By Nick Colombo
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If this NHL season has taught us anything it’s this — coaching is everything. There’s one big reason why the Islanders no longer look atrocious, and that reason is Jack Capuano’s coaching.
Jack may not be the most brilliant coach in the history of hockey, but he was smart enough to get the Islanders back to just playing hockey. Gone is Scott Gordon’s ridiculous system of constant forechecks and the constant talk of cycling. Gone is Gordon’s overcomplicated system that was clearly stifling the young team. If we’ve learned nothing else from the Islanders recent success it’s that Gordon was a bad coach, and coaching makes a difference.
Across town, a similar coaching story is brewing. A few months ago, no team could be worse than the New Jersey Devils. Now, no one in the NHL is hotter. Jacques Lemaire took a team that everyone considered dead and put them in position to make an incredible run for the number 8 spot in the east. If that’s not great coaching I don’t know what is.
Note the difference in wording. Scott Gordon = bad coach. Jacques Lemaire = great coach. So where does Jack Capuano fit in? The answer is he’s a good coach. He’s better than Gordon but not nearly as good as Lemaire. That’s not a knock. Capuano is a solid hockey coach that deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done this year. However, that doesn’t mean he should be the Islanders coach next year.
As I said at the outset, if this NHL season has taught us anything it’s that coaching is everything. We’ve seen what a difference good coaching has made for the Islanders, and what a difference great coaching has made for the Devils.
The Islanders may not be able to afford or lure the best players this offseason, but it is imperative that they go out and get the best pure hockey coach money can buy on the open market. To take the next step, to take any positive steps, the Islanders will need a great head coach. I love what you’ve done with the place Jack, but you’re not quite enough right now to be what the Islanders need long term.
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