Jack Capuano Needs To Rewrite A Happy Ending To This Tragedy

Blowing a two goal lead in the third period of a hockey game is never acceptable by the standards of most coaches and players, but to let it happen when you are looking to solidify a playoff spot is downright atrocious.

And that’s what the New York Islanders did last night.

With all due respect to the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that has now won eight games in a row, they are not a contending playoff team. They currently sit fifth in the Metropolitan Division, 15 points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins (and the Pens sit in one of the Eastern Conference wild card spots, only one point away from knocking the Islanders out of the top three in the Metropolitan Division).

This was a game that they needed to win and should have won – and they were well on their way until they blew it; a common theme for the Islanders over the past several weeks.

This has been a reoccurring story for this franchise over the past few years. When the games would really matter, they would falter and fail to hold leads late in the game. But when the games were meaningless and they were playing the role of spoiler for teams that were trying to secure a playoff spot, they would find a way to upset their opponent and win the game.

That’s wonderful and all…but now the roles have been reversed. The Islanders, being a team that played spoiler for many, many years, should have more respect for their opponents that are looking up at them in the standings and find a way to earn their victories.

But they have not.

These are all terribly wrong things to be happening with only four games left in the regular season.

The poor play of this team has caused many fans to demand that Jack Capuano gets fired. Dan Bylsma, who was the coach of a dominant Penguins team for many years, is still sitting on his couch waiting for a team to call him for an interview – which will inevitably happen at some point between now and next season.

Firing Capuano could serve as a serious wake up call for this team that might potentially force them to rally into the post-season for a deep playoff run.

But it may also send a terrible message to this team just before the most meaningful games of the year. If Snow were to fire Capuano, it would indicate that he has lost faith in his team that spent the majority of the year in first place; that he feels that they can’t win a Cup and aren’t ready to win in the playoffs; that this inexcusable team cost a man his job.

However, a case can be made that it could do the exact opposite and light a huge fire under their asses when they need it most; a fire that Capuano has been trying to start with two twigs as opposed to a match and can of lighter fluid.

In 2000, the New Jersey Devils, who were in playoff contention at the time, fired head coach Robbie Ftorek after the team went on a 5-10-2 stretch late in the regular season. They replaced Ftorek with assistant coach Larry Robinson. It was considered a panic move by Devils GM Lou Lamoirello; an act of pure desperation.

How did it end? The Devils defeated the Panthers, Maple Leafs and Flyers in each round of the playoffs and then defeated the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Finals.

This isn’t to say that the Islanders would have the exact same type of success as the Devils did 15 years ago. But one thing is for certain: the Islanders cannot miss the playoffs and/or have a disappointing first round exit.

This is the Islanders’ last year on Long Island. This franchise has been the laughing stock of the league for far too long. For the first time in over ten years, this team has been taken seriously and earned the respect of many from around the NHL. They played their way into first place and maintained it for so long. They had coaches, players, analysts and so on finally saying that this team had turned a corner and were the real deal.

Given the team’s history of collapses, laughable decisions and horrendous trades, it would almost seem like a perfectly written tragedy for the Islanders to fall apart at the seams now and let everyone down.

That’s why it cannot happen. The fans of this franchise have endured way too much for far too long to be spit in the face like that. 

Again, this is the LAST YEAR that Long Island’s only professional sports team will be playing on Long Island. They have broken records that haven’t been touched since the Cup winning teams of the 80’s. The hockey gods have been setting up the Coliseum’s final run to be a memorable one; a story that Islanders fans deserve.

Capuano needs to find a way to convey this to his team. He needs to pick up his pen and start rewriting a new ending instead of the currently foreshadowed one and bring the Isles back to the team that they were all season long.

If he doesn’t, it won’t only put his job in jeopardy, but it would crush the heart and soul of every Islanders fan that thought they could finally believe in their team again.

-Rob McGowan

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