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At What Point Do Off-Ice Issues Out Weigh On Ice Value?

Dougie Hamilton is 25 years old. He’s entering his 7th NHL season and is undisputedly one of the best defensemen in the NHL.

He also just got traded for the second time for a price far lower than his worth.

So A) what’s the problem? and B) what’s the breaking point?

I could give you all these numbers convincing you why Dougie Hamilton is one of the best defensemen in the NHL and worth every penny and more of the $5.75Ms he will earn annually over the next 3 years, but I won’t. It’s not worth it.

What is worth looking into is why this young, right handed, star defenseman has been given up on by two teams at just 25 years old. I promise you, Don Sweeney did not want his first trade as GM of the Boston Bruins to trading Dougie Hamilton, and I promise you he would have signed Hamilton to the 6 year, $34.5M contract he ended up signing with the Flames. So there’s only one logical explanation to why he was traded out of Boston: he didn’t want to be there. The Bruins didn’t get nearly enough for Hamilton, and that was a blown trade by Sweeney, but it’s besides the point. Dougie Hamilton simply did not want to play on a Bruins team that has been to the Stanley Cup Final two years prior and won the Presidents trophy just one season ago. Ok, whatever.

But there had to be more, right? There were the reports that often happen after a player is traded out of town, that he had character issues. We’ve seen it with everyone: Isaiah Thomas, Wes Welker, Johnny Damon, Tyler Seguin (oh, we’ll get to him) etc. There were reports that Hamilton was an “uppity kid” and his teammates didn’t like him. There were also these quotes from 2015:

“It was surprising,” said one NHL assistant GM. “It’s obvious there’s something going on that we don’t know about. From what I’ve heard behind the scenes, his teammates don’t like him. I heard he’s a loner and sort of an uppity kid, and that his teammates don’t like him and it was unanimous.”

Odd. But whatever, right? He’s a quirky 22 year old, he’ll mature.

Then there was the issue of Dougie’s brother, Freddie. There were reports, around the same time as the “uppity kid” reports, that Hamilton wanted the Bruins to trade for his brother, Freddie. The Bruins obviously refused to let a 22 year old kid without a contract decide their front office decisions, I know, crazy, and that was enough, or at least part of what made Hamilton want out.

Uncoincidentally, the Flames acquired Freddie from Colorado just 4 months after they acquired Dougie.

So, what? The Flames took advantage of a player being unhappy in one place and got him for under market value. That’s good management right there.

But then it happened again, take it away, Brad Treliving:

The issue of Dougie’s brother Freddie came up again in his final months as a flame, when on January 4th, 2018 Freddie Hamilton was claimed off waivers from the Flames by the Coyotes, and Dougie was not happy about it.

Now it’s not unreasonable to be upset you don’t get to play with your brother everyday, but it’s the second time Hamilton has been reportedly upset about his brother not playing with him followed by a trade, which is a little… weird, or immature that seemingly can’t be separated from his brother. Freddie Hamilton, by the way, has 4 goals and 2 assists in 75 career NHL games.

Then, this summer, there were the reports of Dougie not participating in team activities. One media member (I apologize for not remembering who or being able to find it) said that Hamilton is the type of teammate who, while his teammates were out at dinner, would be at a museum. The Joe Haggerty shed some more light, referencing a trip the Bruins made after their season that Hamilton did not attend:

Now, these both seem like ridiculous reasons to trade a star player, but it all added up, and seemed as if Dougie’s unhappiness with the Flames waiving his brother, who is not an NHL caliber player was the last straw – For the Flames, and for Hamilton.

Not only is being traded twice before your 26th birthday a bad look, but also is being publicly unhappy in two different cities twice before your 26th birthday. However, this isn’t the first time a team and player have had off ice conflicts, and far from the first time for the Bruins. So how does Hamilton’s situation compare with other past type situations?

Sure, I know your dying to hear it, so we’ll start with Tyler Seguin.

I don’t need to do any of the talking here, I’ll leave that to Peter Chiarelli, Keith Gretzky, and the rest of the Bruins front office:

This is, undoubtedly the most screaming “WHAT ARE YOU DOING” video on the internet. “He doesn’t fit our culture”, yikes. He’s seemed to fit into the Dallas culture just fine. The Bruins mistake with Seguin was just realizing that 21 year old kids who are getting paid a ton of money to play hockey for a living on a Stanley Cup team in Boston isn’t going to be a perfect angel at all times. There are endless maybe true but probably not conspiracies to why Chiarelli and crew felt the need to ship off Seguin, but either way, it’s one of the biggest off ice mistakes in recent NHL memory.

The Phil Kessel situation was a bit more similar to Hamilton. Who knows what happened really, but the thought at the time was that he wasn’t liked in the locker room and didn’t have the passion to win like he should. It was the same in Toronto, where he was peppered for the way he handled the media, and his overall body stature. Follow the theme here, he’s been the same person in Pittsburgh, but instead of running him out of town, they’ve embraced him, leading to this gem:

Kessel is just an odd and quiet person, and the Bruins clearly had a problem with him, and the Leafs didn’t want him as part of their rebuild. Like Kessel, Hamilton is may just have to find the team that embraces him.

In May of 2012, Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn were found out at a bar at 5:00am the day of game 2 of Nashville’s second round playoff series. Both players were subsequently suspended by the team for games 2 and 3, and both Radulov and Kostitsyn were out of the league and playing in Russia the next season. Zero tolerance.

Different, but then there’s PK Subban, who simply has a, say, more outgoing and loud, personality than pretty much every hockey player to ever exist. Nothing wrong with that, right? Well it lead to endless controversy in Montreal and him being traded for 900 years of 35 year old Shea Weber. It’s blasphemy that the Habs made that deal, but it’s no doubt that Subban’s off ice antics were directly correlated with the trade.

So, what’s the theme here? I’ll tell you what it is. If you don’t follow the hockey culture, answer media questions like they’re are supposed to be answered, and aren’t a regular guy who shows up at the rink everyday and does his job, you’re an outsider. If you don’t fit in with the room, you’re a liability, regardless of your talent on the ice. Some of the leagues best players have fallen a victim to this… I don’t know what to call it… and it’s a bit ridiculous how little tolerance the NHL and it’s teams have for personalities outside of the norm.

Will Hamilton find a home in Carolina? It’s a quiet small market, so possibly, or will the same problems arise? Will his brother follow?

Aren’t you excited that hockey is back?!

Follow me on twitter @jIabruins and the site @TheIntSports

Featured Imagine: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

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