Rangers Must See Hamilton on Broadway

Phil Kocher
@ me

Phil Kocher

Managing Editor & Cofounder at ClearedForContact.com
I believe in Nate Silver, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, the Oxford comma, and the value of white space.
Phil Kocher
@ me

To answer the question posed by The Hockey News’ Lyle Richardson, yes, the Rangers should pursue Dougie Hamilton. They should pursue any option that would improve their defense. Specifically, right-handed puck-movers to strengthen a relatively weak right side where 23 games into the season they have returned their $5.5M analytics drain named Dan Girardi to the top pairing next to franchise blueliner Ryan McDonagh. It’s a role he has no business playing in any longer, as PuckDaddy’s Ryan Lambert has emphatically proven, but it’s a frustrating familiarity that AV and the Rangers’ coaching staff are all too comfortable returning to.

The fact Hamilton is being mentioned to the Rangers, in particular, shouldn’t surprise you. They’ve been linked to other high-profile puck-movers like Blues’ defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, as well as Jacob Trouba, who I wrote about back on November 8th. All three players are right-handed, right-side defenseman who move the puck well (to varying degrees). The Rangers’ interest in any of them is all based on the same principle. Their respective skill sets are ones the Rangers defensive group could really benefit from. Their right-side, composed of Dan Girardi, Nick Holden, and Kevin Klein, has been so weak this season they’ve actually transitioned first-year breakout rookie Brady Skjei to his off-side less than a month into the season just to compensate for the imbalance. In his case, it’s paid off thus far, thankfully, but the need for an impact partner to play alongside McDonagh remains. Only Holden has shown an adequate level of competence there, but it’s probably not good enough for the long road through Hell that is otherwise known as the NHL playoffs. Enter the next contestant on the Is the Price Right?—Dougie Hamilton.

For a little context, Kevin Allen of USA Today penned an article back on November 25th suggesting that the Flames and Rangers would be suitable partners in a hypothetical scenario centered around sending the Toronto-native to New York City in a sizable trade deal to address weaknesses for both clubs. That’s where this all started, really. Allen’s logic is fairly straightforward:

Calgary’s Dougie Hamilton fits their need for a right-shot defenseman who is mobile and can generate offense. The Flames, desperately in need of scoring help, would probably ask for J.T. Miller because he is also 23 years old and can play center or wing.

Before you object, probably with anger, know that Allen did, too. He noted that Miller’s value has never been higher. He has 19 points in 23 games, tying him for the team lead in points with fellow linemate Kevin Hayes. While I’ve already argued it was foolish of the Rangers not to buck a bridge deal by offering him a long-term contract in exchange for a more favorable AAV, his two-year deal, worth just $2.75M per season, is very attractive in this kind of trade talk. So, too, is his age. He’ll turn 24 next March. The fact he plays all three forward positions is icing on the cake.

The 23-year old Hamilton, on the other hand, has inexplicably seen his value as a commodity regress somewhat since signing a six-year/$34.5M extension with the Flames worth $5.75M in AAV just five days after they acquired him in June of 2015. While he has 55 points in 106 games played with the Flames since the trade (good for 0.52 P/GP), the Flames as a team have the fifth-lowest goals-for per game in the NHL this season at just 2.29, despite being one of the teams closest to the salary cap ceiling. Sure, they miss Johnny Gaudreau who’s 78 points were fifth-best in the entire league last season, but ultimately they are a club with a very high payroll and little to show for it. They’ve failed to make the playoffs since 2013-14, two years before the trade that brought Hamilton to Calgary, and despite his production, it doesn’t appear they’re on the track to make them this season either. They’re 10-13-2 on the year, and though they’re only two points out of the last Western Conference wildcard spot, they are also 11th in the Conference.

I’m baffled, however, by some of the arguments—including both Richardson’s and Allen’s takes—that suggest Hamilton needs to go in part due to expectations he’s failed to meet. Anyone making that argument isn’t properly accounting for the impact he has on the game from a production or analytics perspective. He owns a 53.8 CF% and a 52.8 FF% this season and has produced well despite the Flames’ lack of success as a team. As noted above, his 0.52 P/GP pace is actually an improvement on the 0.47 P/GP pace he had over three years with the Bruins. It’s his success, not his failure to meet expectations, that actually justifies his name surfacing in the NHL rumor mill. Add the fact he’s a right-handed point-producing defenseman in a league bereft of right-handed point-producing defensemen and it helps to better explain why the Flames could possibly look to move him. He’s one of the most valuable assets they have to offer if they’re looking to fill significant holes elsewhere in their line-up, like their left wing depth where they are currently missing the high-flying Gaudreau. Miller, of course, has played much of his time in New York at left wing and has found the majority of his success this season there with Kevin Hayes at center and Michael Grabner on the right wing.

