For most of the summer I enjoy reading the playoff predictions by other major hockey websites, such as (for example) the NHL, TSN or the Sporting News for the entertainment value and because it does give me an idea of how I will “predict” come late September. I’ve also gone on and read many fans blogs and their playoff predictions and for the most part, except for the major hockey websites, many of the fans blogs have the Islanders making the playoffs in some capacity. What interested me in almost all of the writings was that there is major concern on defense. True, the thought of losing Lubomir Visnovsky to another concussion is something I do not want to write about during the upcoming season, but he’s not the most valuable to the team. There is a major consensus on Long Island that the Islanders need to make a trade for a top 2 defenceman. I understand their logic and even myself thought there was a trade coming for a defenceman, but to be realistic, I think the Isles already have one, he just may have been mishandled last year: Travis Hamonic.
So what do I mean by mishandled? It was more like abused. Hamonic ended up averaging 25 minutes a game and was paired with stats/Corsi killer Andrew MacDonald for most of the season. Everyone knows (Except for Flyers fans, but they will) that Andrew MacDonald brought everyone’s puck possession numbers down, no matter who he was with, but when you’re on the ice the most and constantly paired with him, like Hamonic was, it was asking for a handicap before the game even started. The injury to Visnovsky was bad enough, not being able to alleviate some of the defensive burden and players like Matt Donovan and Aaron Ness were like yo-yo’s moving up and down from the Sound Tigers to the Islanders and in the end, it was Hamonic’s overall game that suffered. For example, for the first 5 months of the season (with 6 weeks off due to injury/Olympics) Hamonic scored 10 points…..10! Now enter the trade deadline and the Islanders trade MacDonald. Hamonic is now paired full time with the Islanders former top defensive prospect Calvin de Haan, a healthier Visnovsky, the emergence of Thomas Hickey and since March 3rd to the end of the season, roughly 5 weeks, Hamonic scores 8 points! If you think puck possession isn’t important, you do now. Go back and read that again……almost 15 weeks and scores 10 points, switches defenseman, defense gets healthy and in 5 weeks, 8 points.
Another very important non-analytical stat is this: When Travis Hamonic registered a point last year, the Islanders went 11-2-1. You can double check for me if you like, but I checked myself just to be sure I wasn’t delirious. That’s one heck of a winning percentage. On the flip side of the coin, when Hamonic went down with an injury from January 12th- February 8th (and add March 2nd), the Islanders went 4-8-1. That means even with all the injuries, when Travis Hamonic was on the ice, the Islanders had a winning record, albeit by one game, for the season. You don’t go up against Evgeny Malkin in the playoffs if you’re not a number 2 defenceman.
So turn the page to this upcoming season. The mere fact that Andrew MacDonald not being on this team, the improvements on offense, the upgrades in net, the emergence of Calvin de Haan, a (hopefully) healthy Visnovsky, the possible arrival of future defensive stud, Memorial Cup Champion Griffin Rinehart and you have a defenceman in Hamonic who will be better equipped to play the role as a number 2 defenceman and should make this a career year as his goal without having to carry the load by himself, which is what happened last year. The Islanders may still make a trade for a defenceman, but they don’t need to make a trade early into the season when they’ve had a number 2 all along, they just forgot to help him out last year.