The Islanders fired Jack Capuano on Tuesday, just past the midway point of a sorely disappointing season that has them last in the Eastern Conference.
Doug Weight, Capuano’s assistant coach the past five seasons, takes over as interim head coach and general manager Garth Snow said the search for a full-time replacement begins immediately.
“We’re going to look at everything,” Snow said on a conference call Tuesday afternoon. “Doug Weight has a great hockey mind, he’s been behind the bench for the last five years and he has a ton of respect from the players in that room. We’re going to look for every opportunity to win games.”
Capuano was the fourth-longest tenured coach in the NHL, having been behind the Islanders’ bench for 483 games — the last of which was a 4-0 win over the Bruins in Boston on Monday afternoon. But two nights earlier the Islanders were strafed, 7-4, by the Hurricanes in Raleigh with co-owner Jon Ledecky sitting in a booth alongside Snow.
That was likely the final straw for Capuano, whose unlikely NHL tenure began as an interim coach on Nov. 15, 2010, when Snow fired Scott Gordon. Without much of a reputation, having only been a head coach at the ECHL and AHL level, Capuano came in and clicked with John Tavares. The coach was decidedly on his players’ side and they steadily improved, reaching the playoffs in three of the last four seasons and winning a round last spring for the first time since 1993.
But after losing three longtime core players to free agency this summer, Capuano could never get the new roster to jell. His team lost five games in the first 20 on tiebreaking goals with under three minutes to play in regulation and the inconsistency has persisted through the first half of the season.
When reached by phone on Tuesday, Capuano declined to comment.
“We’re at the halfway point of the season and we’re a .500 hockey club,” Snow said. “Obviously there’s games we wish we had back. It’s well-documented we’ve had numerous leads in the third period this season. It’s just been a different season that’s unfolded compared to the last two years. We need to turn this ship around. I have a lot of confidence in the coaching staff and our players.”
Snow said no other changes were forthcoming and that Weight would lead the current group of assistant coaches — Greg Cronin, Bob Corkum, Matt Bertani and Mike Dunham.
There may be more coaching candidates available at the end of the season, but of the ones currently available former Flames coach Bob Hartley, recently fired Panthers coach Gerard Gallant and former Senators assistant Luke Richardson are three names that stand out.
Snow also took the blame for assembling the current roster. Free agents Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin left on July 1 and their replacements, Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera, have not filled the void well enough. Snow also let the three-goaltender situation fester until Jaroslav Halak was waived and sent to Bridgeport just three weeks ago.
“I’m not hiding from the fact that it starts with me,” Snow said. “I don’t even worry about [my job]. I focus on what I need to do on a day-to-day basis.”