In the midst of what appears to be a lost season for the New York Islanders, the franchise known for winning four straight Stanley Cups in the 1980’s decided to move in a new direction, firing coach Jack Capuano on Tuesday with the club sitting in the basement of the Eastern Conference.
Doug Weight, the team’s assistant general manager, will replace Capuano for the remainder of the season, according to the league. Weight has never been a head coach at any level, although he was the Islanders’ team captain for the final two years of his playing career and named an assistant coach upon his retirement.
The timing comes as a surprise given that the Islanders had won two of their past three and were coming off a 4-0 shutout of the Boston Bruins on the road. But with the Metropolitan Division appearing to be the NHL’s strongest this season and New York starting a six-game homestand, the Islanders decided their players needed a different voice than that of Jack Capuano, who had been the fourth-longest tenured coach in the league prior to Wednesday.
Capuano leaves Long Island after 6 1/2 seasons, three of which resulted in the Islanders reaching the postseason. Included in that tenure was a 2016 win over the Florida Panthers in the first round of the playoffs, the first time since 1993 that the Islanders had won a playoff series. In all, Jack Capuano posted a record of 227-192-64 with the Islanders.
“It’s an honor to have served this historic franchise and its passionate fans,” Capuano said. He went on to thank the general manager and ownership group for giving him the opportunity to be the head coach and he also thanked the players, trainers, and his coaching staff for their hard work.
As Weight moves behind the bench, the biggest question on Long Island is whether the Islanders have enough time for the move to make a difference. The Islanders are eight points behind Philadelphia for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, which is likely to be their only path to the postseason given the strength of the Metropolitan. They sit 15 points behind the fourth-place New York Rangers, who hold the first of the two wild cards in the Eastern Conference.
The good news for the Islanders is that with 40 games to play, a run is not impossible. However, to make that happen, the team’s defense and power play will have to be much better than it has been under Jack Capuano. The Islanders sit 24th in goals against this year at three per game, and they have not scored more than one power play goal in any of their 42 games this season.
Readers, do the Islanders have any chance to get out of the basement? Was firing Jack Capuano the right move? Or are the Islanders blaming the wrong thing for their problems? Sound off in the comments below.
Commentary by Dan Angell