Boston Bruins: How Much Longer Should Zach Hamill Stay in the System?

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Boston Bruins: How Much Longer Should Zach Hamill Stay in the System?

As of this offseason, Zach Hamill, the Boston Bruins seventh overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft, has logged three full seasons in the AHL and four whole games in The Show.

Suffice it to say, this wasn’t supposed to happen. Hamill became a part of the Bruins family only one day after head coach Claude Julien in June 2007. At the time, both men were brought in for the same essential purpose: To replenish the relevance of America’s oldest NHL franchise.

Hamill and Julien also had the common thread of patience on the part of general manager Peter Chiarelli. The new player spent the 2007-08 season honing his craft in major junior while the new coach surprised more than a few bystanders and squeezed out Boston’s first playoff appearance since 2004.

Since then, though, Hamill has stalled while his employers have surged to the summit of the NHL. He made his Boston debut on April 11, 2010, in a throwaway regular-season Game 82 against Washington.

He put in three more appearances with the Spoked-Bs this past year. Other than that, he has been little more than a statistical underachiever in the minors.

Each of Hamill’s first three full seasons in the Bruins organization constituted Rob Murray’s head coaching tenure in Providence. After the Baby Bs failed to make the Calder Cup playoffs in consecutive years, Peter Chiarelli discharged Murray this past spring.

The move was made not so much for an unfavorable win-to-loss ratio, but rather, according to Chiarelli, a lack of satisfactory player development on the farm.

Huh? If that’s true, then how do you explain Johnny Boychuk, Steven Kampfer, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid and Tuukka Rask? All five of those youngsters spent substantial time under Murray’s tutelage and proceeded to play a noteworthy role in Boston’s run to the 2011 Stanley Cup.

Not to say that Murray’s release was boneheaded. Sometimes, through no fault of any individual, a change in personnel is simply needed just to shake things up in an environment where results are not readily coming. In that vein, Chiarelli would have done better to explain that the P-Bruins’ valiant 12-6-1 homestretch this past year was too little, too late for Murray to earn a contract extension.

In any case, it is plain as a newly Zambonied sheet of ice that Chiarelli had Hamill at the forefront of his mind when he elected to make the coaching move in April. And as best as one can tell before any games are played, it could be quite a shrewd move.

Bruce Cassidy, Murray’s successor and former sidekick behind the Providence bench, clearly has the right idea, as evidence by what he told the media at last month’s development camp, an even Hamill probably should have stopped attending one or two years ago.

In the middle of a protracted statement and in clear reference to Hamill, Cassidy said “He hasn’t developed as well as we all hoped...Part of that has to fall on the coaching staff and part of that has to fall on the individual.”

Now we’re talking. After all, you wouldn’t even need to have asked for a perfect world to request that Hamill move along at the pro level the same way he did in juniors.

In three of his last four years with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, Hamill was at least a point-per-game player. He turned pro late in the 2007-08 season, joining the AHL’s regular season champions for seven games and pitching in five assists. He added four points in nine playoff games.

But since then, he has played no fewer than 65 games in each of three seasons with Providence and has scored no more than 14 goals or 44 points per year.

The (nominal) good news: Whereas nine of his teammates finished ahead of him on the scoring leaderboard in 2008-09, Hamill placed No. 2 on the P-Bruins scoring charts in each of the last two non-playoff runs. Every last player, top scorer Jamie Arniel and top prospect Jordan Caron included, can stand to improve in the coming campaign.

At the same time, the likes of Caron along with Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner are ahead in the game. Caron was only demoted to Providence last December when the brief return of Marc Savard created congestion on Boston’s depth chart. Meanwhile, Knight and Spooner came up to Providence from their junior clubs late last spring and made an impression during the final weekend of game action.

All of a sudden, Hamill has some odds to defy if he wants to finally become a regular at TD Garden this winter. If he has not come close to doing so by the halfway mark of the season, it might be in the interest of all parties concerned to utilize him in a trade deadline deal.

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