Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Islanders just cannot seem to find any flow to their game this year on a consistent basis.
One night, they look like world beaters in playing a consistent sixty minute effort and two days later, look completely lost, turning pucks over and watching lazily as they end up in the back of their net.
In the locker room they all seem to say the same thing. “We know what we have to do”,”It’s extremely frustrating”,”We seem to be making the same mistakes”,”We just have to keep plugging away”.
With a new captain in John Tavares and inexperienced assistant captains Kyle Okposo and Andrew MacDonald, the assumption is that there are no rah-rah speeches coming from that trio, no flipping over of tables or throwing of water bottles across the room.
Whether that kind of attitude comes from Capuano or not, the media is not privy to. But after the latest calamity, a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, he seemed as aggravated and agitated as we can remember him being all season.
How much of the responsibility gets beset upon Capuano’s shoulders however for the team’s poor play so far in 2013-14 is a subject of much contention and the talk on social media.
Question: You are a home builder and your sister approaches and asks you to build her a house. Problem is, you only have your 3-year-old sons Bob the builder play set to work with, because your main tools broke. What do you do?
Nobody could have predicted the injuries to Lubomir Visnovsky (now apparently just as damaging or even more so than a malady claiming Tavares), Thomas Vanek and Brian Strait. What that has left the Islanders with is a young and inexperienced blue line that has had its share of mistakes being compounded by forwards who take their back-checking responsibilities as seriously as I consider Kim Kardashian as a legitimate authority on just about anything.
Everyone seems to be pointing to the fact the Islanders bench boss did not call a timeout to quell momentum gained by the Los Angeles Kings last Thursday when his team was giving up a two goal third period lead. And yes, that was a mistake. But every coach makes them. It certainly was not the first and will not be the last one Capuano makes.
If you are going to make an argument against the strategy and gameplan that Capuano has instilled, reference that maybe the aggressive forecheck system they now use is not suited for the current lineup of players.
When does responsibility shift to where it most properly belongs? To the players. They apparently know what it takes to succeed at this level, even losing in the first round as they did last season to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Problem is, execution has been poor in all three zones. Defensively, too many mistakes leaving goaltenders Evgeni Nabokov and Kevin Poulin out to dry, neutral zone turnovers and poor coverage and offensive perimeter play that does not produce high quality scoring chances.
Imagine the Islanders being Pete Puma and the opponent being Bugs Bunny in this famous skit…
Capuano seems to be very liked within the Islanders dressing room for his penchant of not airing out his annoyances to the media in his post-game commentary. A number of players recently have spoken up in his behalf, taking the blame on themselves for the effort and missed assignments. So why are the fans not following suit?
If you look at how ex-Rangers boss John Tortorella lost the dressing room in Manhattan, leading to a rumored player revolt that drove him to Vancouver, it did not seem to change his style at all from comments he made to the Canucks media on Tuesday.
“We sucked. It was easily our worst game of the year,” Tortorella said. “We didn’t deserve a point. I can’t explain the third period. I wish I could.”
That might just be a fair assessment of his teams play and the individuals in the dressing room might be ok with that for now but I can guarantee the more he airs out those grievances to the media, the more tiring the players become of it.
Would Peter Laviolette (389-282-25, 1 Stanley Cup) be a better alternative to Capuano (92-94-31)? How about Ron Wilson (648-561-101) or Brent Sutter (215-146-49)? Give Doug Weight his first crack at running a professional team as the boss?
I am not sold on any of those above candidates being able to come in at this juncture and work miracles with what Capuano has had to deal with roster and passion wise.
At the end of the day, Islanders fans themselves created heightened expectations that this team was ready to make a leap based on one playoff series that they ultimately lost. As much as the players must take the blame for what has happened on the ice, fans must bear the brunt of responsibility for that.
The rebuild is not over. We are close to entering a transition stage but it will still be a couple of years before general manager Garth Snow can assess what he has in the deep farm system he has worked so hard to create. I realize how frustrating that reality must be, especially for the long-suffering fan but there is no other alternative at the present time.
The defensemen being groomed in Bridgeport are not ready yet. Neither is Ryan Strome, as much as people want to believe he is. Teams are just not willing to trade the caliber of d-man that would come in and help New York immediately in their own zone.
Goaltending? Snow made a better offer than Vancouver for Cory Schneider at the 2013 NHL draft and was turned away. Roberto Luongo was never available once the Canucks decided to move their supposed future and Snow was not going down the Tim Thomas road again. Instead of paying the ransom for Jonathan Bernier to Los Angeles, he figured it would be more prudent to see what he had in Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson.
Most people like roller-coasters. They are a fun diversion from the stresses of everyday life. The ups and downs, your stomach turning like a pancake on a griddle. Just think of the Nassau Coliseum as an amusement park and the more realistic expectation should begin to set in.
Unfortunately for Jack Capuano however, there will be a point where he will pay the ultimate price if his players continue to show an inability to get things straight. That price will be his job, whether it is warranted or not.