When injuries struck the New York Islanders blueline earlier in the season, it was Travis Hamonic who was relied upon to pick up the slack. But now with less than two weeks remaining until the end of the regular season, the roles could be reversed as the Islanders blueliners may be left trying to fill in for an injured Hamonic.
Hamonic, 25, is in the midst of arguably the best season of his career. His offensive point totals won’t support that he’s been a lights out defender in New York, but Hamonic is playing nearly 24 minutes per night on the Islanders back end, taking on top competition on a nightly basis and has still managed to net five goals and 21 points in 72 games. But early in Thursday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Hamonic suffered a knee injury following a hit from Scott Hartnell. Hamonic was in obvious pain:
Watching Hamonic put little to no pressure on his right leg, using his stick to stay upright and lumbering off the ice as the puck finally left the Islanders zone doesn’t look like it’s going to bode well for Hamonic. Once he got to the bench, he headed to the dressing room and didn’t return to the contest. And as bad as that sounds, coach Jack Capuano’s comments post-game don’t make it sound as if Hamonic will be back for the Islanders’ next game.
"I don't know anything, but just the fact that he didn't return says something," Capuano said, via NHL.com’s John Kreiser.
Earlier this season, Hamonic asked his way out of New York for personal reasons, but that hasn’t stopped him from improving his overall game and becoming an even more important part of the Islanders back end. Hamonic has the 24th highest ice time of any player in the league this season, and being without him come the playoffs is a scary proposition. The Islanders blueline isn’t necessarily as thin as some around the league, but it’s not like New York has an easy answer to losing Hamonic. The likely solution will be increased minutes for Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, with Thomas Hickey and Calvin De Haan also helping to cover some of Hamonic’s minutes. The issue, though, comes in the post-season.
If Hamonic is out long-term, can the Islanders survive with the way minutes will have to be spread out across their top four defensemen? Having a fifth in Hamonic would be a huge help, but it might not be an option the Islanders have come playoffs.