Jack Capuano wont last long as coach of the New York Islanders. That much is certain. But two new names have been mentioned over the past few days as possible replacements.
The New York Islanders will make a change. The best bet is that unless things are intolerable and threaten permanent damage to the franchise, this change is not imminent.
I can buy the notion that the off-season is the best time to make the change. There will be more options, and the chance to make a smart studied long-term decision that may or may not include other management upheaval.
If the owners and their half billion dollar investment are best served by patience, even if we fans have exhausted ours, so be it.
If the change comes in the next few weeks, the two most likely names are Doug Weight and Brent Thompson. Two fine gentlemen with a distinguished career in the game. But this team needs more than a wake up call from a familiar voice. They need their entire morning routine redesigned by a stranger.
Two new strangers have had their names appear, somewhat out of the blue this past weekend. One has been the subject of much fan-clamoring, the other mentioned by an insider.
The firing of Ex-Islanders assistant coach Gerard Gallant by the Florida Panthers has IslesTwitter thinking this is their guy. Gallant has the familiarity of having worked for Garth (under Nolan and Gordon) and newness of the not having coached any of the current players here.
Twenty four hours after the knee-jerk “Go get ’em”, some realities set in. One thing Islanders fans seem to want is an experienced coach with a winning pedigree. Gallant has less coaching experience than Capuano, less regular season wins, and infinitely less playoff series wins. The one coach Jack has beaten, was this guy.
Additionally, the league wide sources writing postmortems seem to agree on two things. He is a terrific guy, deserving coach, who was fired unfairly because he differed with non-hockey people in the front office.
But the glass half empty version is that Gallant is an old school throwback guy who feuded specifically because he is ignoring science, research, and facts, in favor of intuition and “old time grit hockey”.
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I’m an old time hockey guy. I think tenaciousness is vital to a hockey team’s success. But I can’t support the idea that new ideas and tactics can’t help enhance that. Knowledge is power.
The other name was thrown out casually by Newsday’s Arthur Staple in a twitter response. Staple was asked if he would make a coaching change now, and who he would hire. He answered that if he would wait until June and hire Ken Hitchcock.
Staple didn’t say that Hitch was interested, or that the Isles were thinking about it. But he threw the name out there so let’s examine it.
Hitchcock is in a pretty unique situation. He is a lame duck coach, working next to his already-hired replacement Mike Yeo. The plan is for him to retire from the Blues, but not from the NHL, at season’s end.
He has coached a Cup winner, another finalist, and has eight division titles. He certainly checks the boxes of experience and success. Also, he is a guy who engenders universal respect across the league. He is the kind of name that might induce John Tavares to stick around. Oh yeah, there’s that to worry about too.
But Hitch would literally be a senior citizen by the start of next season. Does it feel like starting a new long term commitment to chasing a cup, when you hire a 65 year old coach?
Throw both these new names on the pile with retreads like Bob Hartley, and up and comers like Travis Green. There are certainly enough interesting candidates floating around to give us a discuss topic as well as some hope for the future.
I’ll even throw two more names into the mix because their current teams are struggling. Peter Laviolette, he of the warn-out welcomes. Maybe Nashville tires of him the way the Islander and Flyers have before.
The expected cup contenders in Dallas are not contending, at least not at the quarter pole. I would be mightily intrigued by Lindy Ruff as a coach. Like Hitchcock, he seems very well respected among hockey professionals and his teams seem prepared and dedicated. Not to mention Ruff’s style seems flexible.