Monday, February 6, 2012

No Hamonic, Big Problem

In case his on-ice efforts have failed to demonstrate his value to this team, Travis Hamonic's absence from the Islander lineup should do the trick.

Hamonic took a shot right to the face in the third period of Saturday night's game against Buffalo and immediately fell to the ice. He was rushed directly to the hospital, where he soon learned that his broken nose would have to be surgically repaired and that he'd be out for the next two weeks. 

The Islanders, who picked up three out of a possible four points in back-to-back contests Friday and Saturday, now have a major issue on their hands. 

Hamonic is the glue that holds this rather weak Isles' defense (somewhat) together. He's one of the top young shut-down rearguards in the NHL and the only one in that locker room that can be counted upon to be effective on a consistent basis. 

On the surface, the solution would appear to be obvious, right? Just start working the phone lines and get Ryan Suter on the next plane to LaGuardia. Sounds easy — until you think about it. 

Personally, I do think the Islanders will have to make a move for a top-flight defenseman at some point. However, I'm of the opinion that they'll (A) be in better position to do so at the Draft and (B) will know that much more about their prospect pool and young players, they'll be able to make a more educated and calculated decision on who/what to trade away. 

Sure, they have a shot at the playoffs. It's not a likely scenario, but hell, they're in contention for something other than a draft lottery for a change. As long as they finish within shouting distance of the eighth seed, I won't complain. That would undoubtedly represent a step in the right direction for this young team. 

Without Hamonic, the Isles are in trouble defensively, and that's why I feel they'll struggle quite a bit over the next two weeks. Having said that, even with Travis, this defense is a total wreck. They'll have to get strong goaltending and a whole lot of offense to survive this, and you might laugh at me for saying this, but I believe they're capable of it. 

Mark Streit has been struggling a bit in his own zone this season, but has been better of late. That needs to continue. Andrew MacDonald has had some very strong games where he's blocked shots and made smart decisions with the puck; it goes without saying he needs to stay in high-gear. 

This morning, the team announced that Aaron Ness has been recalled from Bridgeport. He's certainly deserving. It'd be nice to see the Isles give Matt Donavan a look too. Bring him up, see what he can do...he's earned the opportunity. 

Hamonic's injury is just one of many curveballs that have been thrown at the Islanders over the past few years. Part of the maturation process is learning how to hit 'em. 

For the first time in most of their careers, these young Isles are playing games that matter in February. That's definitely a good sign. But it's time for them to take the next step and show they can fight through adversity. 

If they can avoid a meltdown over these next two weeks, that's going to do wonders for this team and their confidence level. 

Comments are welcome.


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