Especially lately, during the resurgent team’s seven-game point streak, the Islanders have been reminded every day how hard it will be to part with Travis Hamonic. As much as the organization would like to accommodate his trade request, the team can barely take him off the ice during a game.
If anything, the defenseman has played better since word leaked out Nov. 18 that he asked for a trade to a western Canadian team for undisclosed personal reasons. And the Islanders sure have not put him in protective bubble wrap. He led them in ice time, 27 minutes and 43 seconds, during the 3-2 overtime loss to the Senators Saturday night.
While it was a season high for him, it was not terribly novel. Thirteen times this season, Hamonic has been the team’s ice-time leader and, probably not coincidentally, the Islanders are 8-2-3 in those games. That just underscores the awkwardness of the situation: Who would trade the Islanders a defenseman as good and valuable as Hamonic?
Another unusual part of this odd scenario is that a guy who wants out remains all in. He was as frustrated as anyone after the Islanders gave up a two-goal lead in the third period Saturday, including the tying score with 36.2 seconds left in regulation. Teammates congratulated him when he returned to the bench winded after what had appeared to be a game-saving clear just before Mike Hoffman scored to make it 2-2.
Hamonic did not seem particularly aware of, or impressed by, the connection between his own minutes and the team’s record. “Stats are stats, I guess,” he said. “I just try to go out and play hard, try to help out the team as best I can. If you’re playing a lot, it’s good, you’re into the game. You kind of don’t realize you’re playing a lot, you’re just making those reaction plays. I enjoy the ice time. I think I play better the more I play.”
Jack Capuano can understand how an observer would say that Hamonic seems liberated about not having to keep his request a secret from most teammates. The coach just isn’t buying it.
“I’ve known for a while the situation that’s gone on and it has never affected him. He was playing extremely well even before that came out,” Capuano said. “One may view it like that, like it’s off his chest and he’s playing better. But to me he’s been one of our best players since day one.
“That’s him. He’s an elite player . . . It is what it is in this situation. It’s not affecting him. It’s not affecting our team. It’s business as usual.”