In a vacuum like the one originally suggested by Allen—Hamilton for Miller straight up—the Rangers are unlikely to agree, even as the pressure to address a deficient right side of their defensive group mounts. But Allen isn’t wrong to suggest there’s a reason for these teams talk on this matter. Just the opposite, in fact, because this kind of trade scenario would address exactly what both clubs want and need. The Rangers need a mobile, puck-moving, right-handed, right side defender meets well head-on with the Flames’ need for a young goal-scoring forward on a cost-controlled contract. It’s the salary cap, in this case, more so than the one-for-one value, that’s most restrictive here.

According to CapFriendly, the Flames currently project $0 in available cap room now or at the trade deadline and are currently benefiting from over $3.49M in long-term injured reserve relief. This is due to a combination of carrying a 23-man roster, injuries, big-money contracts, and potential performances bonuses, so a Hamilton deal would likely represent more than just trading to address a need elsewhere in their lineup. It would also help to alleviate the cap pressure they’re feeling right now while being pressed so tightly to its ceiling.

The Miller-for-Hamilton deal, on paper, is probably fair. After all, as author George R.R. Martin once quipped, “a fair bargain leaves both sides unhappy.” But it’s a cap impossibility at the moment. Again, according to CapFriendly, the Rangers have just under $2.8M in available cap room right now, though that number is being inflated by the extra players the Rangers are currently carrying with Zibanejad and Buchnevich both injured. That number will change once either or both return to the lineup because they have 24 players, including those on IR, on the active roster right now. In order to meet the 23-man roster limit, once healthy again, they would need to move a body or two to be compliant, so more cap room could theoretically open depending on who is traded or assigned to Hartford by then. It’s a complex but highly maneuverable situation that, in my estimation, means the Rangers actually have around $4M in flexible cap space. But that’s cap space that, should they pull off a deal of this size this early in the year, would eat into their available room at the trade deadline this February. While acquiring Hamilton for Miller plugs a hole from a strength, it would also handcuff the team from making many or any depth moves at the deadline. Not to mention, with Buchnevich and Zibanejad both currently injured, the forward depth isn’t at full strength, so they wouldn’t be dealing from their strongest position today.

But make no bones about it — Hamilton is absolutely worth pursuing. The prospect of pairing such a smooth-skating, point-producing defender like Hamilton with Ryan McDonagh is especially exciting. Neither Girardi, Klein, nor Holden can hold a candle to Hamilton’s combination of speed, skating, and offensive production. A McDonagh-Hamilton first-pairing would finally give the Rangers a legitimate top-2 defensive partnership that could handle even the toughest assignments in the league, all while adding to their league-leading offensive output. I’m a firm believer in the theory that the neglect McDonagh has been treated with regarding the quality of his partners over the last few seasons has seriously limited the Rangers ability to compete deeper into the playoffs. Fixing that by acquiring someone of Hamilton’s talents while future legend Henrik Lundqvist still has viability would be a massive improvement.

It’ll be interesting to see if this Allen-lead take grows legs or not. TSN’s Bob McKenzie has confirmed the Flames are “definitely listening” to offers being made in exchange for Hamilton, but has also been sure not to mince words, noting “that’s not the same as wanting to trade him.” Regardless, the Rangers should absolutely show interest so long as Flame’s General Manager Brad Treliving is willing to listen. Hamilton would be a boon to their defense core and the Broadway box office musical analogies and references that would dominate the post-trade headlines (and pre-trade headlines like this one) is just too good of an opportunity to pass on.

♫ “…And the world is gonna know your name
What’s your name, man?

Alexander Dougie Jonathan Hamilton” ♫

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  1. AS are best used in baseball. Although a team sport, there's a ton of individualism. Not only that, but there's no flow to the game, and is a large chess match most of the time. There's more noticeable above average players on bad teams in baseball than there are in hockey. Fwiw, I love baseball, and I think AS have a much greater place in that game.
    The most important thing that happens is on the ice. The most important data, recorded based on what happens on the ice, we disagree on weighing. Agreed.
    I also agree you can't measure things like battle level, etc. But you can weigh those values against other data. If heart was all that mattered, Tanner Glass would be on this team. He played with a metric ton of it. But he was an analytics drain, and didn't produce.
    Phil in Absentia
    No, they don't. You want them to be. Because you largely don't believe in analytics. At least to the extent I do. That's the issue here. I'm back to the pasta analogy.
    In nearly every article I've written I've spoken to a series of metrics — some traditional, some advanced. It's not my fault that you want to sweep up every analytics metric into "one" and then claim that there's an imbalance between that "one" and everything else.

