Isles can say goodbye to rest of season
Absolutely nothing about what the New York Islanders did Monday morning was shocking. In fact, the firing of head coach Scott Gordon (he was "promoted" to some sort of vague post as an assistant to GM Garth Snow -- do you take that with one sugar or two, Garth?) was entirely predictable.
That's what happens when you go 10 straight games without a victory.
But, in choosing Gordon's replacement, the Islanders followed a well-worn path that has led them past obscurity to irrelevance by hiring the next guy in line.
And so it was that on Monday, Jack Capuano became the new head coach of the New York Islanders. At least for now.
Snow wouldn't discuss what might happen after this season, choosing several times to point out he wasn't looking beyond Wednesday's home date with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That gives Capuano, a defenseman drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1984, two days to get the Isles whipped into shape.
If you haven't heard any buzz surrounding the former head coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, that's because there hasn't been any. Capuano, who played exactly six NHL games, has been the head coach of the Isles' top farm team for the past four seasons. During that time, the Sound have not won a playoff round, which means Capuano is well-suited to coach the Islanders, who haven't won a playoff round since 1993.
In fact, the last time Capuano coached a team to a playoff victory was back in 2000-01, when he was bench boss of the Pee Dee Pride of the ECHL.
This season, the Tigers were 6-9-0. But Snow insisted this was a good hire, because Capuano is familiar with many of the young Islanders players, having coached them in the AHL.
"There doesn't have to be a feeling-out process," Snow said. "Jack has done a great job in Bridgeport the last few seasons."
When it was pointed out he hasn't won a playoff round, the former NHL netminder said his successes have been in developing the young players the Islanders sent him.
It was kind of funny in that grisly kind of way to read Snow's comments in the press release announcing the coaching change.
He insisted that he needed to make the move while there was still time for the Isles to get back into the playoff hunt.
Ha-ha. Good one.
"Sometimes you have to go with your gut and make decisions that are tough," Snow said during a conference call Monday.
"I think the biggest issue for our team right now is confidence," he said.
Is confidence the sole reason the Islanders have managed to score just 14 goals during this 10-game slide?
Was it bad coaching that has the Islanders 29th overall in goals per game and 27th in goals allowed?
To act as if this was a shocking turn of events for a team with high hopes is wildly disingenuous. Or worse, delusional. Since 2008-09, the Isles have the worst winning percentage of any team in the NHL (64-94-23 record).
Was Gordon a bad coach? Or was he merely the coach of a bad team?
Certainly, Gordon won at the AHL level in Providence before being hired in Long Island. He was impressive enough to be asked by USA Hockey to coach at the World Championship last year, and he was an assistant on Ron Wilson's staff at the Vancouver Olympics when the U.S. came away with a silver medal and came within a goal of winning gold.
And we maintain even Dick Irvin, Scotty Bowman and Toe Blake couldn't make chicken salad out of the mess that is the New York Islanders. Yes, they lost key personnel to injury in Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo. But the blue line is a mess, and the kids up front simply aren't good enough. Not yet.
Now, by bringing in a coach with no NHL coaching experience you can kiss the rest of the season goodbye.
Why not call up Bob Hartley or Ken Hitchcock or Michel Therrien or Craig MacTavish? Not that we can assume any of them would have taken the job given the chaos that envelops this franchise. But surely one of those men would have brought instant credibility to an organization that's been long short on that particular quality.
This is not an indictment of Capuano as a person. I've never spoken to the man. But what is there to suggest he is capable of doing this job better than Gordon? Nothing other than being familiar with the players.
Maybe he will fool us all and become the next Guy Boucher or Dan Bylsma and turn this ship around.
But I doubt it.
Instead, the Islanders will get exactly what they paid for with their new coach -- and we're guessing it's next to nothing if the franchise's history is any indication -- and that will be more of the same.