Weight is on Weight After Islanders’ Coaching Change

The Jack Capuano Era with the Islanders ended with a win and a thud.

Go figure. His team looked unbeatable in Beantown and a day later it’s Bye-Bye Cappy.

In his last game behind the bench, Jack watched his skaters play their best game of the season, beating the Bruins, 4-0, in Boston.

 

How does it get better than that?

Ah, but the coach’s problem was that the road win proved too little, too late.

A devastating defeat in Carolina was just one of too many implosions. Co-owner Jon Ledecky accompanied the team on that road trip and couldn’t have been pleased with the performance against the Canes, among others.

Some observers considered the loss in Raleigh the Islanders’ worst defensive effort of the campaign. Ironically, when wins came, fans hopes soared;  only to be dashed again — and again.

The season scenario saw Brooklyn’s sextet swimmingly winning a game or two and then egregiously sinking when it earlier had appeared they were moving toward a playoff berth.

The trap door was set on the recent Western road trip. Four points were there for the asking against bottom-feeding Arizona and Colorado. But the hoped-for-Ws didn’t materialize as the club managed a grand total of two goals in the process.

Nor was the Capuano firing and insertion of Doug Weight as “interim coach” totally unexpected. The evidence was all there on the ice after an encouraging post-season last Spring.

Hopes were reasonably high after John Tavares, Inc. made it to the second playoff round. The Hollywood-style opening tourney triumph over Florida energized the fan base. Even the second-round exit inspired glorious hopes for the new season.

But they never materialized; not even close.

The Isles’ performance by the quarter-mark of the season suggested that 2016-17 was turning into a difficult campaign.

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Too many times when a win streak seemed a prelude for an upward climb, it would disappear like smoke rings in the air.

Was it all Cappy’s fault? There were suggestions by the coach, himself, that others were to blame.

At least once during a post-game press conference at Barclays Center the coach not-so-subtly hinted that he wasn’t given the horses to win this marathon.

After one defeat in November, an exasperated Cappy said “Where are we going to get point production? Took 134 points out of our lineup.”

The reference was to losing popular forwards Kyle Okposo, Matt Martin and Frans Nielsen who signed with Buffalo, Toronto and Detroit, respectively.

Following his final victory on Monday afternoon in Boston, Jack was interviewed by MSG Networks’ Shannon Hogan. She wondered if the coach was proud of the manner in which his team won. Cappy’s response was cryptic, to say the least.

“We’ve got a lot of records that are good and bad.”

A coach doesn’t get fired very often for good results in the NHL. In Capuano’s case, it was the perceived “bad” that influenced his dismissal. Critics cited the following factors that led to the pink slip. To wit:

  1. Too many missed playoffs.
  1. Young players with potential — Ryan Strome for example — failed to develop as hoped.
  1. Blown third-period leads plagued the club right into the Lightning series last Spring and into this year.

At least superficially, his players liked Cappy and, in a sense, they should have favored him. After all, this was one coach who never indicted a slumping player by name.

When I pointedly asked Jack what his philosophy was when it came to not naming names when culprits could have been mentioned, he said he had a rationale that avoided personal finger-pointing.

“After a game,” he told me, “I don’t talk to my players; I come to see the media. I don’t want my players to see their names in the papers before I speak to them personally. I do that the next day.”

Whether that was the best system is a moot point. What matters is that it appeared that Jack simply was not extracting enough out of the ingredients at hand.

One former NHL scout put it this way to me, “Too many times Capuano was out-coached in the areas of matchups, player management and player-line management.”

In Cappy’s defense, it should be pointed out that he lost three core players in Okposo, Nielsen and Martin. Each did well in his role.

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Kyle blended with Tavares, Nielsen excelled defensively and in shootouts while Martin’s clean-aggressive play energized the team as well as his line with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck.

Conversely, it could be argued that the coach failed to get everything available out of Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera.

The new Doug Weight Era begins on Thursday when the Dallas Stars visit Barclays Center. How long it will last nobody knows, but it will likely be until the season’s end.

With just short of half a campaign to go, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the Islanders still can make a run for the postseason.

“We’ll right the ship,” concluded general manager Garth Snow.

We shall see.

Bottom Line: It was a move that had to be made.

Because the frustration level was rising to dangerous heights and the learning curve developed an alarming downward trend.