Exploring Dougie Hamilton’s Consecutive Scratches


Mar 8, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton (27) and right wing Reilly Smith (18) talk against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Like many players selected at the top of their draft classes, Dougie Hamilton was supposed to be another game-changer to add to the Bruins’ historical plethora of them. This year marks Hamilton’s second as a Bruin, and Hamilton, at times, has shown his impressive offensive abilities that were so highly regarded during the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Hamilton has been able to stand atop the Bruins’ powerplay as the so called “Quarterback” of the umbrella; not to mention he plays alongside veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara as the Bruins’ top defense pairing. Hamilton is on pace for 10 goals and 15 assists; those 25 points would make him the third-highest scoring defenseman on the Bruins in ’13-’14. Hamilton has also posted a +14 plus/minus so far this season; a number that ranks fourth among Bruin defensemen. Yet, Dougie Hamilton has been scratched now for the second night in a row, and the question of “why” he has been scratched remains.

Since the Bruins tend to keep quiet about their decisions, fans and analysts are left to speculate the reasons behind Hamilton sitting up in the luxury box for two straight games. The obvious answer tends to be injury, but there has been no indication at all that Hamilton is hurt; especially after attending the morning skate Wednesday before the Montreal matchup. Therefore, the injury scenario seems highly unlikely.

There is a strong possibility the Bruins may have given Hamilton the night off against Florida for Meszaros to step in for a game. And following Meszaros’ strong performance against one of the NHL’s worst, the Bruins may be allowing newly acquired defenseman Andrej Meszaros a chance as a nightly player. Meszaros did display his Hamilton-esque value at the top of the umbrella on the powerplay, and ended up registering a game-high 6 shots on goal. But is one positive game against a team 24-34-7 enough for Boston to sit one of their potential stars against the Bruins’ rivals and possible playoff foe? Besides, if the Bruins were interested in dressing Meszaros, they would most likely explore scratching an older, less valuable defenseman like Kevan Miller; who has played poorly lately.

The little mystery behind Dougie Hamilton’s scratching continues to linger throughout the fan base, and may root far further than a petty injury.

"I think Dougie Hamilton is the best defenseman outside the NHL. He’s got a terrific future in Boston. Can you imagine him and Zdeno Chara on the point on the Bruins power play?Dennis MacInnis, Director of Amateur Scouting for International Scouting Service in 2012 on Hamilton"

So, how does Hamilton go from a player with a “terrific future” in the Bruins organization to a healthy scratch in his second year as a Bruin? The clearest explanation lies in past experiences for the organization.

Phil Kessel was the 5th overall draft pick in 2006 by the Boston Bruins. At one time in 2005, more than 10 general managers would have rated Kessel over Crosby last summer if Kessel had been eligible for the 2005 draft, according to former coach Pierre Mcquire. Kessel was supposed to be the offensive guru the Bruins were looking for at the time, and he quickly was able show his value at the NHL level. In Phil Kessel’s first three seasons in the NHL with the Bruins, he recorded point totals of 27, 37, and 60, respectively. Kessel was clearly able to play at a high level offensively, but defensively he was an obvious liability. Kessel spent three somewhat mediocre years with the Bruins; who had high expectations for the young scorer. Essentially, it was Kessel’s lack of defense that prompted the Bruins to move him in 2009 to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The draft pick received in compensation from Toronto was later used in 2010 to draft Tyler Seguin 2nd overall. Due to Boston’s lack of goal scoring and Seguin’s reputation as a brilliant offensive player, the Bruins’ decision to draft Seguin was uncontested at the time. Boston fans were being told they were about to witness a star similar to Steve Yzerman. A talented, young player that had just tallied a whopping 106 points in the OHL. After an offseason of hype, the excitement about Seguin seemed to be all for nothing even after he was a part of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions. During Seguin’s 74-game rookie season, he scored only 11 goals and managed a mere 11 assists. Though Seguin saw a drastic increase in production the next season, Seguin’s defensive troubles were apparent already; along with his off-ice problems. Seguin’s 2012-’13 season with the Bruins proved to be a disappointment. Tyler Seguin managed only 32 points in 48 games, and had been causing trouble at night. The underaged Seguin preferred to spend his road trips at the bars in exotic cities as opposed to focusing on the games at hand. Back in 2011, Seguin was scratched by coach Claude Julien after missing a team breakfast because of an apparent ‘hangover’. What started with a simple healthy scratch turned into far more; in fact, many claim Seguin’s poor performance last season in the playoffs against Toronto was due to his incessant party lifestyle. Seguin was eventually traded on July 4th, 2013 to Dallas; that marked the second time in 4 years the Bruins dealt a top-10 overall draft pick.

"It comes to personal sacrifices you have to make or are willing to give up, and it’s not always easy to do. I know they are good people. Obviously, really talented, great players. But sometimes you do have to make sacrifices and be willing to do — or not to do — certain things. And perhaps it was maybe harder than they thought it would be, and … it didn’t work.Zdeno Chara on both Kessel and Seguin"

Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin’s inabilities to emphasize the Bruins style of two-way hockey doomed their futures in Boston. Both spent three full years in Boston, and, after their second years Bruins, each were under scrutiny within the organization. Seguin and Kessel now reside in the NHL’s top ten in goals scored, and have established themselves as clear “franchise” players for their teams. Dougie Hamilton’s path seems to be replicating that of Seguin and Kessel, and another blockbuster trade may loom in the near future for Boston. But Dougie Hamilton’s situation is different. Not only is he younger than both Seguin and Kessel were at this point in their careers, Hamilton is also a very young, undeveloped defenseman trying to compete at the highest level of hockey. There is no reason for the Bruins to explore sitting, or even trading away, their defensive future. If the Bruins are unimpressed by Hamilton’s lack of physical play they need to allow the 20 year old time.

Dougie Hamilton being scratched could be nothing short of a coincidence; an injury or a subconscious idea by the Bruins coaching staff to allow Andrej Meszaros playing time. But if Hamilton being scratched is an indication of repeating the past, Bruins fans better prepare for another potentially gut-wrenching trade. Hamilton is not a distraction, nor does he struggle to play defense, yet he may have somehow landed on the list of Bruins draft picks who have somehow not reached expectations. Hopefully, Hamilton will take his scratches in stride, and end up back in the lineup in the near future. Otherwise, he should continue to work hard at becoming a strong, all-around defenseman for the future of the Bruins. The Bruins need players like Hamilton to compete for the next decade and even beyond; for now the Bruins should commit to Hamilton’s development, not his punishment.

 Tyler Jones, Causeway Crowd