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Lucic will provide energy, intangibles to Flames, Hamonic says

Defenseman discusses new teammate, playoff disappointment, pairing with Hanifin

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Travis Hamonic said he believes the Calgary Flames will be energized by the arrival of Milan Lucic.

"He's won the Stanley Cup (in 2011), been to another Final (in 2013), so he knows what it takes," Hamonic said this week. "I think we have a good mix of old and young, but when someone like that comes into your locker room as a teammate, you can lean on their experience. You can never have too much of that."

The Flames acquired Lucic and a conditional third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers for forward James Neal on July 19.

 

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Hamonic, a 29-year-old defenseman entering his third season with Calgary, knows firsthand the presence Lucic, a 31-year-old forward, has when he's on the ice. They clashed frequently as Eastern Conference rivals; Hamonic played for the New York Islanders from 2010-17, and Lucic for the Boston Bruins from 2007-15.

"You know when he's out there," Hamonic said. "I've played against him for 10 years, it's not fun, and he's caught me a couple of times."

Lucic (6-foot-3, 231 pounds) played for the Los Angeles Kings in 2015-16 and for Edmonton the past three seasons. He had 50 points (23 goals, 27 assists) in his first season with the Oilers but dropped to 34 (10 goals, 24 assists) the next season and 20 (six goals, 14 assists) last season, tied for the fewest of his 12-season NHL career (2009-10).

"I've played against [Lucic] my whole career now and he's a hard man to play against," Hamonic said. "I think he'll come to our team and fit in extremely well with our group of players and fit in well with what we're trying to accomplish."

Video: EDM@COL: Lucic redirects Benning's shot past Varlamov

The Flames are looking to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and have a bigger impact this season. They finished first in the Western Conference and Pacific Division with 107 points last season but lost to the Colorado Avalanche in five games in the Western Conference First Round.

"You look back, it's a bitter taste in your mouth," Hamonic said. "It's not the way any of us drew it up, not how it was supposed to go. As [angry] and frustrated as we all are, for our group it's important to remember it happened, that we didn't play well, and it was a bad time. But now that it happened, it's important that you try to learn from it.

"I'm not sugarcoating how bad it turned out for us, but we did do a lot of positive things as a team. Then it ended bad, but we can learn from that and try to hit the ground running."

One of the positives to come out of last season was Hamonic's fit with Noah Hanifin as Calgary's second defense pair. Hanifin and forward Elias Lindholm were acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in a trade for defenseman Dougie Hamilton, forward Micheal Ferland and defenseman prospect Adam Fox on June 23, 2018.

The relationship between Hamonic and Hanifin began quickly with texts and phone conversations after the trade, developed quickly with the Flames' preseason trip to the 2018 NHL China Games, and evolved into a chemistry on and off the ice.

"He's a special player, a special person too," Hamonic said. "Hey, he grew up in Boston. As a kid, I grew up an hour south of Winnipeg on the farm, so we couldn't be cut from two more different parts of the world. But by the time we got on the ice, I felt we had some rapport and the way he plays and skates, our styles kind of meshed.

"The small plays and quick decisions became instinctive and our play grew throughout the season. He's going into his fifth year and it feels like he's been around lot longer. He's 22, which is crazy, and he's a heck of a player, but he's still young and scratching the surface."

Hamonic said he believes that chemistry can improve, in keeping with what he believes the Flames' priority must be this season.

"To keep getting better," he said. "It's a long year. When you start looking too much into the big picture, it makes it tough in the regular season. Being more narrow-minded on the task at hand and how to simplify things ... yeah the ultimate goal is the Cup, but you get there gradually, and you have to remember that."

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