By Nick Colombo
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The Islanders had a chance to take a big step forward next year… and they just blew it by bringing back Jack Capuano as head coach.
It’s nothing against Jack, he’s not a bad coach, but someone has to explain to the Islanders that simply not being bad doesn’t necessarily make you good.
Capuano experienced success this season as head coach for one reason: He wasn’t Scott Gordon. All Jack had to do was walk in, let the guys play hockey, not institute any stupid system, and keep the team happy. So again, not be Scott Gordon.
But not being Scott Gordon (a.k.a. not being a bad coach) doesn’t automatically make you a good coach. For example, I’d consider myself not bad at doing my taxes. Does that then mean I should be handling all the corporate taxes here at CBS? The answer is no, and that’s because I’m not very good at doing taxes. Which is exactly why when things get complicated I call my boy “Gio the Italian Tax Machine” to hide some money for me.
What the Islanders have just done by hiring Capuano permanently is a damn shame. Don’t they understand? This team is in the uniquely fortunate position of being ready to take the next step. They’re right on the cusp of becoming a highly competitive team that makes the playoffs. The one component they were missing was a really, really good head coach to take their young guys to the next level. Instead, they hired Capuano when they needed “Gio the Italian Tax Machine.”
All the time I hear Garth Snow says he’s got money to spend on the team but they can’t convince free agents to come here. What better way to spend that money than by hiring a top line head coach to get the most out of the guys you do have here? No, apparently that’s too much to ask.
Instead, the Islanders, as always, will take the cheap way out, and that’s unfortunate. Because now more than ever it’s abundantly clear the difference coaching can make in the NHL.
We’re only a year removed from Peter Laviolette taking the Flyers from a struggling team to the Eastern Conference champs, and we’ve just been through a season where the great Jacques Lemaire resurrected the all-but-dead Devils into a playoff contender.
Hiring a great coach would’ve given the Islanders a legitimate chance to be in the playoff conversation next year. Instead, they’ll be rolling the dice with Jack Capuano, a coach who is a nice enough guy, but is much nicer to them because he fits in the budget.
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