Hamilton ready for 'cool' showdown with hometown Leafs

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Hamilton ready for 'cool' showdown with hometown Leafs

TORONTO Tonights game is the pinnacle of 19-year-old Dougie Hamiltons dreams growing up in Ontario.

He was a huge Maple Leafs fan as a kid growing up in Toronto and always watched Hockey Night in Canada.

So playing before a national audience on the Canadian institution was certainly a thing of daydreams while growing up, and the realization of one of a number of lifelong dreams for the former first round pick. Hamilton indicated it was almost cooler playing against the Leafs as a visiting team at the Air Canada Centre, and there will certainly be a few memorable moments with friends and family in the stands. If it can be anything like Tyler Seguins hat trick last season in a 7-0 drubbing of the Leafs in their own barn, then even so much better.

One thing Hamilton wont have on this mind?

The Phil Kessel deal that helped bring Dougie to Boston as one of three draft picks netted for the Toronto scorer along with Tyler Seguin (2010 first round) and Jared Knight (2010 second round). Since the trade went down years before Hamilton ever donned the Black and Gold, it has little meaning to him.

That might be a different story tonight if Hamilton and Seguin along with former Maple Leafs property Tuukka Rask dealt to Boston in the one-sided Andrew Raycroft trade both dominate against Toronto in the Northeast Division showdown.

Its definitely going to be pretty cool, said Hamilton, who said his friends and family are getting their own tickets because that makes it easy on me. The Kessel deal doesnt really mean anything to me because I wasnt really part of the trade. I was just a pick, I guess. I dont really think or care about that.

Theres just excitement. I grew up watching Leafs games in that rink, and dreamt of playing for that team and playing in the NHL. I guess I always dreamt of playing for the Leafs, but as Ive gotten older Ive realized how cool it will be to play against them.

Hamilton was typically aw shucks when asked about his remarkable experience thus far with the Black and Gold while averaging just under 19 minutes of ice time in seven games. The 6-foot-5 teenager has four assists and a minus-2 rating in those seven games, and has come even better than advertised. Hamilton can move the puck with ease out of his own zone, find shooting lanes to the net that create big, fat rebounds for his teammates and has uncanny poise for a player just two weeks into his NHL career.

Ive had good opportunities so far and its an ideal situation with a lot of good defensemen to look up to, said Hamilton. Its a lot different than junior, but I think Im getting used to the personnel and the style of play.

While the first time playing against a team they idolized as a boy can be a heady experience for some players, its expected that Hamilton will handle it with the same amount of uncommon calm that hes shown at every turn.

Perhaps a couple of points and crisp playmaking passes for good measure against the Leafs wouldnt be a shock either.

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.