I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and the small break from hockey. So now I’m going to take you from being cheer and merry to whatever mood you’re in when you read the words, Jack Capuano. Just from the title alone, I’ll get yelled at by someone, somewhere. Why in the world would I even think about wanting to keep him as a coach at this point? Three reasons: First: my personal, hockey opinion of him does not matter because the Islanders will do what they want. Second, I wrote back in early 2014 that the Islanders should have relieved him of his duties and he’s still here. From a writers point of view, I learned my lesson to just write as I hear or see. Finally, in order for a coach to be relieved of his duties, he needs to either lose the locker room and/or have different philosophical views of the team moving forward. So let’s see if it’s time to buy (keep), sell (fire) or hold on to Jack Capuano.
Let’s take a look at the Islanders current record, 13-14-6. Not exactly a playoff team this far into the season. The team is currently on pace to finish the season with 80 points when the team finished with 101 and 100 points respectively the last two seasons. In 2014 when the Islanders missed the playoffs, they finished the season with 79 points, good for last place in the Metro Division. Ironically, the Islanders find themselves in almost the same situation, only it’s worse. In 2014 the Islanders needed 93 points to make it to the playoffs. This year, it appears that the Islanders would need around 100 points. If the Philadelphia Flyers continue to win and exceed the 100 point mark, one has to wonder if the Islanders would’ve made the playoffs at all this year with the Metro Division dominating the entire NHL. Can blame be put on Capuano for this?
Has Capuano lost the locker room? Doesn’t appear to be that way. As I’ve written before, the Islanders have not fared well against teams who rank in the top 10 in the NHL (0-4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the time when they were a top 10 team). However, against the rest of the NHL, the Islanders are 8-3-5, good for a 108 point pace. To further the point, the Isles specialty teams are better when playing clubs not in the top 10 (PP 16% PK 81%) versus clubs in the top 10 (PP 13% PK 78%). Now make no mistake, those numbers are still bad, but you have to take into consideration who scored those powerplay goals from last year. The team scored 42 total power-play goals in 2015-16, 14 of them came from Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen. While the Islanders have had players like Shane Prince, Alan Quine and Ryan Strome get on the score sheet for the powerplay, Andrew Ladd has played 77 minutes without a power-play goal. Some of the younger players are now getting bigger roles and fans are only now starting to see a turnaround. Also remember that Capuano wanted his defenseman to be more active in the offense at the start of the season. The result is that the Islanders defense alone are on pace for 53 goals this season. When was the last time that happened? My point is that this is a transitional year for the Islanders and while the younger Islanders are coming along slowly, they’re starting to make the proper adjustments with Capuano behind the bench.
As for the total offense, the Islanders are on pace for 230 goals, three goals better than last year. With Ryan Strome, Andrew Ladd finding the back of the net more often as of late, the emergence of Anders Lee has been something the Isles have been waiting for and the continued surprise that is Anthony Beauvillier is helping out with the offense as much as he can. We know of the specialty teams are not great, but if there is one position that truly frustrates Capuano, it has to be the three goalie “rotation.” When Jaro is net, the Isles offense averages 2.13 goals per game. When Greiss is in net, the Isles are averaging 3.17. To Halak’s credit, out of the 18 games he’s started, 10 of those have been against teams in the top 10 in which he only won 2 of those (2-7-1). Greiss started in 6 of those and is 2-4 against teams in the top 10. J.F Berube 0-1-1 and has not played enough games to warrant an evaluation, but time will tell what Capuano wants to so with him. So with the overall offense improving, can the Islanders challenge the top 10 teams from here on out?
That’s why the next two games against the Capitals tonight and the Minnesota Wild on Thursday will be interesting to see. If the Islanders can steal 3 out of a possible 4 points, their next nine games are against teams below the top 10 in the NHL. Capuano will have a chance to show to everyone that perhaps this is just a development year for players to take that next step and become part of the new core of the Islanders. If the Islanders do make such a run, and in fact they do end their season in the possible low 90’s, the Isles may just have to tap their sticks to their divisional opponents on an impressive run to the playoffs that no one saw coming. However, if the Islanders do not show any sort of improvement or do not gain some ground in the standings, then this might be the time to relieve Capuano of his duties. For now and over the next few weeks, I’ll hold on to Capuano and see how this plays out.
Having some fun here for my next article: Thoughts on Jack Capuano! #Isles
— Paul Kreischer (@Netminder39) December 27, 2016