    I believe in them. They are numbers. You can't deny numbers. It's the interpretation of the data and the weight that it carries that we disagree on. I think what happens on the ice is the most important thing. From what I can tell, you think the most important data can be found on spreadsheets.
    Not everything is a formula that needs to be proven with a calculator. That's just not how sports works. Mostly because you can't measure battle level, second efforts, determination, situational awareness, etc., you know all those things that are "overvalued"...But the things you need to win a Cup.
    No, they don't. You want them to be. Because you largely don't believe in analytics. At least to the extent I do. That's the issue here. I'm back to the pasta analogy.
    In nearly every article I've written I've spoken to a series of metrics — some traditional, some advanced. It's not my fault that you want to sweep up every analytics metric into "one" and then claim that there's an imbalance between that "one" and everything else.
    Phil in Absentia
    I don't know how many times I have to say that's exactly the case here. The entire piece argues that he deserves to play in more games specifically because his analytics numbers are so high. The entire piece makes mention of his sample size being extremely small, and of his actual NHL production being minimal largely due to not playing many games.

    And I don't know how many times I can say "because analytics say so" isn't a reason to do...Anything. The thought process needs to be holistic, and even though you claim that yours is, not many of your arguments reflect that.
    I don't know how many times I have to say that's exactly the case here. The entire piece argues that he deserves to play in more games specifically because his analytics numbers are so high. The entire piece makes mention of his sample size being extremely small, and of his actual NHL production being minimal largely due to not playing many games.
    Phil in Absentia
    It's not based on one stat. More than five, including team PDO, are referenced in the Clendening piece.
    I've already explained numerous times that in his case that focus was needed because his NHL sample size is so small. Looking back on it, the only aspect I wish I'd included were his AHL numbers.

    They're all just different ways of saying their team takes more shot attempts than our team when X player is out, except PDO.
    If you want to make a case for a player, you can't just show one angle. Unless all the other angles don't support the narrative, which in Clendening's case, they do not.
    Pete
    So you don't see any issue with basing an opinion on one stat?
    Grabner leads the team in goal. He should be on the first line.
    Raata has a better SP% than Lundqvist, he should start.
    That stuff doesn't fly...So why should it fly in this case? FWIW, the Rangers are just 4-3 with Clendening dressed. It's not like he's a huge difference maker. The record with the other AS challenged defense corps is far better.

    It's not based on one stat. More than five, including team PDO, are referenced in the Clendening piece.
    I've already explained numerous times that in his case that focus was needed because his NHL sample size is so small. Looking back on it, the only aspect I wish I'd included were his AHL numbers.
    Phil in Absentia
    Correct. In this particular case, that's exactly what I'm doing. The narrative I'm fighting is that I do this with every player, in every situation.
    Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk

    So you don't see any issue with basing an opinion on one stat?
    Grabner leads the team in goal. He should be on the first line.
    Raata has a better SP% than Lundqvist, he should start.
    That stuff doesn't fly...So why should it fly in this case? FWIW, the Rangers are just 4-3 with Clendening dressed. It's not like he's a huge difference maker. The record with the other AS challenged defense corps is far better.
    Phil in Absentia
    Sure, but they're not THE narrative. They were A narrative in the Clendening piece and are part of the narrative in every other one.
    This is a strawman. I never argued they're to be "completely relied on". This is another way of saying I don't watch games and only determine things on a spreadsheet, and that I only account for analytics and nothing else. None of which is true. The only narrative being constructed in this sense is Pete's which is using one article and my last few posts to determine it's all I care about which is like me saying his posts don't care about them enough, so all he cares about is eye test. It's all wrong. It's all strawman arguing to make the other guy easier to cut down.
    Go read literally any other piece I wrote on CFC. Tell me all I account for its analytics.
    Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk

    I didn't say you don't watch games. I'm saying you're relying on AS to tell you that a below mediocre player belongs in the line up steadily.
    Pete
    Sorry, that's just not a convincing argument. If all you're showing me is the scalpel, and you're using it to cut down a tree, I'm just not going to believe you own the chainsaw.
    I don't have a problem with analytics supporting a narrative. I have a problem when they BECOME the narrative.

