The New York Islanders relieved Jack Capuano of his head coaching duties Tuesday afternoon less than 24 hours after the team’s 4-0 victory over the Bruins in Boston. Doug Weight was named interim coach and will be behind the bench Thursday when the Isles host the Dallas Stars at Barclays Center.
During his telephone conference with the media, GM Garth Snow indicated that the team had decided it was not going to bring Capuano back next season. By letting him go now, Snow indicated the Isles could get a jump on their search for a new bench boss.
The Islanders slumped this season and are presently last in the Eastern Conference with a 17-17-8 record. The Isles never seemed to click this season and have been plagued by inconsistent play. A complete, 60-minute effort was rare and five or 10-minute lapses often cost the club valuable points in the standings.
Despite the disappointing first half, Capuano’s accomplishments should not be overlooked. Capuano took over as interim coach of the Isles on November 15, 2010, which made him the fourth longest tenured coach in the league. Before he took over the team, the Islanders had missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons. Capuano clicked with a young roster after coaching many of the same players in Bridgeport and provided the team a spark in his first season behind the bench.
The Islanders managed to qualify for the playoffs in three of Capuano’s last four seasons and had back-to-back campaigns with at least 100 points for the first time since the dynasty years. Last spring, the Islanders won a playoff round for the first time in 23 years. The last Isles coach to win a playoff series was the late Al Arbour. Cappy also finished second behind Arbour in Islanders history in both games coached (482) and wins (227). Capuano’s final record with the Islanders was 227-191-64.
Weight has served as an assistant coach for the Islanders for the Isles since 2012-13 and as assistant general manager since 2014-15. Snow indicated he did not expect major systemic changes to be forthcoming now that Weight is the interim head coach.
The Isles have only a slight chance to qualify for the playoffs this year. They will need 58 points in their remaining 40 games just to match last season’s 100-point total. That is a 119-point pace over an entire season. Unfortunately, that may not be enough to clinch a playoff spot this year as the Metropolitan Division is the best in the league and the Islanders have too many teams to pass to reach the promised land.
Snow is also likely to be on the hot seat by the time the season is over. New majority owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin did not hire Snow and the duo has been interviewing several candidates to add to the front office as director of hockey operations. Several of Snow’s signings and decisions this season have backfired and the Isles do not seem to be as talented a club as the one that finished last season.
For now, the club has to hope that the promotion of Weight gives the team a spark that can lead to a strong finish and that Snow can make some moves to add cap space and give some of the team’s younger players a chance to prove what they can do. If these two things don’t happen, the 2016-17 season will not only be a major disappointment, but a complete failure.