It felt like mere seconds after Jack Capuano was fired that the New York Islanders were linked with ex-Florida Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant. Let me be clear, I emphatically, categorically do not want that to happen.
Jack Capuano has a certain style when it came to coaching the New York Islanders. A style akin to a battering ram. Hound and dominate the opposition physically. Win the physical battles and you win the game.
Hockey is certainly a physical game so that strategy has its merit. There’s also a certain simplicity that I respect out of that plan. “We will play this way, and it doesn’t matter what the opposition does, because our plan is better.” The dedication to his ideological beliefs in how the game is to be played is what I respect.
Over the last two seasons, it looked like Capuano’s strategy might actually be working. With back-to-back 100 point seasons, and a playoff series win, the Islanders looked like a team making steps towards the top of the division. And then this season happened and it all fell apart as the Isles tumbled down to the bottom of the standings.
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In a certain respect, I feel bad for Capuano. He had a good thing going until Garth Snow decided to pull three integral pieces to Capuano’s plan and not replace them. Exposing Capuano’s linear plan for what it was.
Taking out Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and perennial hits leader Matt Martin was enough to completely hogtie Capuano. Being unable to alter his one-dimensional plan he failed. His GM did him absolutely no favors, but being adaptable is the hallmark of a good coach.
Jack Capuano By Another Name
Now change New York Islanders for Florida Panthers and Jack Capuano for Gerard Gallant and you’ll suddenly understand what happened in Florida. And why I’m absolutely perplexed at the notion he, being Gerard Gallant, should coach the Islanders.
Gallant was let go from his job in Florida because they weren’t getting results and because he and the team had ideological differences on how the team should operate to fix it.
The team wanted : “[…] to develop a team and build a team that was fast, could move the puck quickly, pressure the puck in all three zones”. And Gallant very much did not want to do that.
Elliott Friedman wrote a few months back that: “Gerard Gallant would never admit it (at least not before Sunday), but he hated seeing Erik Gudbranson traded.”
The 6’5″ defender traded to Vancouver in the offseason doesn’t seem like the type of player you hang your hat on, but in the ideological battle that was going on in Sunrise, Florida, it makes sense.
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So Why Him?
I get that Gallant is well respected by both players and people in the hockey community. But that doesn’t mean he immediately needs to be hired by a team that was runnings the same system when they fired their coach.
The notion of the Islanders requesting permission to speak with Gallant makes sense. This is a professional organization after all. They have to do their due diligence and explore all available options to make sure they hire the right person.
But to hire a guy that wants to play like the guy you fired because the guy you fired couldn’t get results with the team you assembled sounds like absolute insanity to me.