We’ve gone through the roster in our end-of-season Islanders breakdown. Today, we look at the coaches and general manager Garth Snow to see what their seasons looked like and where they’re headed.
With advanced metrics courtesy of the Puck On Net website and contract info from General Fanager:
— Jack Capuano passed the 400-game mark behind the Islanders bench this season, the only Isles coach aside from Al Arbour to do so. Equally as remarkable is Capuano becoming the only other Isles coach besides Arbour to guide the team to the playoffs three times and win a playoff round.
Capuano has the trust of Snow and his players, especially his core ones, and that goes a long way. He is very much a hands-off coach when it comes to things beyond systems and reinforcing work habits and the players mostly prefer being left to themselves when it comes to accountability and trust, two of the coach’s key points.
Capuano pushed many of the right buttons down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs, including his decision to sit various regulars on the final weekend to essentially assure a first-round matchup with the Panthers rather than the Penguins.
His decision to put Alan Quine in the playoff lineup worked. So did his decision to play Quine over Ryan Strome in Games 5 and 6 against the Panthers, then put Strome back in for Game 1 against the Lightning.
Ryan Pulock over Marek Zidlicky worked as well before Pulock’s injury. Capuano gives his regulars a long leash in the regular season but has a quicker trigger in the postseason and this spring it worked.
The big question for Capuano this offseason and into training camp is whether he can get his team back to being a possession monster the way it was in 2014-15. Here are the Isles’ score-adjusted Corsi percentages (percentage of shots attempted weighted for score situations) for Capuano’s five full seasons behind the Isles bench:
2015-16 — 49.5 percent, 19th in the league
2014-15 — 53.4, 6th
2013-14 — 48.7, 21st
2012-13 — 50.4, 14th
2011-12 — 47.2, 25th
You can account for the up-and-down numbers from his first three seasons quite easily. In 2011-12 and 2013-14, the Islanders were not a good team in any aspect; in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season they made the playoffs behind good goaltending and a style they played well for 48 games.
So these past two seasons, with essentially the same roster, are key. Anecdotal evidence told you this past season that either the Islanders weren’t as good at defensive-zone breakouts or other teams have figured out the team’s transition game.
That in part translated to the drop in Isles’ shots on goal (from 33.8 to 29.4) and the rise in shots allowed (from 28.3 to 30.4). Only superb goaltending really saved the Isles this regular season.
So the onus is on Capuano and his staff to come up with something new in a league where hardly anyone does things differently.
— It’s hard to separate out assistants in hockey other than who runs the power play (Doug Weight) or the penalty kill (Greg Cronin), though the penalty kill has been consistently excellent since February of 2015.
Cronin is a no-nonsense coach and his insistence on having the penalty killers do things his way eventually paid off.
Weight’s power play has been hit-or-miss, but the top unit will look very different next season with the likely departure of Kyle Okposo. Pulock may get a chance to bomb away from the point with the top unit, so we’ll reserve judgment before we see what the group looks like.
Bob Corkum and Matt Bertani fill valuable roles — Bertani is the video coach who called for the Game 3 challenge against the Panthers that helped turn that series around — but we don’t have much to dissect here.
Goaltending coaches Mike Dunham and Marc Champagne presided over a good year. Champagne is Jaroslav Halak’s guy, so if Halak goes, Champagne may as well. But J-F Berube said he may work with Champagne in Montreal this summer, so all three goaltenders seem pretty comfortable with the coaches, if not the three-goaltender arrangement.
— Snow’s challenge is the greatest this offseason, perhaps the biggest of his decade-long tenure. He’s said there’ll be no changes to offseason plans with the July 1 transfer of majority ownership but that just adds more pressure to an offseason with three core Isles approaching free agency and a certain desire to get John Tavares a high-end wing.
After the busy offseason Snow had in 2014, when he added Halak, Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk in trades and Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin in free agency, last summer was relatively quiet except for the low-key but ultimately huge addition of Thomas Greiss.
In-season, Snow added Berube and Shane Prince, the latter at the deadline after the GM declined to pony up a big price for any of the rentals. His desire to keep a slow, steady development pace with the team’s prospects meant Pulock stayed in Bridgeport longer than many fans would have liked, but Snow is determined not to repeat the hurried mistakes of his early years on the job.
So it’s likely that no matter what moves he makes this offseason, Michael Dal Colle and Joshua Ho-Sang will start next season in Bridgeport and Mathew Barzal will have to wow everyone in training camp to earn a job as a 19-year-old.
The pending free agencies of Frans Nielsen, Matt Martin and Okposo may be front-burner considerations for Snow, but he must also decide which, if any, of his young forwards and prospects he’s willing to deal to acquire a top-line wing if the bigger names potentially available in free agency (Andrew Ladd, Loui Eriksson, Mikkel Boedker) aren’t to his liking.
Is Brock Nelson expendable? Ryan Strome? Dal Colle or Ho-Sang? With Travis Hamonic staying, would Snow consider sending one of his young defensemen away? What about the Isles’ first-round pick next month?
And if any two of Okposo, Nielsen and Martin are gone, Snow must replace them with veterans who can fit into a tight-knit dressing room that hasn’t experienced much change within its core.
It seems safe to assume that Snow won’t be idle in the coming weeks. Halak’s surgery to repair a sports hernia earlier this week could complicate Snow’s ability to resolve the three-goaltender situation, but that could still be solved in training camp and likely isn’t a high priority now.