Jack Capuano will be back behind the bench next season after signing a deal to remain head coach of the Islanders.
The 44-year-old Cranston, R.I., native was named interim head coach after replacing Scott Gordon on Nov. 15, 2010, but has now shed the temporary tag.
Although his appointment was originally met with skepticism -- he took over without any NHL head-coaching experience -- Capuano established himself as the front-runner for the job with an impressive second half of the season.
'[Capuano] took over a team that was down in the dumps mentally and emotionally and did an excellent job getting the best out of them from December on," GM Garth Snow said in a conference call with reporters.
Snow sidestepped questions about Capuano's contract and would not even confirm whether it is a multi-year deal.
"Our policy is not to disclose the terms of the contract or anything of that regard," Snow said.
The Islanders finished three games under .500 with Capuano—26-29-10—but were one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference after Dec. 15.
"We talked at the All-Star Break about how we wanted to finish the season and we started to play a certain way," Capuano said.
Capuano’s passionate and positive coaching style quickly resonated with those inside the room. Players embraced his simple, structured system and were encouraged to be creative and utilize their hockey instincts.
The response he coaxed on the ice made Capuano a virtual lock on the head coaching position within the last two months of the season. Although the Islanders wanted to wait until season's end to make the announcement official, Capuano was already aware of their endorsement.
"[Snow] and I communicated down the stretch but we didn't want to create a distraction in the room,:" Capuano said.
Assistant coaches Dean Chynoweth and Scott Allen are both expected to return; the Islanders are also considering bringing Doug Weight into the coaching fold if he retires.
Although Weight seems to be more interested in a management role with the team -- the Islanders still have a vacant Assistant GM position after Ryan Jankowski’s departure back in September -- the 40-year-old veteran assisted the team’s coaching staff behind the bench for four games at the end of the season.
Capuano, who joined the Islanders as an assistant coach in 2005-06, said the expectations are different in the NHL than the four-plus seasons he served as head coach of the team’s AHL affiliate but he welcomes that challenge.
Anything less than the playoffs should be disappointing.
"The bottom line is to win hockey games," Capuano said, "and that's what we plan on doing."