Jack Capuano‘s path to the NHL is a feel-good story. Capuano was a career minor leaguer for a few seasons in the AHL and never was able to find a place in professional hockey as a player. He came to the New York Islanders in 2005 as an assistant coach, and continued to thrive and move up the ladder until he was finally was given a chance in 2010 to coach the big club.
Capuano took over the coaching duties midseason for the Islanders, and the team showed glimpses of promise under his leadership. He was a fiery, no-nonsense guy that encouraged work ethic and physicality. Capuano developed a strong relationship with owner Charles Wang and GM Garth Snow over the next two seasons, and the team made the playoffs in the 2012-13 season. Unfortunately, the Islanders lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This playoff appearance created excitement for the fanbase about the direction of the organization. However, this glimpse of accomplishment has been forgotten by a disappointed fanbase that has seen the Islanders return to their losing ways.
This season for the Islanders has been brutal in every sense of the word. They currently sit in eighth place in the Metropolitan Division and are now in selling mode. Thomas Vanek and Andrew MacDonald will be traded by March 5, and the team will continue to lose after the Olympic Break. The players on the bench are frustrated with how the season has gone and know they are playing meaningless games.
This is something that a coach is responsible for. In his first year coaching, Capuano took over an Islanders team that was out of the hunt and inspired them to play hard. Today, Capuano could care less about winning and the spirit of his players because he knows that he will not lose his job as head coach anytime soon.
The Islanders are going to pick in the top-five this year, and will go on to play their last season at the Coliseum before moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The upcoming season in Long Island is very important to the Islanders’ success in Brooklyn.
Going into a new arena is hard, especially when it is not close to the old one. The thing that makes any transition easier is winning. The Islanders want to be in a good position when they leave Long Island, so they can lure old fans to renew their season tickets, and to encourage people in Brooklyn to come to the games.
With Capuano behind the bench, the Islanders will not make the playoffs next season, and they will be the laughingstock of New York when they move to the Barclays Center. Capuano does not have what it takes to coach in the NHL anymore, especially in a market as big as Brooklyn.
Bringing in a proven coach with a respected pedigree will change the culture in the locker room, and will make the fans feel at ease. It will create accountability and will let the players know that they can’t take off games when they feel like it. It will also show the fans that management is willing to make the necessary changes to get better, even if it means going against the grain.
The Islanders have a plethora of young talent, and the future can be bright for them if they decide to take action. The first and most important change should be to fire Capuano and bring in a fresh face to wake up the players on the bench.