Dougie Hamilton is the poster boy for the Calgary Flames recent turnaround.
Oh sure, the two Johnnys — Gaudreau and Chad Johnson — are the main catalysts.
But it’s the 23-year-old defenceman who symbolizes how far the Flames have come of late.
As part of the club’s six-game winning streak, Hamilton leads the way with four goals and an assist, going a remarkable plus-eight in that stretch.
And while performances like his might otherwise have been lost in the shuffle of the club’s stirring surge, his dramatic Orr-like overtime winner in Phoenix last Thursday caught many people’s attention.
He followed it up with two goals at home Saturday against the Jets as part of an effort that saw him throw seven shots on goal.
In short, fans are finally seeing the impactful, dangerous Dougie Hamilton they expected when he was acquired from the Bruins two summers ago.
Given the fanfare surrounding his acquisition for two second-rounders and a first, expectations were impossibly high for the Toronto native to live up to.
When Hamilton struggled to adapt right away to his new environment early last year — he famously sat minus-11 after nine games — he became one of the city’s favourite whipping boys.
That hadn’t changed, until now.
Surely fans can start to get behind the six-foot-six, 210-pound puck-mover who has truly found his game alongside captain Mark Giordano.
In the last six games alone, Hamilton has had 26 shots on goal, which not only helps him lead the team in that category but puts him third amongst NHL rearguards this season.
Rag on him all you want but he’s tied for 11th in scoring amongst defencemen, sitting ahead of notables like Drew Doughty, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Pietrangelo, John Klingberg and Shayne Gostisbehere. And he’s done so despite a start that saw the Flames post four regulation wins in their first 16 games.
Defensively it certainly helps that he’s now paired with the team’s hardest worker and best defenceman, Giordano.
It has given rise to Hamilton’s offensive game, landing him tied for second with Sean Monahan in team scoring (6 goals, 11 assists), a shocking two points behind Gaudreau.
His recent scoring binge has him sitting plus-5 on a team that is still sporting a minus-5 differential despite jumping into a dogfight for the division lead.
Surely it’s time for fans to stop picking apart his game and realizing the youngster is not only continuing to improve at a position that takes time to master, but is proving he is indeed a core part of the club.
At this point in the season there’s no doubt he’s been better than the universally lauded T.J. Brodie, who is struggling much like Hamilton did last year.
(For what it’s worth, Hamilton’s “season of adjustment” saw him pick up a career-high 43 points, good for 22nd amongst NHL defencemen.)
The irony of ridiculous suggestions the Flames might be interested in moving Hamilton is that if general manager Brad Treliving could snap his fingers and add one thing to his club it would be a big, mobile, puck-moving defenceman who can contribute at both ends of the rink.
Um, that’s Dougie Hamilton.
No wonder every team would be interested — they all need more players like him.
No, he’s not being traded, as Flames boss Brian Burke so emphatically declared before taking the youngster aside to clear up rumours.
Of course, many will still be slow to join the Hamilton fan club.
Clearly the first star in Saturday’s 6-2 drubbing of Winnipeg, the broadcast mistakenly showed a picture of the wrong Hamilton as part of its Three Stars graphic, giving brother and teammate Freddie rare national exposure.
An honest mistake that few will make down the road as the Bruins’ ninth pick overall in 2011 continues to prove he’s worthy of the six-year, $34.5 million deal he signed after the Flames landed him.
Yes, the Dougie Hamilton Flames fans prayed for has arrived, in plenty of time to help save the Flames season.