Islanders coach Jack Capuano hopes he can remove the "interim"...

Islanders coach Jack Capuano hopes he can remove the "interim" tag from his title with a strong finish to the season. Credit: AP

Jacques Lemaire's candidacy for the Jack Adams award has been bandied about the internet, and rightly so. The Devils are 21-10-2 since Lemaire took over and they are at least in the playoff hunt, if not in any sort of driver's seat; should they make the playoffs, Lemaire has to be considered a legitimate candidate for the award. As it stands now, the Devils are eight points out with 16 to play.

But what of the Isles' mid-season coaching replacement? Capuano's had a longer run, and the 22-22-7 record since he took over is not as dramatic a turnaround as the Devils under Lemaire.

However, the Isles, after last night's 4-3 OT win over the Leafs, are now 10 points out with 14 to play. Difficult to overcome. Close to impossible, perhaps. But not vastly different than the spot the Devils are in right now.

And look at what Capuano's had to work with over his 51 games: He's overseen six different goaltenders, including three -- Mikkoo Koskinen, Nathan Lawson and Al Montoya, whose 6-2-2 record and 2.02 GAA are no flukes -- whom no other team would have dared put in goal in the NHL this season.

The Islanders have lost over 500 man-games to injury, over 100 more than the next-closest team.

They were considered a laughingstock when Scott Gordon was fired at 4-10-3, a nothing team deserving of scorn for their cheap ways and ancient building.

Now? The Islanders have a top-nine forward rotation that's pretty promising, and none of them are over age 27. They have eight NHL-ready defensemen signed for next season. And they have Kevin Poulin, Montoya and Rick DiPietro lined up to tend goal next year.

Capuano deserves as much consideration for that coach of the year award as Lemaire.

I don't think either will be a finalist unless the Devils or Isles make the playoffs. Guy Boucher in Tampa has been the front-runner all season; Pittsburgh's Dan Bylsma deserves major consideration for maintaining his team's elite status without its two stars; and out west, Marc Crawford (Stars), Brent Sutter (Flames) and Dave Tippett (Coyotes) all deserve merit.

But Capuano has slipped through the cracks. Until now, I guess.