The Islanders turnaround may not be as stark or stunning as the streaking New Jersey Devils, but the subtle transformation is there.
Five wins in the last six games. 24 goals in regulation over the last five games. Three 20-plus goal scorers and a strong Rookie of the Year candidate.
The team’s recent success can be attributed to many factors, but it also begs a timely question:
Should Jack Capuano be a serious candidate to coach this team next year?
It is believed that Capuano may be more than a strong contender for head coach next year, but possibly the frontrunner for the position.
Capuano demurred when asked about his future with the organization--“I got an opportunity. I’m going to do the best job I can and if people take notice, that’s great,” he said—but several players think he’s well-deserving.
“Oh, absolutely,” Zenon Konopka said. “As far as we’ve come, you’d have to think he’d be on the top of the list.”
Considering their dire injury situation—they lead the league in man-games lost and have started six different goaltenders this season--the Islanders have fared pretty well with their new coach.
They are 18-20-4 since Capuano took over or Scott Gordon, 17-12-2 in the last 31 games.
“We still have a lot to work for, obviously, but a lot of us really enjoy playing for him,” John Tavares said. “Personally I think he deserves the opportunity to be here.”
Capuano’s ability to handle the team’s youth is considered a strong asset. His directives are clear and concise and he’s been able to simplify during a season muddled with disappointment and drama.
“There’s a lot of confusion when you’re a young player, or a young team. Any added confusion works against the team,” Konopka said. “With Cappy, what you see is what you get.”
Beyond the tactical differences, it is Capuano’s open and gregarious personality—he is a quintessential player’s coach—that players find most appealing.
“Guys really like his demeanor,” Tavares said. “He’s a really easy-going kind of guy. He wants us to have fun. He’s implemented a lot of things and it’s helped a lot of us and the team overall.”
“Obviously something’s going well,” said Blake Comeau. “Guys are playing hard and he’s giving guys the chance to be creative…but also within the system. I think it’s a good complement to everyone.”