NY Islanders News

Additional Thoughts on the Islanders Coaching Change

By John Panarese
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Just to add to what Gary has said on this subject, I wanted to toss out a few of my reactions and thoughts about what has happened with the Islanders.  I am in full agreement with Gary’s thoughts, though I may be sticking my proverbial neck out here as well with a few other points.

It is unfortunate in situations like this that the coach becomes the “fall guy”.  When you have a 10 game losing streak, someone has to get the “blame”, and in sports, you can’t really fire the players as easily as you can show the coach the door.  To me, Scott Gordon was the “unfortunate victim” and “easy scapegoat” in this situation.

What I mean by this is that from everything I read throughout the last ten games, there has not been any personality conflicts, team dissension or rifts between coach and players.  Frankly, to me, it has seemed that the Isles have impressively stuck together and stood by one another and the coaching staff through all of this.  So, in effect, when you get right down to it, the team has been at fault, and it has not necessarily been anything Gordon has done or has not done.

However, as I said, you can’t fire the guys who actually take the ice and make things happen.  Gordon’s track record since he took over as head coach has been, as far as I’m concerned, extremely impressive considering what he has had to work with and the rash of injuries.  Frankly, he should be commended for what he has done with the team, and, to be perfectly honest, I will confess that I was one of the fans who had serious doubts about his hiring back in the beginning.  Since then, I don’t think anything more could have been asked from the guy or his staff.  The team was well prepared every night and well coached.  Over this losing streak, it has been the lack of execution that has been costing them games.  Particularly, the offense has fallen short, and if you are not scoring goals, you are not going to win games in hockey.

Again, it’s easy to throw around blame and point fingers, and, of course, the coach is going to be the one who receives the majority of that fire.  In Gordon’s defense, we have a situation where you have two key long term injuries to very important parts of the team in Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit, as well as a variety of other injuries night in and night out since opening day.  On top of that, the entire defensive core was revamped, and as much as four veterans were added to the team, it still has been a learning process for them to adjust to the system and get up to speed.  Thus, you do have some reasonable factors to contribute to the difficulties we have seen.  In the long term, I think the team would have worked themselves out of it, but, of course, the longer a losing streak goes, the harder it is not to do something about it.

However, what is done is done.  At this stage, I agree with Gary completely in that the Isles should now start to seek a coach with a “name” and experience.  This franchise has to get some badly needed “legitimacy” at this point, and we need some strong hockey sense and presence among the leadership.  Rebuild or not, excuses go only so far.  As much as Garth Snow improved our defense, nothing was done to gain a top six forward, and it was not a secret to any fan that the team was, therefore, going to have trouble scoring goals.  Nevertheless, we have what we have, and as Gary indicated, a coach with a name and a reputation could certainly help in, perhaps, getting more out of the horses every night.  It certainly couldn’t hurt at this stage.

The bottom line, though, is it starts and ends with the team.  Whether it’s Jack Capuano or anyone else, the team has to get out there and win the games.  Whatever it takes to gain some confidence and begin to believe in themselves again, it has to come from a collective and individual effort.  The season is surely far from over, and there is plenty of time to right the ship.  Gordon was an unfortunate casualty of war, and it’s time that the team show that they were going in the right direction and have the character and fortitude to get themselves back on the winning path.

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