Hamilton ready for little brother Dougie to join him in pros

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Hamilton ready for little brother Dougie to join him in pros

WORCESTER - Freddie Hamilton was always the older brother, and enjoyed a long run of dominance when it came to competing with younger brother Dougie in any sporting arena. It didnt matter what sport they were playing or whether it was in the backyard or one of many old barns in Ontario.

And the Hamilton brothers participated in plenty of sports as the two sons of an Olympic rower father and Olympic basketball player mother. They actually met during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

But regardless of their parents athletic pedigree, it was the typical brotherly relationship until Dougie sprouted up to a formidable 6-foot-5 as a teenager, and Freddie collided with him a few times while going head-to-head in the World Junior Orientation Camp for Team Canada. Freddie realized at that point that maybe the older brother doesnt always automatically win by default.

At World Junior camp the last couple of years weve played against each other. It was pretty strange. I think pretty immediately in the first game we played against each other the puck went into the corner and we hit each pretty hard, said Freddie. Growing up I was always taller than him, but once he hit that growth spurt in the OHL it made it a lot more difficult for me to handle him.

As an older brother Im obviously really proud of him and Ive tried to help him out. To see him doing so well is really exciting for me too. Hes been really good his whole life, but he was kind of small for a little bit. But he kept working at it and things are happening for him now. Seeing his progression from really good to maybe the best defenseman outside of the NHL has been special.

Fortunately Freddie and Dougie Hamilton have largely played together rather than against each other during their equally accomplished hockey careers including the last three years as members of the OHLs Niagara IceDogs. While Dougie is still in Niagara skating for the IceDogs while waiting for the NHL lockout to end, Freddie has begun his pro hockey career this season with the AHLs Worcester Sharks.

The 20-year-old topped 30 goals and 80 points in each of the last two seasons with the IceDogs, and has three assists and a minus-1 in his first seven games with Worcester this year. Thats a pretty good start for the 2010 Sharks fifth round draft pick after his four outstanding OHL seasons, and continues to provide clues to the San Jose brass as to what hell be after fully developing his game.

While he may not score with that kind of frequency after making the significant jump to the American Hockey League, Hamilton projects to be a bottom six forward with offensive upside in the San Jose organization. The on-ice relationship between the two brothers could end up very similar to the track of the Niedermayer brothers: hard-working energy forward Rob and Hall of Fame-caliber defenseman Scott captured the Stanley Cup over the course of their careers.

Its been so far, so good for young Freddie as he embarks on that working mans forward role with the Sharks.

I think Im getting more comfortable as the season has gone along. This league is much better than the OHL, said Freddie. Its a lot faster with stronger players. Everybody is much smarter as well. It takes a little bit of an adjustment, but the summer camp in San Jose certainly helps as well.

I pride myself on being a smart player and I always get better as I get used to whatever circumstance that Im in. Im definitely looking to continue to improve all season.

But Freddie is hopeful it wont be too long before hes up with the San Jose Sharks at the NHL level, and that will mean potential brotherly showdowns with Dougie after he joins up with the Bruins. Its expected Hamilton is going to make Bostons roster this year once the NHL season begins after the NHL and CHL made special lockout provisions for a group of elite junior hockey players once the lockout is over.

Despite those assurances for Bostons bright defenseman prospect, Freddie has felt his little brothers antsy feelings when theyve spoken over the phone something the close siblings do very often while hundreds of miles apart from each other.

We talk every day. He follows my games every day and I follow his, said Freddie. Even though were not together we still help each other out and give each other pointers when he can. Its definitely been a little different being apart though.

One other thing Freddie couldnt help: the older sibling envisioned future matchups against Dougie when his Worcester Sharks to the ice against the Providence Bruins on Friday night and took home a 3-2 win at the Dunkin Donuts Center despite a scoreless effort from Freddie. Just seeing the Black and Gold Bruins sweaters made Freddie realize the hockey dream shared by the two brothers is that much closer to reality no matter which of them gets to the NHL first.

Meanwhile Dougie has 17 points (6 goals, 11 assists) in 17 games for the IceDogs this year while he essentially sits and waits for the NHL to figure things out.

Its a little cool that my brother is with them and hes been to some camps with the Bruins, said Freddie. Dougie is hoping that the lockout ends soon. He wants to get up to Boston and prove himself there. But I think hes also done well to focus on the junior level while hes there.

We all hope the lockout ends so he gets his shot. Hes a little disappointed that things havent started up yet. Its our goal to both make the NHL and play against each other. It would be really cool. Well both push each to get there and make sure that happens. Itll be a weird experience playing against him, but it will be fun too.

Perhaps Freddie can even get back to big brother bragging rights even as Dougie has grown into what talent evaluators are calling the best defenseman currently playing outside the NHL ranks. That should be something fun to watch as their two careers intertwine over the next 10 years or more.

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.