexeyev might be a bit of a value pick at 31. Not so much Martin Fehervary. But whatever, you win a Cup and you don’t really care about this stuff. C

Winnipeg Jets: This was basically the most normal, regular draft any team had. Everything seemed more or less right where it should have been. So I guess you say that’s any easy C.

Gold Star Award

How did Ken Holland have this good of a weekend? Ken Holland!

Minus of the Weekend

It makes me sick that these kids are mostly 2000 birthdates. I hate it!!!!

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “GeauxPreds1” is absolutely a Preds fan.

Roman josi+ a small add for David Pastrňák.”

Signoff

No.

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Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

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