Staple: Snow's coaching change didn't spark fans
Arthur StapleArthur Staple
Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school
Web linksRecent Islanders photo galleries
Garth Snow made his move on Monday, dismissing Scott Gordon for Jack Capuano to try and light a fire under the Islanders.
The Islanders fans made their move last night. They stayed away in droves just when the Islanders needed a show of support.
In Capuano's first game behind the bench, the Nassau Coliseum hosted an announced crowd of 8,025. That was only the second time since the 2004-05 lockout that an announced Coliseum crowd was less than half the building's capacity of 16,234; the last time was Dec. 19, when 7,842 were announced for a game with the Canadiens.
Of course, nearly two feet of snow fell on Long Island that day. Wednesday was a pretty nice day, a pretty nice night. But it seems a great many Islanders fans have abandoned their team as it tried to change its fortune.
The coaching change didn't work either. Capuano's team played with a bit more energy than it had for Gordon during the 10-game winless streak, but only Dwayne Roloson kept this one from being worse than a 4-2 loss, the 11th straight game without a win.
"We haven't exactly been giving the fans a reason to come out," one Islander said.
John Tavares, one of the Islanders who played looser than he had in a while, said before the game what all the Islanders were hoping for. "We're back home and we're hoping it's a fresh start, that our fans will give us a boost," he said.
Unless there are some waiting for Saturday's date with the Panthers to show themselves, the boost will have to come from within. The Lightning, which is on its fourth coach in four seasons came out and attacked the Islanders from the outset.
The Islanders were supposed to be the aggressors here, with a new coach behind the bench, a new approach and some new freedoms to play a less strict style than Gordon enforced.
"[Capuano's] a players' coach for sure," said Blake Comeau, who never quite warmed to Gordon's ways. "He wants guys to go out and use their hockey vision and their hockey sense."
Tavares did that at times, as did Matt Moulson, who each scored the Isles' goals - just the second time in nine games they scored more than once - but the rest of the Islanders didn't generate enough. They do not have the talent to beat teams with hockey sense; they still have to outwork and outhustle teams like Tampa.
The Lightning, like the Islanders had with Gordon, has a coach in Guy Boucher who had done nothing but win at the minor-league level. Boucher, like Gordon, employs a very strict system that demands a lot from his players.
Of course, three of his players are Steven Stamkos, the NHL's leading scorer, Martin St. Louis and the injured Vinny Lecavalier. Perhaps Gordon's system would have worked if he could have had three such talented offensive players.
The Islanders, though, are still thin at forward, and a bit unlucky. They hit three posts and a crossbar and Roloson, as he's been in six straight without a win, was superb.
All that matters are wins, though, and the Islanders went without one again. And this time the fans spoke up to Snow and owner Charles Wang by staying away in near-record numbers.
Capuano's Bridgeport Sound Tigers averaged 5,306 in seven home games this season. In the cozy Arena at Harbor Yard, that's a decent number.
But the lack of fans at Capuano's big-league debut made it feel much smaller than that, like just another game rather than one that was supposed to be the start of something new.