Hamilton learning as he goes through lull

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Hamilton learning as he goes through lull

BOSTON -- The Dougie Hamilton hype machine was at full power over the first handful of games this season, but the fanfare has died down a little bit for the 19-year-old over the last few weeks.

Thats because the rookie defenseman has gone scoreless over the last five games with a minus-2 rating that includes a two-game stretch on the road in Toronto and Montreal where he managed only a single shot on net. The teenager still played more than 19 minutes in four out of those five games and was among Bostons top four defensemen.

But it is also fair to say Hamilton is still learning the ropes at the NHL level and going through one of those typical rookie valley periods.

Hamiltons coach admitted as much after the Tuesday morning skate while preparing for the New York Rangers.

Dougie is going through what a first year player goes through. He was outstanding in the beginning, and hes certainly not poor now, said Claude Julien. To expect this guy to be outstanding isnt really realistic. I know he set the bar high with his early play, but hes certainly not a poor player for us.

We certainly cant complain about how hes handling himself because hes 19 years old. With the amount of ice time hes getting and how well hes playing, its pretty impressive for us anyways.

The perfect example: A couple of Hamilton mistakes in the defensive zone led to the game-tying goal in the second period of Sunday nights game in Buffalo. With the rookie at the end of a shift after the Bruins couldnt score on a power play, Hamilton found himself pinned in the defensive zone along with the rest of the unsuccessful power play unit.

Hamilton tried to slide a blind clearing attempt along the board, but it was intercepted by Drew Stafford. To make matters worse, Hamilton compounded the mistake by failing to cover the front of the net when Tyler Ennis appeared in the slot, and the skilled Buffalo forward made the Bruins pay with a goal.

It is one thing if Hamilton makes a defensive mistake while hes generating goals in the offensive end, but its quite another if his offense isnt offsetting his defense. Still its part of the learning process that the Bruins have signed up for with a 19-year-old defenseman logging heavy minutes.

The points may not be coming right now for him like they were at the beginning, but hes still a very poised player and whatever mistakes he makes well be working with him on, said Julien. Hes going through exactly what we expected him to go through being a good player thats learning along the way.

Julien indicated that his rookie defenseman is diligent about learning from the rookie mistakes that come his way, and some of the turbulent patches were fully expected when they penciled such a young defenseman in such a demanding position on a Cup-caliber team.

So the expectation is that Hamilton will use much-discussed poise and offensive skill to get back into the mix while learning some valuable lessons in first trip through the NHL circuit.

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right. 
 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.