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Hamilton hits stride in first season with Flames

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

New city, new teammates … everything is new … new system, got to make chemistry with guys. I kind of got to a point where I felt more comfortable, and got adjusted to everything. I think that’s when my season improved. I felt good after that. I think it can only get better from here.Dougie Hamilton

CALGARY, AB -- The trade simultaneously raised eyebrows and expectations.

A splash at the 2016 NHL Draft, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving peddled a first round pick and two seconds to the Boston Bruins in exchange for defenceman Dougie Hamilton.

The ripple effect followed by the signing of a six-year contract between the Flames and Hamilton soon thereafter.

But when Hamilton slumped out of the gate over three months later, it put the 22-year-old blueliner on the spot.

“Maybe with expectations and stuff … I don’t know if it was the expectations on myself or outside expectations … I think definitely a lot of outside expectations for myself,” he said. “I don’t know if I really expected too much. For me, it was more just everything being new and having to make friends with teammates and getting used to the city and the coaches and everything. I think it’s just a whole new situation.

“It’s going to be an adjustment.”

The adjustment wasn’t understated.

One point, a goal, through his first nine skates with the Flames.

A minus-11 rating in the same span.

Twelve minutes in penalties.

Not the most positive of debuts.

“It was a tough start for a lot of us,” Calgary captain Mark Giordano said. “For Dougie, you come to a new team. It was a big trade … one of the biggest trades of the summer if not the biggest. I’m sure he felt some pressure coming in here and trying to impress. It’s a tough stat, plus-minus. Sometimes it doesn’t tell the whole story.”

The whole story, Hamilton admitted, comes with plenty of adjustments.

On the ice. Off the ice.

At the rink. Away from it.

“I think just everything was new at the start,” he said. “New city, new teammates … everything is new … new system, got to make chemistry with guys. I kind of got to a point where I felt more comfortable, and got adjusted to everything. I think that’s when my season improved. I felt good after that. I think it can only get better from here.

“I think it’s great. Just try to keep getting better every year. That’s what I’ve tried to do since I was a little kid. Just try to improve every year and hopefully I can do that.”

It did, once Hamilton got over the hump of making said adjustments.

The Toronto, ON native rebounded from his sluggish start with the Flames to net a career-high 12 goals. His 43 points also established a personal best, one more than his total with the Bruins in 2014-15.

There was no magic behind the turnaround.

No adjustment, physical or mental, that led to righting his season.

“I don’t really know what happened,” Hamilton said. “It’s not like I just changed something and it worked. I don’t know.

“For me, I just wanted to try to get better from the start. I guess it’s satisfying that I was able to do that and improve from that and not just get stuck in that. It’s just a positive out of it, for sure.”

Perhaps only a matter of time, suggested Giordano.

To settle.

To get comfortable.

And adjusted.

“He’s really good listening,” he said. “You can just see his game. He’s got all the tools. You just knew it was going to come around.

“As long as he’s working hard and paying attention he’s going to be fine.”

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