With the recent firing of former New York Islanders head coach, Jack Capuano, all eyes will be on the current coach and assistant general manager, Doug Weight to see if the Islanders can show any kind of glimpses of the previous two seasons. Whether or not he can right the ship, a coaching change for the long-term is needed for this organization. The Islanders have an opportunity to become more of an attractive organization and not a head scratching one with the right choice of coach. Nothing against Jack Capuano, but the Islanders need to take another step forward if they want to be contenders in the foreseeable and distant future. I’m going to be blunt and honest, but In my humble opinion, that next coach should be Marc Crawford.
Why Crawford? First, he’s coming into a situation that isn’t really a rebuild, depending on your point of view. There’s plenty of prospects that he could help develop into NHL players at some point, but he’s inheriting a team with an NHL roster that, despite a few departures, had finished with two 100 point seasons and the Isles need a coach that can help some players turn from future stars into immediate impacts. He has a Hart trophy finalist in John Tavares, who could win one under Crawford. There’s Nick Leddy who could win a Norris Trophy under the proper guidance. With Crawford at the helm, fans could see the younger players such as Ryan Strome, Michael Dal Colle reach their full potential instead of them being labeled as top draft busts.
Second, The Isles are in the toughest division for the remainder of this year and possibly next. The last two seasons under Capuano, the Islanders finished in the top 10 in the NHL with the aforementioned 100 point seasons. This year the top 10 (based off the percentages) has a plethora of talented head coaches with a ton of hardware to their names, with one or two may add another piece.
10. Oilers: Todd McLellan, Presidents Trophy winner
9. Sharks: Pete DeBoer, two-time Stanley Cup finalist with two different teams (Devils, Sharks)
8. Ducks: Randy Carlyle, Stanley Cup winner
7. Rangers: Alain Vigneault, two-time Stanley Cup finalist with two different teams (Canucks, Rangers)
6. Chicago: Joel Quenneville, three-time Stanley Cup winner
5. Montreal: Michel Therrien, Eastern Conference Champion
4. Penguins: Mike Sullivan, Stanley Cup winner
3. Minnesota: Bruce Boudreau, Presidents Trophy winner
2. Washington: Barry Trotz, Presidents Trophy winner
1. Columbus: John Tortorella, Stanley Cup winner
Crawford has won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche back in 1996 and despite that being over 20 years ago, see Tortorella this year.
Third, if you look at Crawford’s career after the Avalanche, he inherited a Vancouver team in a rebuild and transformed them, including the Sedin twins into a contender and became one of the winningest coaches in franchise history. Crawford also coached the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars who was instrumental in the development in players like Anze Kopitar and Jamie Benn. Last year, Crawford also had a hand in developing former number one pick and Toronto Maple Leafs super star Auston Mathews in which they won the 2016 Swiss Cup. He’s an associate coach for the Ottawa Senators and you can bet his influence has rubbed off on a few players and can credit him for their success so far this season as the Senators currently sit tied for third in the Atlantic Division with Mathews’ Maple Leafs. Imagine what he could do with names like Strome, Nelson, Barzal, Dal Colle, Bellows.
Jack Capuano did a decent job with what he was given, which wasn’t much earlier on, and Doug Weight will be an excellent coach as he brings a different personality to the club and we’ll see how the players respond. There’s already a good history (I believe) between Crawford and Islanders general manager, Garth Snow, from their Vancouver days so picking up the phone should be an easy one. But come April or May, when the Ottawa Senators end their season, if they allow Crawford to talk to the Islanders and Crawford is allowed to leave, the Islanders must make this move and hire him as their next coach. There’s a ton of potential for both sides to make this work and the Islanders will be a force for years with the amount of prospects on the team and in the system, even if a major trade happens. The Islanders still have a chance at taking the organization to heights not seen since the dynasty years. They have an eventual Hart trophy winner, a possible Norris Trophy candidate, maybe even a future Calder trophy candidate. Would be monumental if they added the youngest Jack Adams winner ever and made him a two-time winner of that trophy, and another Stanley Cup.