To hear Travis Hamonic tell it, his decision to re-sign with the Islanders wasn’t a difficult choice at all.
“Speaking for myself, I never would have gone for seven years if I really didn’t believe in what was going on here in what [owner] Charles [Wang] and [general manager] Garth [Snow] are building,” Hamonic said on the first day of training camp. “I really just wanted to be a part of it. It’s fun to be an Islander. It’s a fun time and I have a lot of faith in what we’re doing.”
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The Islanders enter the 2013-14 season as one of the NHL’s more intriguing teams. The team is coming off its first playoff appearance since 2007, a six-game series loss to Pittsburgh in the first round. Core players have been locked up to long-term deals, while talented prospects are in the organizational pipeline.
The franchise has been selected to play in one of the six Stadium Series outdoor games this season, as the home team at Yankee Stadium against the Rangers. And, the franchise will move into Brooklyn’s Barclays Center before the 2015-16 season.
“Now we get that recognition,” Hamonic said. “It seems like everyone is looking at our organization in a different light from the outside.”
Yes, things have changed for the Islanders.
“I definitely see the expectations are higher and people are going to expect for us to be in the playoffs,” John Tavares said. “We played well for six to eight weeks last year and now we've got to carry that over for eight to nine months, which is going to be really tough especially for our team which is still a young group and developing in a lot of ways. To play with that level of consistency the way we played, it's going to be tough.”
Much of the reason for the Islanders’ success in the lockout-shortened 2013 season was a physical, up-tempo attacking style. The Islanders finished the regular season with a 24-17-7 mark which was good enough for eighth in the Eastern Conference. Their 2.81 goals per game average was seventh in the league and their 19.9 percent power play efficiency was tied for 10th in the league.
The Islanders’ play earned their players some individual notoriety as Tavares was a Hart Trophy finalist last season, and he and Hamonic were invited to Team Canada’s Olympic Orientation Camp in late August.
It’s believed that Tavares will make the team, although Hamonic said Hockey Canada officials told the 47 players that attended the camp in Calgary that jobs are up for grabs.
“It’s nice to see Hockey Canada see me in that light,” Hamonic said. “They made it very clear that anyone can make the team. So it’s nice that I’m on the radar. It’s definitely exciting that I have an opportunity to play myself [onto the Olympic team].”
And it would be another example of how a new day is dawning for the franchise.
Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.