Chatter began to surface in the wake of the Calgary shipping Dougie Hamilton to Carolina, as it often does when a talented player is sent packing. These whispers were particularly odd, however, as the rumor du jour centered on the D-man’s purported penchant for museums.
The talk was Hamilton didn’t fit in with his Flames teammates because he often chose culture over team bonding, but let’s make one thing clear: Hamilton isn’t coming to the Hurricanes with designs on guided tours through the North Carolina Museum of Art, nor has he pre-purchased tickets to either of the Maritime Museums. (Yes, there are two.) Instead, he’s arriving in Carolina with intentions of putting a halt on the Hurricanes’ league-high nine-season playoff drought, which is tied for the second-longest in NHL history.
But the new Hurricane sees more than a team mired in mediocrity. “Playing against Carolina, it’s never an easy game,” Hamilton said. “They’re so skilled and they work hard, really hard, as well. It’s always tough to play against them, and I think they’re a team on the rise.”
Trading for Hamilton stands to help the Hurricanes improve from a franchise “on the rise” to one whose arrival can’t be questioned. Because while acquiring the 25-year-old along with Micheal Ferland and prospect Adam Fox from the Flames cost the Hurricanes versatile forward Elias Lindholm and promising up-and-comer Noah Hanifin, a 21-year-old defenseman taken fifth overall in 2015, Hamilton is in many ways exactly the type of player – a sharp-shooting, point-producing, smooth-skating defender – that Carolina had hoped Hanifin would be by now.
In Hamilton, the Hurricanes have brought one of the most under-the-radar rearguards in the league into the fold. Over the past four campaigns, he has produced at a points-per-game rate akin to Duncan Keith, Shea Weber and Ryan Ellis. His 179 points over that span ties him with Oliver Ekman-Larsson for 18th-most among blueliners. And his goal total has increased steadily to a career-high 17 tallies in 2017-18, which put him into a three-way tie for the NHL lead for blueliners. “I’ve learned finding good spots to shoot and getting in spots where teammates can find me so I can shoot…there’s a lot to do with that,” Hamilton said. “And then obviously working on my shot all the time, trying to get better every day. Goals are sometimes pretty lucky, but it’s just trying to get those opportunities and hoping they go in.”
That’s good news for the Hurricanes, who have been largely bereft of goal scoring and have averaged the fourth-lowest goals per game the past four seasons. Hamilton’s defensive game is still a work in progress six years into his career, but his puck skills often make up for those shortcomings in his own zone.
If he can continue on his current path, developing his game at both ends and tiptoeing into the upper echelon of NHL defenders, he might be the last piece of the puzzle in Carolina’s efforts to erect a ‘Hurricanes Playoff Drought’ exhibit in the Museum of History.
This story appears in the August 20, 2018 issue of The Hockey News magazine.