    Sure, but they're not THE narrative. They were A narrative in the Clendening piece and are part of the narrative in every other one.
    Mikey37
    You just proved why AS can't be completely relied on. It's the new toy in the league, some value it more than others around the league. Right now the cool thing to do is hire a nerd that knows when a guy farts while hopping the boards. Fact is that stats tell you zero about other variables players bring to the table it. GM's know it, scouts know it, coaches know it. You can analyze the numbers all day and might never be able to find the players to address your flaws. Replacing Girardi with Clendening is like choosing to knock your house down instead of burning it because it's easier to clean up.

    This is a strawman. I never argued they're to be "completely relied on". This is another way of saying I don't watch games and only determine things on a spreadsheet, and that I only account for analytics and nothing else. None of which is true. The only narrative being constructed in this sense is Pete's which is using one article and my last few posts to determine it's all I care about which is like me saying his posts don't care about them enough, so all he cares about is eye test. It's all wrong. It's all strawman arguing to make the other guy easier to cut down.
    Go read literally any other piece I wrote on CFC. Tell me all I account for its analytics.
    Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk
    Phil in Absentia
    You mean the Clendening article that is titled how analytics prove he should play more games? Yeah, I'm pretty sure that argument should be based on them. Not goal totals or PP time, for example. The entire defense of Clendening playing, in that/this case, is analytics. That's not true of others, but might be true of some. By comparison I also wrote at length about Hayes and about how his poor possession metrics don't really matter because of how well his traditional metrics are.
    Again, what this boils down to is I put more stock in AS than you. We're both cooking a pasta dish. You want more salt. I want more garlic. You want to argue that garlic is irrelevant. I want to argue using more of it would help the dish. That's how this plays out for me.
    I could just as easily flip the script on you and tell you your posts don't include enough AS. Where would that get us? Nowhere. Fast. Because it's not about whether there things have value. It's about how much value and how much they should or shouldn't be relied on to make decisions. That's the divide. It's always been the divide and it's going to be the divide until this bridge gets crossed. I'm all ears for suggestions on how.
    Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk

    You just proved why AS can't be completely relied on. It's the new toy in the league, some value it more than others around the league. Right now the cool thing to do is hire a nerd that knows when a guy farts while hopping the boards. Fact is that stats tell you zero about other variables players bring to the table it. GM's know it, scouts know it, coaches know it. You can analyze the numbers all day and might never be able to find the players to address your flaws. Replacing Girardi with Clendening is like choosing to knock your house down instead of burning it because it's easier to clean up.
    Sorry, that's just not a convincing argument. If all you're showing me is the scalpel, and you're using it to cut down a tree, I'm just not going to believe you own the chainsaw.
    I don't have a problem with analytics supporting a narrative. I have a problem when they BECOME the narrative.
    Of course I focus on them. I've said it a dozen times—I believe in their predictive value when used in conjunction with supporting evidence. I value them, more than you in all likelihood, so of course my posts will feature them more than they won't. But that doesn't mean I don't value others. That's a kind of false dichotomy I've talked about where support of one thing defines your non support of another. Being a Democrat means you hate Republicans. Being a Republican means you hate women. Being a feminist means you hate men. That sort of thing.
    Not every one of my posts is going to be a dissertation. Some will be more colloquial where I don't explicitly touch on every possible base. Hell, sometimes I may even fall short of the mark in not providing enough justification of one thing or another. It happens. I don't do it intentionally. I have no interest in playing hide the ball.
    Again, I believe in and value analytics. That doesn't mean I disbelieve in the value of goals. It doesn't mean I stop valuing time on ice. These things work in conjunction in most cases. Like Legos. They're additional variables that can refine an argument to a sharp point. When I feel the need to use a scalpel, I do so. Other times I don't. When I don't, that doesn't suspend all other valuations simply because they're not explicitly being mentioned.
    Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk
    Phil in Absentia
    You mean the Clendening article that is titled how analytics prove he should play more games? Yeah, I'm pretty sure that argument should be based on them. Not goal totals or PP time, for example. The entire defense of Clendening playing, in that/this case, is analytics. That's not true of others, but might be true of some. By comparison I also wrote at length about Hayes and about how his poor possession metrics don't really matter because of how well his traditional metrics are.
    Again, what this boils down to is I put more stock in AS than you. We're both cooking a pasta dish. You want more salt. I want more garlic. You want to argue that garlic is irrelevant. I want to argue using more of it would help the dish. That's how this plays out for me.
    I could just as easily flip the script on you and tell you your posts don't include enough AS. Where would that get us? Nowhere. Fast. Because it's not about whether there things have value. It's about how much value and how much they should or shouldn't be relied on to make decisions. That's the divide. It's always been the divide and it's going to be the divide into this bridge gets crossed. I'm all ears for suggestions on how.
    Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk

