With every rebuild, there are a few common occurrences. Primary in a rebuild are good draft picks, based on the lousy play of the rebuilding team. Trades also come into play, as those draft picks (or prospects) can acquire players that speed along a rebuild. When a rebuild gets to reality, teams become attractive to free agents- teams, not buildings. Lastly, when a rebuild is actualizing, you almost always see coaching changes. Yes, we said it- coaching changes. This is not just true for rebuilds alone. Anytime there is either an unrealized expectation – usually in for form of not winning enough- the first thing to change is the coaching staff. After all, you can’t fire the team! And if you did a rebuild right and yet aren’t winning, well, someone has to go.
However, that isn’t even a thought on the Island of No Accountability. Well, no accountability if your last name isn’t Grabner or if you’re not a rookie. Certainly this is the case for management as we’ve seen just plain outright bungling at the hands of Mike Milbury and now Garth Snow. But the GM doesn’t fire himself, despite what Milbury says. No, the one who is the greatest recipient of corporate welfare on Long Island is none other than Simple Jack Capuano.
We all know that Lou Lamoriello can be a little extreme when it comes to his coaching staff. However, we feel that Garth Snow is equally extreme, just in the opposite direction. What talents does Jack Capuano have to run a hockey team effectively? On what levels has he won? Was there a level ever in which he was a winner? In the ten seasons spent as a head coach in the ECHL, AHL, and NHL, Capuano has not qualified for the playoffs 40% of the time. If you add first round exits to that list, you’ve described 70% of his coaching career. His best years of coaching came in the ECHL, where he never was a first round loser and only missed the playoffs once. In case you’re keeping score, that means as an AHL or NHL coach, he’s never smelled the second round of the playoffs, and half of the time he doesn’t even MAKE the playoffs.
Then there is the other obvious omission that people make about Capuano. What exactly was his NHL experience? Ever bother to look? We did. 6 games. Zero points. What position? Defense. Folks, that tells you all you need to know about why the Islanders defense is so awful. Their role model has a whopping six games of experience at the position. I guess we should make Aaron Ness the next head coach- he has THREE TIMES the NHL experience as his boss! No wonder when reporters complain about the Islanders defense, Capuano comes to their defense:
Only Islanders Reporter: “the defense seemed weak tonight.”
Capuano: “What’s wrong with the defense we got? It plays pretty good. We got Hamonic, and who else?”
Thompson: “MacDonald. Ness. Hickey. Martinek.”
Truly, a defense to drive fear into the heart of a playoff team.
It’s not just defense that Capuano fails with. Here is a short list of things Capuano has failed at:
Developing rookies, delegating responsibility effectively to his assistant coaches’ strengths, consistent day-in day-out play, zero growth among veteran players, all he does is fill out lineup cards, he gets too many men on the ice penalties, he cant match lines at home when he has the last call, he can’t draw up line on the road, the team has no heart, the team is ill prepared for big games, his goaltending choices are suspect… we’re not saying that the Islanders have a bad coaching staff, but the following coaching staffs are better….everyone in the NHL, one third of the AHL, the guys at the Freeport Rec Center, Chubbs from Happy Gilmore, and Youtube.
You may say “Say what you will about how Capuano is completely lacking at developing prospects, wasting high draft picks and mishandling the roster. He’s a good guy because he lacks ability at X’s and O’s, but he’s a players coach.” We can argue all day about who is the right guy, how to do lines, etc, with hind sight being 20/20. That’s all good and fun and it makes for great hockey conversation. But when you add up ALL of the above mentioned factors, what becomes inarguable is this question- Nice guy aside, can someone tell us how Jack Capuano has a job in the NHL? We decided to take a look at all the time Simple Jack would have been fired if Crazy Lou (crazy successful that is) was at the helm. As trigger happy as he would be, there are absolute justifications for every time Jack should have been let go:
1-) After the Pittsburgh series when Nabokov let in 400 goals yet started 6 times.
2-) After the loss to a rebuilding Buffalo team. Any loss, really.
3-) After ruining Nino Niederreiter. Who is still outscoring Josh Bailey this season.
4-) After showing the inability to develop any single prospect in the Islanders system into an NHL player
5-) After bragging about his refusal to make in game changes
6-) After lacking the NHL level experience needed to teach a defense how to prevent the first shot of a game from being more than 3 feet away
7-) After reaching into a hat and picking any random game that this team needed a win and they came out completely flat. The Flyers at the end of last season comes to mind. The Flyers handing the Islanders the worst loss EVER at Nassau Coliseum also comes to mind. As does the absolute drubbing by the Toronto Maple Leafs just a few days ago.
