The New York Islanders officially remove the interim tag from Jack Capuano today and announced that he would return as head coach next season. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The Islanders were 26-29-10 since Capuano took over as coach after the dismissal of Scott Gordon this past November. The Isles went 25-21-9 in their last 55 games under Capuano after a 1-8-2 start. He helped the team bounce back from a slump where they lost 20 of 21 games and navigated the club through a season where they suffered nearly 600 man-games to injury, by far the most in the league.
“Jack took over a team that really lacked confidence,” Isles GM Garth Snow said today during a conference call with the media. “I thought he did a tremendous job communicating with the players…He took over a team that was really down in the dumps emotionally and I thought he really did an excellent job getting the most out of our players. You could see it in the way our team played from December on…Anyone who’s watched our season knows it’s almost a tale of two seasons and Jack had a big role in getting the best out of this group.”
To a man, the players had praise for the job Capuano did this season and how he made things lighter and improved communication in the locker room. “I think the guys loosened up a bit and were able to play a bit more freely and we were able to communicate some things to Cappy,” Kyle Okposo explained. “I think the guys handled it very well and Cappy did a great job.”
“It brought a different feel around the locker room,” Blake Comeau said. “Cappy lets guys be creative. He’s a passionate guy, he expects guys to play hard but he’s also a guy who off the ice is around the guys in the locker room and the lounge. It was just a different feel from Scott who was a little more complex with systems. There’s no right or wrong way, but I think it was a change that was good for the team.”
Capuano knew the team needed some changes when he arrived and is confident about the future. “Obviously it was an easy transition for me because we had most of these guys in Bridgeport and I thought I could get the maximum potential out of these guys to play the way we wanted them to play,” Capuano explained. “I thought the second half we did that. We’ve got a lot of young guys over there and if we continue to make the strides I know we can make, we’re going to be a postseason team. The bottom line is to win hockey games and that’s what we plan on doing.”
The Islanders will find out their draft position tonight at 8:00 PM ET when the draft lottery is held. The Isles had the fourth worst record in the league and are one of five clubs with a chance at the first overall pick.