Islander young guns set to fill void left by trade

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 22: P.A. Parenteau  of the New York Islanders (L) celebrates his goal at 19:43 of the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning along with Travis Hamonic  (C) and Andrew MacDonald (R)at the Nassau Coliseum on December 22, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

When news broke that James Wisniewski was shipped off to the Montreal Canadiens for two draft picks, many of the guys on the New York Islanders were surprised.

“Ya know really didn’t see it coming,” Islanders defensemen Andrew MacDonald said during Wednesday’s morning skate. “But, it is what it is and gives a good opportunity for everyone else to play some big minutes.”

Wisniewski had played big minutes for the Islanders due to the injury to top defensemen Mark Streit and had been relied on to quarterback the power play.

“He was our power play quarterback,” said MacDonald. “He had the big shot and at the start of the year teams didn’t really realize how much of a weapon he was back there and he was putting up those big numbers. He played hard every night for us and he played well and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Islanders’ rookie defensemen Travis Hamonic shared similar thoughts when he was asked about the trade. “Whenever a player like (Wisniewski) isn’t in your line up anymore there is going to be a void to fill,” he said. “Obviously he’s a big veteran presence back there and he brought a sense of leadership and calmness on the ice”

With Wisniewski gone it will now be on the shoulders of guys like MacDonald and Hamonic to step up and “fill the void” left by Wisniewski.

“There is going to be a lot of guys that are going to have to step up,” Bruno Gervais said prior to the Islanders win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. “Not take his place because you can’t replace a guy like Wiz but step up and fill in for him and that’s what we’re going to need. “

One major area will be the power play, one that has struggled for most of the season, which has now lost its quarterback.

“It’s going to be more responsibility for guys like myself and it’s a welcomed challenge,” MacDonald responded when asked about the power play. “Defiantly something I’m going to pay a lot more attention to but I think in every aspect everyone is going to have to step up.”

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 05: Travis Hamonic  of the New York Islanders skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Nassau Coliseum on December 5, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

As for mentioned, Hamonic will be looked upon to step up in Wisniewski’s absence and one of the main reasons for the trade was that Islanders GM Garth Snow felt Hamonic had been playing extremely well.

“That’s kind of the first time I heard that actually,” Hamonic said with a grin after Newsday’s Katie Strang told him of Garth’s compliments.  “Those are pretty nice words and pretty flattering words coming from your boss, but with him saying that I have to go out there and prove it. Really start taking that next step forward in my career and start becoming an all around defensemen. I think I’ve played pretty well so far, but there is always better and more you can give to the team. For me I expect a lot from myself and I hope the organization expects a lot out of me as well. So I’m going to go out there and just try to get better every day and I know I’m going to do that. “

Snow is not the only one who had high praise for the 20 year old rookie. “He comes prepared every game and he acts like a veteran out there,” said MacDonald about his defensive partner.  “He’s talking on the bench and he’s got a little swagger in him, Ya almost have to have that at that age. He has a lot of big game experience with the Memorial Cup in Canada last year and world juniors. I think he’s acquainted himself real nicely”

Just like MacDonald, Hamonic welcomes the challenge and opportunity put forth before him.

“There is always the old saying you got to make the best of your opportunity but sometimes you need an opportunity to make the best of “ said Hamonic, who has plenty of sayings for all occasions.  “I think I always want to put as much pressure and responsibility on my shoulders as possible, myself personally. The coaching staff has done a great job with me … giving me ice time and rewarding me with time on ice and special teams and all that. I’m thankful and grateful for that, but I think I’ve played pretty well to earn some of that ice time.  But whatever happens is out of my control really and I just want to out there and make sure I play good on each one of my shifts. So for me I’m just going to worry about playing hard, working hard, and hopefully the intangibles take care of them self”

But is there too much pressure being put on them? If you ask Gervais they’re just getting what they want.

“Well I think that’s what they want, right? They want to have a chance,” Gervais responded. “Travis has tremendous talent and so does A-Mac and Wiz was there too producing and they were doing good on the powerplay. But now it’s there chance to kind of take control of that and we have total faith in them and we know what they can do to get the job done”

After playing one game post Wisniewski it seems as though they may survive. These kids did just end Sidney Crosby’s streak so anything is possible.

Christian Arnold
NHLHS New York Islanders Correspondent
Twitter: @isleshockeyblog