Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Second Dismissal

It looked like Florida's decision to relieve Gerard Gallant of his head coaching duties might be the only move behind the bench this season. For some time, though, it has been rumoured that New York Islanders head coach Jack Capuano was on his way out, especially with the dreadful season that the Islanders have been having. They started the season horribly and have been playing catch-up ever since. It was strange to hear GM Garth Snow give Capuano a vote of confidence in November when everyone thought the inevitable would happen. It may have taken two months longer, but Jack Capuano was fired today by the New York Islanders. Assistant coach Doug Weight will take over in the interim as the Islanders now look for a replacement.

Capuano's Islanders are sitting at 17-17-8 with 42 points which is the lowest point total in the Eastern Conference. Capuano's overall record in seven seasons was a respectable 227-194-64, and he was the man calling the shots when the Islanders won their first playoff series in 23 years last season when they dispatched the Florida Panthers. In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, though, they sit eight points out of a playoff spot despite their start and seem to have come around when it comes to winning games. It wasn't enough for Capuano to remain with the team, however, and the Islanders made the move to possibly light a fire in Brooklyn despite the team going 11-7-4 since November 25.

"Obviously we're not in a position where we want to be standing wise," Snow said via conference call today. "At the end of the day organizationally I don't think Jack was probably going to be a coach that we were going to bring back."

That one word - "organizationally" - was particularly interesting to me because it sounds like this move was made not from Garth Snow's office. For seven seasons and through a rebuild that one could arguably still claim is happening today, Jack Capuano was the man tasked with guiding the good ship Islanders. He took them to heights they hadn't seen in a generation and, while they may have fallen short when it came to lofty expectations, he got more out of the team than what most expected. It was Snow's next comment that really started to put things into focus regarding this change.

"I don't know that Jack fell short of expectations," Snow told those on the call. "I think when you're a coach in this league sometimes you're a victim of different circumstances."

What circumstances, you ask? New ownership is slowly integrating themselves into the everyday operations of the Islanders, and it seems that they may have wanted to go in a new direction "organizationally". Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky publicly gave Snow and Capuano their votes of confidence just last summer, but it seems their patience may have worn thin when it comes to the Islanders making the playoffs and making the two owners some real money.

With major changes to the roster, a loss of some major offensive players, and new players performing woefully poor, the team seems to have made the change simply to shake up the room. Snow acknowledged this fact on his conference call, referring to the adage of how it's easier to fire the coach than to make a bunch of changes to the team. One of those changes that came in the off-season was Andrew Ladd who has had a dreadful start to his Islanders career. Signed to a monster deal for nearly $40 million over seven years, Scott Malkin was part of team that recruited Ladd to sign with the Islanders as he told Arthur Staples that he "spoke with Malkin on the phone during Ladd's visit to Long Island".

With fingerprints of Ledecky and Malkin starting to appear all over this team, it's clear that the two owners are intent on making this their team. And that's fine as they have every right to do so. The problem is that we've seen this time and again where owners meddle in the hockey operations, and the result is the hockey operations side suffers dramatically. Owners can certainly play a part in selling the franchise to free agents and draft picks, but digging their fingers into coaching changes and personnel moves usually turn out bad. That's why they're owners and not GMs.

The Islanders will push on without Jack Capuano, and they'll probably win a few more games in the second-half of the season. They were winning games with him as proven by their record since late November, but I guess picking up only 59% of the points available wasn't good enough to offset the poor start the Islanders had. With the team looking for a new coach next season as indicated by Snow, the timing of this move could have happened anytime after January 1 based on the Islanders' start.

Jack Capuano will land somewhere and have an impact. Like Gallant, though, ownership expected this team to be in a better position than where they were based on the calendar, so changes were made. Between injuries and poor performances, both Gallant and Capuano deserved a better fate based on their recent track record of successes with their former teams.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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