    You're just proving my point. You claim to not be focused on analytics yet you're saying Clendening should play more just because analytics say so.
    It's like when the traditional stats say Holden is fine, but the AS don't agree, so he's gotta go.
    I include AS where I feel they're appropriate, I don't base my entire mindset on one set of numbers.
    Pete
    I can only go by what I read. If you don't want to be seen as Lambert 2.0, then at least acknowledge traditional stats when making a point. You rarely do. Everything is corsi, Fenwick, PDO, suppression, etc.
    You wrote an entire piece on how Clendening needs to play.... Based entirely on a small sample size of fancy stats... And you didn't even include the Rangers record with him in the lineup, or his TOI in those games, or points, or shots on goal, or PP time.
    It was just "because analytics say so".
    Maybe that's why the thought is that it's all you care about.... It's all you talk about.
    Of course you're welcome to find some recent posts with statistical meat in them that aren't mainly fancy stats. I looked. Couldn't find em.

    You mean the Clendening article that is titled how analytics prove he should play more games? Yeah, I'm pretty sure that argument should be based on them. Not goal totals or PP time, for example. The entire defense of Clendening playing, in that/this case, is analytics. That's not true of others, but might be true of some. By comparison I also wrote at length about Hayes and about how his poor possession metrics don't really matter because of how well his traditional metrics are.
    Again, what this boils down to is I put more stock in AS than you. We're both cooking a pasta dish. You want more salt. I want more garlic. You want to argue that garlic is irrelevant. I want to argue using more of it would help the dish. That's how this plays out for me.
    I could just as easily flip the script on you and tell you your posts don't include enough AS. Where would that get us? Nowhere. Fast. Because it's not about whether there things have value. It's about how much value and how much they should or shouldn't be relied on to make decisions. That's the divide. It's always been the divide and it's going to be the divide until this bridge gets crossed. I'm all ears for suggestions on how.
    Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk
    Phil in Absentia
    It wasn't a pot shot. It's reality. Every time this conversation is struck up I'm charged with not caring about anything else, and I have to walk on egg shells. If you make a claim and I reply correcting it or expanding on it, you get defensive and tell me you don't need to be lectured on what the terms mean. That you already do. Well, that's fine, but you sometimes don't account for the whole picture (which is ironic), so what am I supposed to do in that situation? It's not my fault that you are so hostile to small corrections for the sake of clarity. I'm not doing it to marginalize you or insult you. I'm doing it because I don't want misinformation to spread. Especially unintentionally.
    Different metrics measure different things. Corsi and Fenwick are different based on blocked shots (so that difference clearly accounts for if a shot is blocked or not). Quality less so, but they're not designed to. They're designed to provide high level analysis on shot attempts where additional factors then help to refine any specific issue into whatever is needed. That's why they are so non specific. They're designed to be used in conjunction with other metrics. Traditional and advanced.
    As to what I'm focused on, again, I put more value than you do on AS. So you'll see more of them than not in my posts and articles, but they're not all I account for. It's dishonest to suggest that.
    Sent from my iPhone using Blueshirts Brotherhood mobile app powered by Tapatalk
    You hardly walk on egg shells. You bring analytics into every conversation. It doesn't just "come up". You bring it up, and not organically. It's almost forced many times.
    I can only go by what I read. If you don't want to be seen as Lambert 2.0, then at least acknowledge traditional stats when making a point. You rarely do. Everything is corsi, Fenwick, PDO, suppression, etc.
    You wrote an entire piece on how Clendening needs to play.... Based entirely on a small sample size of fancy stats... And you didn't even include the Rangers record with him in the lineup, or his TOI in those games, or points, or shots on goal, or PP time.
    It was just "because analytics say so".
    Maybe that's why the thought is that it's all you care about.... It's all you talk about.
    Of course you're welcome to find some recent posts with statistical meat in them that aren't mainly fancy stats. I looked. Couldn't find em.