We are already a few days into NHL training camps, and a few teams have been trying to mix match with their line combinations. So far, the New York Islanders have been no different. The forward lines look to be intact from a year ago, for the most part anyway. But it’s the defense pairs that are getting the changeup. There has been a little wrinkle added to the normal order of things.
For a long time now, Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald have been running buddies on the Islanders’ blueline. More often than not, Hamonic and MacDonald have been counted on to shut down the top forwards on the opposition. In the first few days of camp, they haven’t been skating together.
Right now, Hamonic has been skating with Brian Strait, while MacDonald has been going with Matt Carkner. These new pairings do make things interesting for the Islanders. Last year, Strait was seen more as a stay-at-home defenseman, playing alongside the now departed Mark Streit. Carkner is also a stay-at-home type of defenseman.
We know that both Hamonic and MacDonald can have an offensive upside if given the right time and space to work with. They have had a great run playing together on the same pair, so it will be interesting to see how well these guys really play without the other one.
A possible factor into this breakup, if it even lasts, may have to do with their contracts. Hamonic just got signed to a long-term deal, while MacDonald is going into the final year of his contract. So he has to have a big year if he wants to come back to the Islanders.
Also to be taken into account is all the new defenseman that have been brought into camp this year. Islanders management is just trying to find the best pairs to work together. With guys like Radek Martinek, Calvin de Haan and Aaron Ness all fighting for spots as well, there is a good chance you will see new pairs during most of camp.
By having the pair of Hamonic and MacDonald apart, it leaves the thought process as to who is going to be the top pair wide open. Chances are, depending on how camp plays out, Hamonic and MacDonald could be back together as the shutdown pair. They may not be the top defense pair this season, but they will be a force to be reckoned with.
It’s way too early to draw conclusions as it’s only two days into camp, but still its fun to speculate what might happen. What do you think?