Now, most of these statistics are not favorable to Capuano. In fact, they’re plain bad. Here is one statistic that is mind boggling that actually works in his favor: Jack Capuano is the 8th longest tenured coach in the National Hockey League. That’s NOT a typo.
Let’s compare Jack Capuano to his peers- the top 7 tenured coaches:
- Barry Trotz is Nashvilles only coach. Jack Adams finalist.
- Mike Babcock has a .660 winning percentage, a Stanley cup and was Jack Adams finalist.
- Claude Julien had two 90 plus point seasons with Montreal and New Jersey before winning a cup in Boston as well as a Jack Adams award.
- Todd McLellan has finished first in his division 3 times and has a .650 career winning percentage. Also a Jack Adams finalist.
- Dave Tippet, entered this season with a .628 career winning percentage. Jack Adams winner in 2010
- Dan Bylsma, a onetime fellow assistant with Capuano to the awful Steve Stirling, who sports a career .671 winning percentage, a Stanley cup, and is a Jack Adams winner.
All of these coaches rank ahead of Jack Capuano on the longest tenured list. All of them save for maybe Trotz also know that they can be fired at any given moment. But not our friend Jack Capuano. In 171 games as a head coach, he is 92-94-31. That’s sub .500. Yet he will be here until Garth Snow is not.
We are no fans of Garth Snow. Quite frankly we are starting to realize the whole rebuild was a complete waste. As a recent poster on Islanders Pointblank wrote, “What rebuild? You mean drafting players like every other team?” You know what? That guy is right, and would be one hundred percent right if he added “that wastes first and second round draft picks?” Garth can turn around tonight, fire Crapuano, hire Peter Loviolette, trade for a top 2 defenseman- Dmitry Kulikov?- and recall Ryan Strome. If this were to happen, which we all know will not, Snow would have improved the team and showed he actually cares about winning. However, he won’t- showing that not only does he not care about results, but also showing the mythology that this is the perpetual rebuild really was based on winning. We’re sure that Jack Capuano is a nice guy, but at this point, Jack has done everything he can with his very limited skill set to with this team. There is nothing he could do that will turn him in to the right coach for this team, in this or any other season.
In fairness to Jack, it really isn’t just about this season. It is normal for the next step of a “re-building” team to change coaches to get to the next level. It is the way every recent rebuild has progressed. Unless you are Garth Snow. Then you know better than say Chicago, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Colorado or Tampa Bay.
Since March of last season including the playoffs up to this current point in the season, the Islanders have 18 wins and 20 losses. In Capuano’s first season as coach, he was 3 games under .500. After his first full season, he was 3 games under .500. Hmmm what do ya know? MORE OF THE SAME!!!!! Yeah we know, he was seven games over .500 last season. If that is going to be harped on as success, then what about his playoffs where he was two games under .500 in a mere six games? And if you’re saying he’s a playoff caliber coach, which defies both his AHL and NHL record, or any coaching record since 2001, then you would have to admit that this team is not performing like a playoff contender, and since it’s the same players, it must be the coach that is screwing up and needs to be fired.
Statistically, we are saying that the Capuano you see is the Capuano you get. He has always been this way. For his supporters over the Islanders making the playoffs last season, you’re admitting that he got better, then he got worse. For this team to duplicate last years’ record over the remainder of this full season, the Isles will have to finish with 35 wins and 25 losses over the last sixty games. They will have to be 10 games over .500 for the first time since 2006. From a career sub .500 coach. This isn’t bias; this is statistics. Also keep in mind, that prior to his firing, Scott Gordon had a full season where he finished three games below .500. Wonder where our catch phrase comes from? Scott was six games below the .500 mark when he was released. We would say “tick-tock Jack,” but we have no faith in the front office of this team. Some rumors are that Brooklyn money is already flowing through Nassau. If it were true, Laviolette, or some other competent coach would have relieved Simple Jack of his duties by now, and let him get back to what he does well. and that’s the first time he’ll be seen doing something that he does well.
Some say, “Relax, there are sixty games left.” Exactly! Right the ship while you have a chance to win, not when it is too late.
We have a comments section for a reason. We’d like you to tell us just why Jack Capuano should stay as a coach of the New York Islanders. Go.
About the Author: We are two long time hockey fans who certainly have our own opinions and points of view. Feel free to share yours. Follow on twitter @joshbarely