BOSTON (CBS) – Dougie Hamilton, who Pierre McGuire reminded us endlessly was just 19 as a rookie last season until he turned 20, continues to prove he’s older than his years.
It’s not just his poise (another McGuire favorite) on the ice that makes you think Hamilton’s a grizzled veteran. It’s also his easygoing manner off the ice, especially when faced to answer for two surprising healthy scratches. His accepting tone continued to prove that he was a first-round pick because of more than just his talents between the boards.
Hamilton was back to work on Thursday night, as he logged 17:05 of ice time, mostly on the Bruins’ top pair with captain Zdeno Chara, and returned to the power play in the Bruins’ 2-1 win against the Phoenix Coyotes at TD Garden.
Recap: Bruins Beat Coyotes
In the Bruins’ prior two games, Hamilton was a healthy scratch. A move from the first pair to the top floor of the arena would make many athletes, especially ones just months removed from their teenage years, badmouth anyone that might’ve had a say in the decision. Instead, Hamilton just rolled with the choices made by the coaching staff and continued to be a team player on a team that in mid-March is comfortably ahead in the race for first place in the Atlantic Division.
“Yeah I don’t know. You don’t really know what’s going on, so I think the biggest thing is just to stay confident in yourself and I thought I was playing pretty good after Olympic break and before, and maybe just that one little Tampa Bay game [last Saturday],” Hamilton said after the Coyotes game. “And I think just to stay confident in myself and just try to keep playing my game and add things that they want and other than that you can’t really think about too much.”
Hamilton might not have received a clear explanation about the Bruins’ plans for him and the other seven defensemen before he was scratched, but he understands that’s the way professional life works. Plus, he’s the type of sports fan that follows what’s said in the media. Coach Claude Julien has expressed time and again that Hamilton’s move to the press box was just to open up a space for newcomer Andrej Meszaros. Julien backed that up against Phoenix by sitting Torey Krug and reinserting Hamilton.
The Bruins had the same situation earlier in the season, when everyone was healthy and Matt Bartkowski was a spectator. Such is the way things go when you have depth, and such if the luxury a coach has when he doesn’t have to fret over playoff positioning with four weeks remaining in the season. Julien can experiment, shuffle and juggle, and his team has still won seven in a row and is almost assured of finishing in the top two in the Eastern Conference.
That doesn’t make Hamilton’s mature response to his situation any less impressive.
“I think that’s because he trusts us. We’ve told him as a coaching staff the whole time he’s a good player and he’s going to be an even better player as we move on here,” Julien said. “What we’ve asked him is to be patient with us because he came in here as a 19-year-old. A 19-year-old that’s on a team that’s rebuilding is going to play a ton; a 19-year-old that’s on an established team doesn’t get the same luxury. But he gets the luxury of developing in a winning environment and finding out quickly what it takes to win so he’s in a good situation. I think he trusts us, I think we know what we’ve got, he knows that we know that as well, and it’s just a matter of being patient.
“And he comes in tonight, plays a good game, like he moved that puck well and he was assertive and all the little things that you talk about, you can see that effort in him and that’s what it is and it’s trust, it’s respect and that has to happen both ways here.”
Hamilton acknowledged there are little things he picked up watching from the press box for a couple games. But he thinks he can learn more at ice level and despite the merits of getting real-time tips from assistant coach and eye in the sky Doug Jarvis, Hamilton, stressed “personally I like playing.”
The Bruins like Hamilton playing too. And there will be plenty of games for him in black and gold once Julien has assessed what he has among his eight (possibly nine) defensemen and once the games gain meaning once again in mid-April.
Even if Julien didn’t mean to offend Hamilton with the scratch, the coach’s intentions would’ve been wasted if Hamilton took the move personally. He’s wiser than that, and even if McGuire hasn’t been getting as hopped up about Hamilton at 20 as he did at 19, there’s still a lot to get excited about and look forward to about the blueliner’s make-up.
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