New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano has been bench boss for the better part of six years now. But one bad January won’t mean that he’ll immediately get the axe.
It’s 2017 now! Which means it’s time to bust out those bold predictions for this new calendar year! How about this one: Jack Capuano will be fired at the end of January. As in four weeks from now.
When the Score’s Josh Gold-Smith wrote it, he probably wasn’t trying to be bold or even controversial. He just saw an underperforming team and a coach with an old shelf life.
Generally, that’s enough to kick a GM into gear and fire the coach. But that’s when a little analysis of what’s been happening with this franchise helps paint a different picture.
Because, as much as we want Jack Capuano to be relieved of his duties, we know that a bad two weeks in January isn’t going to be enough to have that happen.
First, let’s assume that Josh is right, the Islanders go one for six at home to close out January. I don’t think they will, but I’ll get to that later. But, for the sake of argument let’s say the Islanders go one for six.
Would the Islanders fire their coach with less than half of the season to go? We’ve witnessed losing streak before. In this season no less.
There was that five-game slide in the middle of December. And how about that chunk of games to start November where the Islanders lost seven of eight? At that point, only a fifth of the season had passed with a three-day break coming. It was the perfect time to get a new coach.
Even if they did, who would they bring in? Back in November, there weren’t any coaches fresh out of a job. Although, the pickings aren’t any better now. Gerrard Gallant is the only recent fire-ee to be awaiting a new gig. And Gallant is just Capuano by another name.
Salvage The Season
So then why fire the coach at that moment? Because the season is still salvageable? I suppose there’s still 40% of the season to play for, and anything can happen. Ottawa showed everyone that making the playoffs after the All-Star Break is still possible back in 2014-15.
But without that recent Ottawa exception, the teams who sit in playoff spots come Christmas are generally there to stay. You know when the chances of making the playoffs are greater? At the start of the season. When there are more games for a new coach to make up ground.
Sure the owners want to make it seem like this team is competitive, but making a change in January or even what would be February according to Gold-Smith won’t have the desired effect of making the playoffs.
Related Story: Islanders Are Looking for A President of Hockey Operations
Then consider that the team is currently looking for a President of Hockey Operations and the possibility of making a coaching change before that Presidential vacancy is filled becomes less likely.
The Likelihood the Isles Go One for Six
Now, this is all assuming that Gold-Smith was right by saying the New York Islanders will end January going one for six.
Looking at the teams in that home stand I can see why Gold-Smith thought what he thought. The Stars, Kings, Flyers, Blue Jackets, Canadiens, and Capitals are all good hockey teams. But only two teams have a winning record on the road. And that’s the league-leading Columbus Blue Jackets, with a 12-2-3 record away from home, and the Washington Capitals at 9-4-4.
The Stars are 5-9-4 and the Kings are 7-11-3. Wins against either are absolutely possible. And with the way the Islanders are playing right now, I’d go so far to say that a result against both is likely.
That’s two wins out of a possible six. Assuming the Isles lose against the Caps and Jackets, that leaves the Flyers and Habs as a toss up. Unless we get Al Montoya against the Habs, I don’t fancy a ‘W’ for the Isles.
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Leaving the Flyers, who are 8-9-2 on the road as the decider between a .500 or a 0.333 winning percentage on that home stand. If this was November I’d say this is a loss waiting to happen. Philly was one of the hot teams in the Metro streaking up the rankings to the playoffs.
But since then they’ve cooled down, going 4-4-2 in their last ten. Losing four in a row on the road. Leaving them just nine points ahead of the Islanders in the last wild-card spot with three more games played. It’s still a toss-up, but a win for the Isles isn’t farfetched.
I see why Gold-Smith said what he said. Jack is clearly at the end of his shelf life with the Islanders. A change is coming. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. But it’s not going to be in January, for all those reasons. The timing doesn’t fit, there’s no appetite yet, and losing five from six at home won’t happen.
Jack is going to be relieved of his services at the end of the season if they don’t make the playoffs, or if by some miracle they do, I expect him to get replaced in the offseason once the new President of Hockey Operations has a chance to find his man.