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Focusing on the Future

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald has become a big part of General Manager Garth Snow’s vision for the future. Drafted five years ago, MacDonald is just 24-years-old and has already grown into a significant role as one of the team’s core players. With the excitement surrounding Aug. 1 and the team’s second half success last season, the future is coming into focus for the budding defensive star.

“The team made a decision a few years ago to start from scratch and go with young players, letting everyone grow together,” MacDonald said. “A new arena would definitely be a very bright spot in the team’s future if the vote does go to yes. It’s at a point where we would have this new rink when everyone would be hitting the top of their game.”

MacDonald said his teammates are “optimistic” about next season and are “expecting a lot of each other and of themselves,” but there’s currently something more pressing on the Franchise’s agenda: the public referendum that would bond $400 million for a new arena and minor league ballpark. Anticipation leading up to the Aug. 1 vote has MacDonald excited for the future.

“It would be very encouraging and very special if this rink was approved and we had a very strong team on the ice,” MacDonald said. “You can tell that throughout the past few seasons we’ve gone on streaks where we’ve played very well and won games and fans have come out.”

As happy as the team was to start winning in the second half of 2010-11, the hardships they faced earlier in the season forced them to grow stronger, become unified and anchored as a team and in the heart and soul of their reinvigorated fanbase.

If the referendum passes, the team will have stability in their already promising future, which will undoubtedly help to attract outside talent.

“We’ve obviously had some trouble attracting free agents, I don’t think it’s any secret,” MacDonald said. “A new atmosphere would definitely help that. It’s a pretty big part of things when you think about it, the facility that you play in. You make your home there for the season, half a year. So to have a brand new one, state-of-the-art everything, would definitely be something that would make a huge difference.”

While adding depth and veteran experience to the team will strengthen the Islanders roster, the existing players gained invaluable experience last year. MacDonald was left to tend the blueline against opponents’ top lines after injuries crippled the Islanders defensive core. Paired with Travis Hamonic, a rookie defenseman, the duo held their own.

“I think Travis and I had a lot of great chemistry last year,” MacDonald said. “I think once you find a partner like that, you kind of hope to be able to stay together and grow as players. You look at a lot of guys, they make their careers by playing with a lot of the same guys. So it’s something that I would definitely enjoy, playing with Travis again next year. Hopefully I’ll be able to pick up where we left off. That being said, if Cappy (head coach Jack Capuano) wants to mix guys up, that’s quite all right with everybody I think.”

Andrew MacDonald #47 of the New York Islanders skates against the Ottawa Senators on January 13, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Senators defeat the Islanders 6-4. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
Last year, MacDonald escalated his standing on the team as well as improved his on-ice performance from years past, but the defenseman said he still has room for improvement and growth as a player.

“I had an old coach in junior that told me there are going to be times when you cap out on where you think you’re at and if you do make it to the NHL, then you can’t really be satisfied at that point,” MacDonald said. “There are always going to be goals you can achieve, whether it be statistical or personal bests.”

He plans to take that advice and run with it throughout his career.

“It’s all about adjusting to what position you’re put in and what the team needs you to do,” MacDonald said. “Whatever it is the team wants me to do, I’m just going to do that to the best of my ability.”

With the young core improving and conquering adversity, MacDonald said the team’s next goal is to make the playoffs and then to win the Stanley Cup. With the possibility of a new arena opening in 2015, success is on the horizon.
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