Continuity Is Not An Apology

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.

OK. Sure.

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.

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2 thoughts on “Continuity Is Not An Apology

  1. Isles didn’t make the playoffs in “back-to-back full seasons” as you state above. Can you point to a source for “The room voted Capuano, the GM voted Capuano, and the entire ownership group voted Capuano.”? I agree that the players generally seem to like him, but this is also based on public comments to the press. What happens when de Haan hinted he’s upset at not playing? He seemingly got a retaliatory benching at the end of the season. Players are very aware of what they say, it’s clear their ice time is tied to it.

    It’s not a stretch to say Garth voted Capuano, I mean after the disaster of ’13-14, if Cappy wasn’t fired then, he never will be by this set of leadership. What’s somewhat puzzling is your assertion that the ‘entire ownership group’ voted for Capuano. Wang still currently holds 51%, and the transition plan was clear that he is running the team until the end of next season. I certainly hope the new ownership group has final veto over any contract that runs into their tenure as owners (e.g; they approved the Leddy and Boychuk deals). I am also hopeful they hire a POHO, who will consider staffing the team with candidates other than those with direct ties to UMaine. Hiring Cronin was a huge step backwards, he came from perhaps the worst defensive team in the NHL, as a ‘defensive coach’ and guided the team to a bottom rung PK (although they were much better at the end of the year).

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    • You’re right, it was the back-to-back full seasons. Will correct that. Thanks.

      The deHaan situation has been clarified as he was kept up and scratched due to fears he’d be lost on waivers. He had every right to be upset but there’s a clear desire to keep him on the roster, no matter how it got done. As far as ownership goes, in the first year of a new ownership group alignment the team came out gun blazing and made the playoffs. Agree with it or not, Cappy gets a pass after losing his 1C and 1D/2A defensemen. Why would the new guys, yes all 49% of them, want to change that? That’s my whole point.

      Cannot agree with you more on Cronin and the special teams issue. I’ve said it many times before, give me Capuano and a brand new set of assistants, preferably ones with more experience than him (Dave Lewis fits that bill).

      We’ll see if a POHO comes along, seeing that the new money will take over eventually.

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