Like Father Like Son; Sound Tigers Sharing In Isles Struggles

  With the Islanders current struggles well known, their AHL affiliate the Bridgeport Sound Tigers are having a tough time getting wins themselves. The Isles are 2-8 in their last 10 while the Sound Tigers are 3-4-3 in their last 10. Both seem to be struggling for an identity as their respective seasons gain motion and are in danger of being stuck at the bottom of the standings for the long haul if improvements are not made. 

  The Sound Tigers are showing that they are going through a tough stretch as their past 6 games have all been losses with 4 of those coming in regulation. A lot can be attributed to the fact that two of their key players have been called up to Long Island for help. Defenseman Aaron Ness and goaltender Anders Nilsson are with the big club due to the injuries to Lubomir Visnovsky and Evgeni Nabokov. With those two call ups the Sound Tigers have lost a lot of experience in their lineup. To replace Nilsson the Sound Tigers recalled goaltender Parker Milner from the Stockton Thunder. Milner had a superb career with Boston College and from the little I have seen of him in the preseason and highlights from his collegiate career, he seems to be a goalie with a lot of talent coming through the system. Obviously, he is early in his development and lack of experience all around seems to be contributing to the current issues in Connecticut. 

  In other player movement, Kirill Kabanov who had been sent to Stockton on a reported conditioning stint after he was late to a team meeting is in fact back with Bridgeport. It is getting harder and harder to get a read on this situation but it seems as if Kabanov has made himself a cast off in the organization due to his disciplinary run ins. His talent appears to be the only thing continually breathing life into his career and has scored with Bridgeport since his return. He stands at 2 goals and 0 assists in 7 games with the Sound Tigers. I hope for his sake he has finally turned that corner in regard to his maturity but only time will tell, and he doesn't have much of that left. 

  Even with the amount of injuries and call ups that have taken place so far, there is no excuse for this organization to have its top two teams playing as poorly as they are currently. Granted they are all at different levels, but the Stockton Thunder are the organization's winningest team at the moment sitting in second place in the Pacific Division of the ECHL with an 11-4-0-1 record. That is not how things should be going what so ever. 

  Committment to winning comes through every aspect of a teams front office. Whether it be from owners, players, coaches or scounts, right from top to bottom everyone associated with a team in some shape or form contributes to their success or demise. We are seeing an organizational lapse right now and although it seems inexplicable, when you break it down it actually makes a lot of sense.

  As far as the Islanders go, I do not believe Jack Capuano has lost his players, yet anyway. He is well respected and right now isn't being viewed properly. The players do respect him and he does have their attention, the problem lies within his ability to adjust to deficiencies and come up with an overall game plan. The Islanders that went on their incredible run to make the playoffs last season were dependednt on a quick game with a heavy forcheck and causing mistakes by their opponents due to out working them. In my personal opinion, this worked because other teams were not used to it. Now, they know what the Islanders are about and are coming ready to play against that type of team. The problem with relying on out working an opponent is that it is a philosophy, not a system. It had its 15 minutes of fame but was never built to last. 

  If we think back to the era of Scott Gordon, it was the exact opposite. Gordon did in fact lose his team, but it wasnt for a lack of system. The overspeed system he instilled in the organization was successful until he lost the players because it was a style of play you could draw out in systems on a white board and visually show the players. By simply having a "hard work eithic" there is nothing you can do as a coach other than emphasize playing short shifts with 110% of your speed.

  Under Gordon, the Sound Tigers too were being groomed in this system, they were playing it night in and night out in preparation for all of those players should they get called up to the NHL. When you have an entire organization on the same page it breeds success and smoother transition between the leagues and rusults in more trust for the players among their peers. The way it seems right now is that players are being recalled based on their individual strengths rather than how they fit into the team as a whole. Don't get me wrong here, I am in no way saying that players like Aaron Ness and Brock Nelson havn't been good, because they have. The point I am making is not every player is good enough on their own with a high enough hockey IQ to make the transition easy on themselves and the team. 

  Winnig is a mentality that has a perfect blend of philosophy, systems and every player buying into it. For Gordon, the players bought into the system but not him. For Capuano, the players play for him but with no structure. A middle ground must be found and put in place from Stockton to Uniondale in order for the organization to take its next step toward perennial contention and elite player development. 

Thanks for reading!

Bryan Curran

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