We know the Boston media is sometimes a little...well, idiosyncratic in its opinion. It's also one that, despite their denials, is in the majority one that is a pretty good barometer of how team management may be thinking, not necessarily because they have a great line on things but more because the same type of approach they favour tends to be the way the management is thinking. Whether that's because they just think alike or the Bruins, like many NHL teams are using them as a way to sell their moves is something I've discussed before.
Recently, we're starting to see the media either interposing itself into or actively being used in the Dougie Hamilton contract saga, and it's no surprise that noted Bruins shill and friend of Chowder Joe Haggerty is once again front and center.
Recently the greatest sportswriter who ever lived wrote this masterpiece on the Dougie Hamilton situation, which sends the pretty clear message that Hamilton is not worth the money paid to elite NHL defencemen. The comparison is explicitly made with Drew Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo, both unarguably among the top defencemen in the NHL. In fact, the line is actually used...
"If you want to be paid like Doughty, you need to play like Doughty".
Haggerty then goes on to discuss several scenarios by which the Bruins lose Dougie Hamilton, mostly by trade. While he doesn't actively say trades SHOULD happen, the very fact he's bringing them into the conversation is ominous.
Like it or not, the Bruins media tends to have a pretty big influence on the way most Bruins fans seem to think. They can turn average players into mythical talents/embodiments of how "Bruins hockey" should be in they eyes of many (see: Campbell, Gregory) or they can create a narrative that convinces people that trading one of their young stars for 75 cents on the dollar cause he was a 21-year-old who behaved like one is a good thing (see Séguin, Tyler) Whether or not that's a cause or effect of the close links between the Bruins and their "favoured" beat writers is for another debate.
However, the fact the conversation among influential Bruins media voices around Hamilton has moved from "Bruins star needs to be re-signed" to discussing whether or not he's worth the money he's reportedly demanding is troubling - or should be if you're a Bruins fan. The fact that a 21-year-old top-ten pick who's already been part of a Stanley Cup Final team, led the World Juniors in defensive scoring and last year was almost indistinguishable from Zdeno Chara in terms of play is seriously being discussed as a trade chip by Bruins media (not only that, but in a fashion that is questioning his ability) is very dangerous indeed.
Let's return to the crux of Haggerty's argument - that Hamilton should "play like Doughty to be paid like Doughty". Our own Dan Ryan took a look at the two players in their first three years in the NHL:
So, looking at this we can see Hamilton's outscored Doughty in all offensive situations in his first three years in the league, his Corsi rate is massively higher, which means he's far more effective at driving play than Doughty is when on the ice (nearly a quarter more effective again than Haggerty's poster-boy for "elite young defenceman" in fact).
Drew Doughty signed an 8 year, $56 million contract. Dougie Hamilton is a quarter MORE effective than Doughty at the same point in his career.
Under Haggerty's own reasoning, if Doughty's being paid 7 million a year for playing like he is, then how much is being a QUARTER MORE effective?
Incredibly, though, in the mind of the greatest who ever lived and his acolytes, being a quarter more effective than one of the NHL's elite defencemen at the same point in his career - one who is a number one on his team - is proof that Hamilton "isn't ready to be a number one". More incredibly still, apparently the only way to trade this "not ready to be a number one" for another young talent like, say Taylor Hall (Haggerty uses him as the example and actually posits that it'd be a "hard job" to convince Peter Chiarelli to take Dougie Hamilton plus another top player for him) is to package him with Milan Lucic and/or Malcolm Subban.
No, I can't get the thinking behind that either. That's not just "undervaluing". That's actively advocating trading a Ferrari, a slightly used but still very serviceable Ford Raptor and an unfinished Lamborghini. Individually they're all nice to have, but you wouldn't give up any two of them for a Ford Mustang, would you? Especially not the Ferrari.
Pez over at Days Of Y'Orr explains pretty well in more depth still why trading Dougie Hamilton is an idea that should probably only seriously be discussed in the deepest, darkest reaches of an asylum for criminally insane hockey GMs (or in the mind of Mike Milbury, which at this point is pretty much the same thing).
Before we move on to why it's a bad thing they're even being discussed, one last gem from Haggerty as he tries desperately to dismiss why all the stats are screaming that he is wrong:
It’s also ridiculous to place Hamilton’s numbers next to Doughty’s over their first three years when Hamilton was insulated while playing with top D-men like Dennis Seidenberg.
TOP D-MAN DENNIS SEIDENBERG! That's a thing that was actually written by Haggerty to explain why Hamilton's numbers are better than Doughty's.
Here, Joe. It looks like you and your cohorts may need these to clutch at at this point:
The trouble in Boston is not that these ideas are being discussed, but that they're actually being given serious currency by media figures. That anyone claiming to be an "expert" could have watched the Bruins last year and seriously advocated any other opinion than "RE-SIGN DOUGIE" is not just unfathomable - history has shown it's outright dangerous.
The Bruins, like any team, do their best to influence fan opinion. Remember how Tyler Séguin's time in Boston ended - with statistics and ability being dismissed or counteracted by media personalities like Haggerty raising previously unseen questions about his game/professionalism? Remember how these were then used as "justification" for the trade being a good move?
This smacks of a similar situation. Just start to throw the questions out there, use your tame insiders to muddy the waters a bit even though all the indications show otherwise, and hope that the casual Bruins fan won't look any deeper.
Couple that with the fact that there still appears to be little movement when it comes to the contract talks themselves and it appears that someone in the Bruins org is starting to play hardball-by-media.
If that's the case, this is a very dangerous and potentially stupid road for Don Sweeney and his staff to take. Let's make no bones about this and put aside the "greatest sportswriter who ever lived" opinion for a second - Dougie Hamilton is the heir-apparent to Zdeno Chara as the Bruins' franchise defenseman. To even consider trading him is borderline heresy and a move that could derail the Bruins for several years down the road defensively.
The experts should know that. It should be obvious to all and sundry just as it is to the vast majority of the Bruins fanbase. The fact they don't appear to means one of two things - either they simply don't have any idea what they're watching or they're writing to influence opinion just in case the Bruins do actually decide to do something stupid, just as we saw with the Séguin situation.
And if they are, that potentially does not bode well for the start of the Don Sweeney régime.
It's a potential catastrophic mistake waiting to happen - one for which the PR spin campaign may have already begun in Boston.