The New York Islanders have rattled off five wins in their past 10 games and picked up 12 of a possible 20 points, but it hasn’t been enough to get the club out of the Eastern Conference basement. And with the season officially more than halfway through, the club has seen enough to determine that a change is necessary, announcing Tuesday that coach Jack Capuano has been let go.
Capuano’s firing comes the day following the Islanders’ 4-0 win over the Boston Bruins and during a season in which everyone from GM Garth Snow to captain John Tavares has gone to bat for the coach. With Capuano out from behind the bench, interim coaching duties will now fall to assistant GM and coach Doug Weight.
"The New York Islanders would like to thank Jack for his tireless work throughout his seven seasons with the organization as Head Coach," Snow said in a release. "His leadership guided the team to the playoffs in three of the past four years, which included two straight 100-point seasons. He is a great coach and an even better person. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward."
The 2016-17 campaign was an almost complete disaster from the very start of the season. The Islanders started off flat, dropping six of their first 10 games and completing the first quarter of the schedule with just six wins to their name. Frustrations mounted throughout the first two months of the season as the offense struggled, the power play was flat, the penalty kill was porous and the Islanders struggled to find any positive in the way they were playing.
The timing, however, is a bit strange. Besides the fact it comes immediately following one of the Islanders’ more impressive wins of the season, it also comes during a time when the team is in one of its best stretches of the season. According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, though, Snow said the reason for relieving Capuano of his duties now had little to do with the performance of the team at the moment and more to do with the fact the Islanders didn’t see Capuano as their coach for next season.
Despite the difficult season, Capuano will leave the organization as one of the best coaches the franchise has ever seen. Though no one will likely ever reach the heights that legendary Islanders bench boss Al Arbour did, Capuano finishes his tenure with New York having coached the second-most games in franchise history (483), collected the second-most wins (227) and became the only coach since Arbour in 1992-93 to coach the franchise to a post-season series victory.
That playoff series victory, one that was 22 seasons in the making, was cause for hope entering this current season, which is a major reason the Islanders’ performance this season was so disappointing. However, Capuano can take solace in the fact that he led the franchise to the post-season in three of his six full seasons behind the bench and helped the club to two of its best seasons in the modern era in 2014-15 and 2015-16. He was the fourth-longest tenured coach in the league at the time of his firing.
"It's an honor to have served this historic franchise and its passionate fans," Capuano said in a release. "I'd like to thank Garth and our ownership group for the opportunity to be the head coach of the Islanders. I'd also like to recognize our coaching staff, training staff and players for all of their hard work.”
According to LeBrun, Snow said there’s no timeline for the Islanders to name their next bench boss, and there’s certainly a chance the Islanders enter the off-season with Weight remaining the bench boss. Weight, who played the final three seasons of his career with the Islanders, has been an assistant coach with New York since 2011-12.
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