Is Jack Capuano's Job In Jeopardy?

Although he is second on the all-time list of wins as head coach of the New York Islanders, Jack Capuano's job may be slowly finding itself in jeopardy with every Islanders loss (Photo credit: OneTigerFan/Flickr).

This is his fourth season behind the bench of the New York Islanders as the head coach of the team, now working closely with assistant coach and former captain Doug Weight. Like many of the previous coaches to hold the position, Capuano's future with the team has always been mired with plenty of criticism.

After all, it was almost a guarantee that the Isles would have a new coach every season during the Milbury era, so why would Capuano's rookie coach status be looked upon differently?

But even his toughest critics were silenced last year when the Islanders had an 11-2-4 finish  carry them into the playoffs as the eighth seeded team in the Eastern Conference.

With higher expectations going into this season, the Islanders started off decently, staying at or above .500 for the first 10 games or so. But a .500 hockey club is not acceptable for a team that is supposed to be on the rise as opposed to remaining stagnant.

Currently, the Islanders are on a four-game losing streak, having lost all four games on their road trip that concluded last night in Montreal.

There is no point in mentioning the problems on defense because the results on the ice speak for themselves. Their d-corps consists of players that would be anywhere from a 5th, 6th or 7th defenseman on any other team. These said players are being forced to play top-four minutes, thus increasing the pressure of regular top-four d-men like Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald.

If a trade is not in the cards, then Jack Capuano might be the next to go.

With that being said, it is hard to argue that the Isles currently slide is his fault. He is only working with what has been given to him, so the case can be made that another coach would not be able to do much better.

But the fault that lies on Capuano's shoulders is his inability to get his players to compete on a consistent basis, which was something his team did last year as they entered the playoffs.

Defensive zone issues aside, the Islanders have come out with a lack of fire in their game, resembling more of the team that was on the ice two to three years ago as opposed to the team that fought through tooth and nail, giving the Pittsburgh Penguins all they can handle.

But last year is in the past, and so is that 11-2-4 run.

Presently, Capuano is constantly criticizing his team's inability to compete and win the one-on-one battles. That leads to the question of "what can he do to change the mentality in that locker room?"

If Garth Snow were to consider firing Capuano, there are a few quick options that the Islanders can turn too.

Snow would have the option of promoting Doug Weight from an assistant coach to a head coach (or at least on an interim basis) to see if he can motivate his team to compete more consistently each game. The players look up to him with a tremendous amount of respect. But how would he do with all of the added responsibility?

There is the former Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, who helped the Lightning reach game seven of the Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins in his rookie season as an NHL coach. His experience as a head coach would make him more of a reasonable candidate if the Islanders were to look outside of the blue and orange blood lines.

And then of course, there is former Islanders head coach Peter Laviolette, who was recently let go by the Philadelphia Flyers at the start of the season. The Islanders' firing of Laviolette back in 2003 is still arguably one of the worst moves that Mike Milbury ever made for his team. In an effort to please his star players, Milbury fired Laviolette despite taking his previously last-placed team to their first playoff berth in eight years, providing hockey fans with a memorable and intense playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2002 (Wordsmithiam/Flickr).

A rough start to the 2003 season that started without Michael Peca and had struggling star players such as Chris Osgood and Alexei Yashin would make the firing justifiable in the eyes of many hockey pundits.

But Laviolette would then take over for the Carolina Hurricanes and win the Stanley Cup in his second year behind the bench. He would also take the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals against the Chicago Blackhawks a few years later.

Laviolette is a proven winner and knows what it takes to get the most out of his players.

If Snow feels that Capuano's development of the Isles has run its course, could he look to his former coach to help get the Islanders back on track, much like he did a little over 10 years ago?

There has been no word from Islanders management that Capuano is on the hot seat, but one would have to think that Snow is looking at any and all possibilities that can be used to fix his spiraling hockey club.

-Rob McGowan


hpfour's picture

The "Capuano doesn't have these guys ready to play and should be fired" angle is just lazy. It's clear when a team completely checks out on a coach, that is when you remove the coach. That simply isnt the case with Capuano (yet). A coach shouldn't have to motivate a player to do play hard, and I don't think playing hard is a problem for this team. When they lose some wall battles, its not because of lack of effort, its probably because they're facing a better player. Mclellan in SJ and Babcock in Det don't "motivate" their players better than Capuano, they simply have more above average players (especially on the back end).