Jack Capuano's Return Is The Correct Move

New York Islander Fan Central | 4/02/2012 07:43:00 AM | | |
I feel it's important to start this entry by noting the Islander website archives go back to the summer of 2005.

Within seven days, the club announced two new assistant coaches for Steve Stirling after the lockout. Dan Bylsma on 8/18/2005 & Jack Capuano on 8/25/2005.

One left the Islanders, the other stayed, both became head coaches in the American Hockey League, both replaced coaches at different stages in their teams progression/circumstances.

Jack Capuano's Islanders had success against Dan Bylsma's Penguins at home last year, Capuano's team just became the only one to pin back to back losses on the Penguins since Jan 10th-11th.

Capuano's job status was a subject this blog pondered over several times, as even Mark Streit was called out indirectly by his head coach, and the captain fired back. It was pondered over with Kyle Okposo riding the bench with Josh Bailey, who played a lot of games out of position where the coaching was again questioned here with management.

Michael Grabner has also seen some time in the stands with Nino Niederretier, and several other veterans.
The Decision Had Been Made Coach Stays:
What Charles Wang said on Sunday was expected regarding his general manager/head coach.

On 2/2/12 (15:08) Garth Snow appeared on Gary Bettman's NHL Hour, and praised the job his head coach had done in detail. At that time the Islanders were two games under five hundred.  (same as 4/1/12)

Garth Snow discussed, Capuano's great relationship with the players/communication skills, x/o's second to none. (cue goals off faceoffs as part of that comment)

Mr Snow on 2/2, also employed the rebuilding word  which he avoided for years which was blogged about in detail here also. 

Is Coaching The Problem? 

Capuano inherited a 4-10-3 club that bottomed out at 5-18-5 losing over six hundred man games to injury, his team in Bridgeport was struggling when named the interim coach. 

From that point Capuano got his teams overall record to 29-33-12 before a final wave of injuries in mid-March.

This blog documented the thirty plus regulation losses by one goal/open nets. There were signs this team had a deep offense, a defense with some mobility, there were reasons to expect what happened in the second half combined with the return of Streit/Okposo would produce a playoff team with a chance to win a Stanley Cup.

The praise for the hard work shown by the 2010-11 New York Islanders was a theme opposing coaches used often which was not token praise. 

Then we discovered every year is different, games are not played on paper, and for every player who progresses there is one who takes a step back, the mix changes, and with it things that worked.

The changes altered the chemistry, some of those decisions made upstairs doubled-down on the problems that cost Scott Gordon his job by the same players returning from injury. 

Some fair gambles in free agency did not work, they forced Capuano to fall into the trap of his predecessors with Blake Comeau, a notorious poor producer in the first half even when left at one position.

Okposo returned looking  as slow, tentative, as the player who was still working his way back from injury, his 2010-11 stats hidden somewhat by the success of  Michael Grabner on left wing.

New Captain, Mark Streit,  in his thirties, returned from a year injured to find Steve Staios as his opening night partner on defense, who's trade value in March 2010 equaled former Islander, Aaron Johnson/3rd rounder.

It was a flawed team with obvious weakness from opening night, which looked nothing like the club from the second half of 2010-11.

This club never won more than three games in a row.
Terrible on home ice. 
Was one of the worst five on five teams in hockey.
Terrible production on the back-line.
Blocked the most shots in the league as a reflection of the pressure on the slow, low-hitting defense.
Horrible holding leads.
Poor under pressure where games hung in balance. 
Almost no easy nights. (5-1 Tampa games)

Despite all those obvious weaknesses. The club basically remained in a box between six under and five hundred after October, to this day never entering serious playoff contention.

As soon as a free-fall seemed apparent, the club rallied.

The clunkers seemed to pace most other clubs, the ugly wins reflected the overall roster's weaknesses. 

Talent, Coaching?
There was individual progress, however players who took steps back.  Yes, there were questionable moves by the coach with his pulling of goaltenders at odd times.

Character? Fan blogs are not in locker-rooms, only the people in the room/management can speak to an individuals character in terms of how they play hockey.

Folks who go there on the outside are wasting your time.
Playing To Your Career Trends Not On Head Coach:
I did not see the weakness incorporated into the lineup or their failure as the fault of Jack Capuano.

Marty Reasoner, was hurt in camp and never got started.. I cannot put what I saw on the head coach, sometimes you discover why a player is a free agent beyond statistics.

Brian Rolston had a very strong second half for the Devils a year ago, he cleared re-entry waivers in Dec 2010, he played to his lesser trend. Capuano cleared positions, power-play minutes to get the best out of his performance. Finally/correctly, he decided it was not going to work.

Staios, Mottau, Jurina, Haley, Pandolfo, Reese, Moulson, Nielsen, (beyond short-handed goals), Bailey all played to their career trends, outside of Frans Nielsen all those players were scratched.

Nieslen's five on five production was consistent with his career offensive struggles, despite his recent improvement. 

Michael Grabner played to his 2010-11 trend before his injury. Andrew MacDonald played to his very early career trends with Travis Hamonic which is good on a team with this many weaknesses.

Tavares progressed as a first overall pick should. 

PA Parenteau took a big step forward statistically.

Evgeny Nabokov finally got healthy, and showed his trends from San Jose as a reliable starter. Rick DiPietro's recent trend of injuries made him a non-factor. Al Montoya played to all his career trends late last season, and as a struggling AHL backup prior to his acquisition.

Matt Martin's scoring did not progress as you would hope, despite hit totals.

Kevin Poulin, Anders Nilsson both played to the trends you would expect with highs and lows.Calvin deHaan, Mark Katic's injuries are part of their trends.

David Ullstrom, Casey Cizikas, Rhett Rakhshani, have no NHL trends, they did not seem held back by the coaching of Jack Capuano. 

Okposo, Streit looked like players who missed a year or were asked to do too much. Both looked closer to their career trends recently in terms of their impacts on games.
Based on what I have written and seen since October, Jack Capuano should return as head coach for 2012-13.

Capuano was as good (or bad) as the talent (and weaknesses) on the roster provided to him.  

Those weaknesses should improve with talent/natural progression from inside the organization.

Having written this we wrote that a year ago after Ty Wishart played twenty second half games at a plus five, and seemed very reliable on defense entering his 5th NHL season. The former first round pick never got more than a token look as the veterans struggled badly on the backline.  

In 2011-12, I did not see a coach who lost his team, the losing was always met by a team that rebounded with wins which speaks to the coach.

No doubt Jack Capuano was one reason some players wanted to resign here who had options.

Overall I saw nothing long-term that Capuano cannot produce the success Dan Bylsma did when they finally reach that next level.

The 2011-12 roster was not that team from opening night.

The remaining question here is does Jack Capuano want to return?