Only six current NHL head coaches have been
in their current position for more than four years. More than half of the other
24 have been hired in the past two seasons. Meanwhile, 17 NHL general managers
have been in their positions for less than five years. Only eight were hired
more than nine years ago. The NHL is a win-now league. Excuses are rarely made
for coaches or GMs when evaluating performance and the “axe” is rarely far away. That is why the approach that the New York
Islanders have adopted is impressive.
six longest tenured NHL head coaches, and among the nine longest serving are Islanders’
duo Jack Capuano and Garth Snow; in spite of the fact that the Long Island
franchise has made the playoffs just twice in the past eight seasons, and each
time they were an eighth seed and got bounced out of the first round. There are
now signs that the franchise’s patient approach is paying off. The Islanders
sit atop the Metropolitan division 50 games into the 2014-15 season.
team’s roster is highlighted by the emergence of an exceptionally talented
young core including; John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Ryan
Strome, Travis Hamonic, Calvin De Haan and Thomas Hickey. A dynamic and deep
offense has been at the core of New York’s success; they rank fourth in the NHL
averaging 3.08 goals per game.
the credit that the players get (and deserve) and for all the importance that
building a strong core has been given. Perhaps of equal importance has been the
willingness and trust that the Islanders have shown in their GM and head coach.
It goes against current trends in the NHL and professional sports in general,
and it is starting to reap clear rewards.
coach Capuano deserves a lot of credit for the growth of this team’s young
players. Capuano first joined the Islanders’ organization for the 2005-06
season as an assistant coach. He would find his way to the team’s AHL
affiliate’s (Bridgeport Sound Tigers) head coaching role before replacing Scott
Gordon in New York early in the 2010-11 season. His record since (shown below)
is one that few coaches could survive.
Despite starting 2014-15 with a career NHL coaching record below .500, Capuano is in elite company in terms of the league’s longest tenured coaches. Only Dave Tippett (Phoenix/Arizona), Todd McLellan (San Jose), Joel Quenneville (Chicago), Claude Julien (Boston) and Mike Babcock (Detroit) had been with their respective teams for longer. Quenneville, Babcock and Julien have all won Stanley Cups, Tippett has helped to keep the Phoenix/Arizona franchise alive, while McLellan has a fantastic regular season record in San Jose. In fact, Capuano is one of only three current NHL head coaches with a career record below .500 (before start of 2014-15).
reality is that Capuano’s coaching record is a reflection of Islanders’ rosters
that have lacked balance and depth. He has played a critical role in balancing
team competitiveness with the development of emerging young stars like Strome,
Lee and Nelson. He also deserves credit for the long-term development of
players like Okposo and Josh Bailey, who many coaches would have given up on
after indifferent starts to their careers.
has found the balance between holding players accountable for mistakes and not
throwing players under the bus. He has protected his developing roster from criticism
during the longer losing streaks and has successfully played the delicate
development-balancing act. The fruits of that labor are clearly seen in this
48-year old’s success has come while implementing an offensive-minded system
that relies upon fore-checking, physical play and a fast-moving skating game.
Capuano’s style has grown as a head coach and Islanders’ fans can be pleased
that he is clearly not satisfied with his team’s position. Puck management and
the team’s play away from the puck are still of particular concern.
has been afforded a patience that is rare in the NHL. Credit goes to GM Garth Snow
on that count. He has treated his bench boss with fairness and shown faith in a
coach who he trusts and believes in.
former NHL goaltender, Snow, is also in some pretty impressive company when it
comes to length of time on the job. Only Lou Lamoreillo, Ken Holland, David
Poile, Glen Sather, Doug Wilson, Dean Lombardi and Peter Chiarelli have held
their roles for longer. Chiarelli and Lombardi each have recent Stanley Cup
victories, Holland and Lamoriello have marshaled dynasty eras for their respective
franchises, Poile is the only GM Nashville has known, while Sather and Wilson
have built teams that have enjoyed impressive levels of regular season success.
up the skates after 11 NHL seasons spent with the Flyers, Canucks, Penguins and
eventually the Islanders. He retired after the 2005-06 season and moved straight
into the front office as Islanders’ GM. It wasn’t long before Snow realized
that New York’s “other franchise” needed a full rebuild. Snow has stuck to his
guns and stayed loyal to the organization’s top prospects. It has worked well.
A long-term vision and plenty of high draft picks are a big part of today’s
is the NHL roster loaded with young, promising talent already proving its worth
at the top level, but the Islanders also possess one of the more impressive
prospect pools in the league. In particular, there is a healthy stock of
defensemen including Griffin Reinhart, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield and Adam
there have been mistakes made during Snow’s stint as well, the Thomas Vanek debacle
being a good example. At times the vision in terms of building veteran talent
into the team has been confusing. This season’s success can also be attributed
to Snow’s ability to finally get that talent balance right adding Jaroslav
Halak in net, Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy to the blue-line, and Mikhail
Grabovski and Nikolay Kulemin to the forward group.
worth remembering that Snow inherited a team that had suffered from years of mismanagement.
His predecessor’s (Mike Milbury) spell in charge had been characterized by a
lack of patience and over commitment to winning as soon as possible. It didn’t
work as New York managed to reach the playoffs just three times between 1995
and 2006, losing in the first round each time. It is famously a period where
the Islanders traded away talents such as Zdeno Chara, Roberto Luongo, Olli
Jokinen, Sami Salo, Bryan McCabe and Todd Bertuzzi. The prospect cupboard was
also left bare.
years playing at the Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders will make their way to a
new home, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, starting in September. It’s an
exciting time for a franchise that has an opportunity to exploit a new market
and, the combination of Snow and Capuano should ensure that the new era begins
on a high. Perhaps a fan base damaged by years of mismanagement and a lack of
competitiveness can allow themselves to hope for their Islanders again. Maybe a
few other franchises could learn from the Isles example.
Labels: Sebastian Egerton-Read - @Seb_Read