MANHATTAN, N. Y.– Coming off a series of disheartening and perplexing loses, filled with awkward rebounds, poor backchecking, and simple bad luck, the New York Islanders find themselves as irrelevant a team as one could fear to be at any point in a given season.
Most will snicker at such a thought, whispering: Whoever told you they were anything but irrelevant to begin with?
Well, in all honesty, two weeks ago, these same woeful Isles manhandled a talented Pittsburgh Penguins squad 4-1 in front of a live national audience.
Wallowing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Islanders are five points removed from the 8th and final playoff spot, and are staring up at every single team sans the Washington Capitals, who have one more loss than New York.
Currently, only the St. Louis Blues share the Isles dubious distinction of having lost the last five games. If you’re a Blues’s fan, you’re scratching your head and asking what the heck? As an Isles’s fan, you’re pulling out your hair and/or drowning your sorrows in an over-sized cognac glass, saying (not asking) why!
As it stands, there is nothing anyone can do or say for or against this Islanders team. Describing that which ails them is nothing more than an exercise in shooting proverbial fish in proverbial barrels, while finding some grains of hope or talent or success as a means of balance reporting is again futile exercise at best.
No. The one thing I feel is in most need of acknowledgment are two points made by Coach Jack Capuano (click on his name for current stats) during his post-game interview; two revelations, if you will, I believe all responsible reportage must take issue and bring to the forefront of Islanders discussion.
The first comes when Capuano is asked for his overall reaction to the Islanders’s defeat at the hands of Carolina:
"Not good enough. I thought some guys were soft tonight. We had some guys who played hard, we had some bad bounces. But we’re the type of team that needs all 20 guys and we didn’t have that tonight. They got a face off goal and a bounce that I don’t even know how it went in. I don’t think our 5 on 5 was real bad. Offensively it’s not too good. It only gets magnified when you don’t score 5 on 5. We have to find a way 5 on 5 to generate some offense. Our PP was good tonight but it’s not going to be every night. Our players realized what we had to do and we generated some shots and we had some traffic and that’s how you score some goals."
- I agree with some of my Islander brethren Monday night (the names have escaped me) and emphatically disagree with Capuano’s assessment. You cannot possibly say the Islanders lacked heart, team unity, etc. especially during the last two performances. I feel his statement to be a type of generalization normally used when someone doesn’t have a clue about what’s really wrong with something or someone.
- It’s as general and blanketed a statement as one can give without sounding entirely ignorant or detached from a situation. Instead of throwing a couple of guys under the bus, Capuano threw the entire team under it. Not only is that unfair, it’s irresponsible. Please note that Capuano used a similar line not too long ago to describe their loss to the Boston Bruins on January 25th. (See “Islanders Lose to Beantown Bruins” www.eyesonisles.com)
- It’s time to consider that the current system in which these 20 guys attempt to manifest on ice may very well be counter-intuitive to their talent make-up: mainly, that it’s tailor-made for a team that’s non-existent.
- So, Doug Weight helms the special teams and that’s doing just fine. 5-on-5 isn’t working? Who exactly is tending to this element of Islander hockey schematics? Maybe I’m missing something here. Seriously. Whatever the case, you’re starting to see where I’m going with this rant. I love Capuano’s demeanor: down-to-earth, quiet, reserved, etc. Nice guy, but….
The second bit of commentary follows shortly thereafter. When asked about making moves, stirring the pot, if you will, he goes on to chuckle:
"I don’t know how much you can shake up, but we’ll look at some different line combinations for sure […] You work harder. The harder you work the luckier you get. You can’t get frustrated or down on one another. Adversity is something you go through in life and we’re going through it. Lose five, win five. we have to maintain our focus. (For full details go to Dee Karl at HockeyBuzz.com)"
- I couldn’t disagree more. Telling your guys, or speaking on their behalf in such a manner is ridiculous and equally frustrating. That’s the equivalent of telling little Susie Johnson and her parents that if she were to go home and study more proficiently, she’d stop failing her exams. Only problem with that theory is that Susie and her parents have done everything to succeed but keep on failing. So, now what? Maybe the teacher needs to rethink his/her position. Ceasing to sweep problems under the rug, or, at the most, neatly organizing them into general categories.
- But what’s most alarming here is Capuano’s admission, however veiled or inadvertent, that he’s run out of ideas. If he doesn’t have any idea how to shake things up, I think it’s time for Garth Snow and Charles Wang to step in and show him how. That one particular line didn’t settle well with me. Imagine if you were Susie Johnson’s parents and you tell her teacher: “Well, we’re doing everything we can to help her, and she truly works hours on your work. Still nothing.” The teacher responds by saying: “Well, Mr and Mrs. Johnson, I don’t know what else to say to you. I’ve done all I can.” Imagine your anger.
- One more thing: when asked to comment about the goal-tending, Capuano said he wouldn’t. Next question, indeed.
I loathe reporters/bloggers who fail to realize that the men we admonish/berate here or wherever, are men who carry families on their back, who risk bodily harm, etc. Granted, that which they do–sports–is an expensive luxury that doesn’t necessarily improve upon the human condition, or what-have-you. But nevertheless, I try to be fair and keep all of the aforementioned in mind when I write what I write. So it pains me to say this because I actually like the guy, (having never met him, of course) but Jack Capuano has to go.
Shake it up, Snow: Fire Capuano and save the season.
My message to Isles fans:
- Islanders special teams rank within the top 5 best in the NHL: 4th best PK at 89.5%; 5th best PP at 25.5%
- Inexplicably, the Islanders are one of the most scored upon teams in hockey at present, making the aforementioned bullet all the more odd: Goals Against at 29th at 3.6. The Islanders third period goals against is one of the worst in hockey at present.
- Rick DiPietro played as a good a game as one could expect: some nice saves, some poor saves, some unfortunate rebounds that go off a teammate and ruin a game, and some poor positioning and puck management. In all, he’s on par with his counterpart, Evgeni Nabokov. Neither one is running away with the goal-tending duties out at the Island.
- Lubomir Visnovsky will improve this team, as will Brian Strait and Josh Bailey. Time will show this to be true.
- John Tavares stayed on the bench after his teammates left for the locker room. He just sat there on the bench, alone, despondent, frustrated. I’ve never seen a sadder image in sports that didn’t involve losing a championship game. His expression was also one of disbelief. I ask again, if JT is holding up the Islanders, who’s holding up JT? Garth, you’ve got to step in and ‘shake things up’.
- Lastly, if the Islanders lose to the Rangers and Devils, there’s nothing else to look forward to other than seeing rising stars from the AHL or OHL come up and flex their muscles. Good day to you.