Mike Babcock drove people to the brink of insanity. It was ugly.
Would he stay in Detroit? Is there hope for a small market like Buffalo? Would he go to a team that is rebuilding or to one with a veteran core? Turns out, he went for the bank. He’s going to get $50 million dollars from Toronto. But that’s not a deep dive for this arena.
No, the interesting vantage point is the one that looks at where he didn’t go. Everywhere else, specifically
Long Island Brooklyn. Three weeks ago Garth Snow announced the 2015-16 returns of Jack Capuano and his entire coaching staff.
The ire this drew from many (including here) was based around the idea that Capuano is a bad tactician who mismanaged lines, benched the wrong players, and trusted the wrong defensemen. These are accurate points. As much as the roster loves him, and that’s proof of the fact that Snow so quickly announced Jack’s return, Capuano isn’t the best coach in the NHL. There are many available coaches who have the pedigree and intuition Jack lacks. There are MANY better options for assistant coach than Doug Weight. No one who was so exceptional on the power play as a player could be that bad as a special teams coach, right? Dead wrong. If the room loves Capuano, give him better assistants.
The same people who claimed Cappy botched Game 7 against Washington are the same ones who said that the losses of Hamonic and Visnovsky would cripple the Islanders. Guess what, losing two of your best defensemen will cripple your team. Getting something trending on Twitter isn’t going to sway the mind of a private business owner.
At the end of the day, this version of Jack Capuano’s Islanders broke 100 points for the first time in 31 years, and made the playoffs in two of the last three seasons. But that’s not enough for some people.
The availability of Mike Babcock only highlighted Capuano’s deficiencies in the eyes of his detractors. The best coach of the last 15 years was for the taking! “Money, give him all the money! Show him the Islanders have a core to succeed!” Yet, Babcock is in Toronto.
A friend who Played The Game (TM to Jeff Marek) explained that a team that has begun to click in a system needs to continue to work in that system. Taking out Capuano now could derail the progress made by the players and take away a focal point of work ethic and success. Cut off the head and the body will die.
There are two big questions to ask when jettisoning a head coach because a sexier one is now available. One, does that person want to join your organization? Yes, you must seriously ask this question. Money is great but your franchise still has its own culture and resides in a municipality that has its own culture. That coach needs to know if the life and family fit are good for him.
Second, will the new coach implement a system and culture that will allow the current roster to thrive or will it hinder progress? There’s no way to tell. John Tortorella bombed spectacularly in Vancouver. Ted Nolan is interviewing back in the WHL. Dave Lewis couldn’t hack it with Boston. There is nothing to guarantee that his vision will work. As much as past performance is an indicator of future events, nothing is set in stone.
Simply stating that not changing out your head coach in a summer of churn is bad for business is, well, equally bad for business. If next year repeats this, then make changes. Do not make a change because others made a change. The players voted for Capuano and they got Capuano. Whether or not Jack has gotten everything he can out of this roster is an absolutely valid criticism of his abilities as a coach.
This is not an apology, it’s a measured statement of expectation. The room voted Capuano, the GM voted Capuano, and the entire ownership group voted Capuano. What they expect and what the view reality to be are the deciding factors in the job security of an NHL head coach. That’s what builds a team up, not just chasing a name you were never going to get.