By B.D. Gallof, WFAN.com
A few recent losses have caused the coaching change talk to start again on the Island. Islanders General Manager Garth Snow made it very clear during an earlier slide that Jack Capuano’s job was not in jeopardy. He followed that up by waiving underwhelming Blake Comeau, which seemed to temporarily shake the team out of its doldrums.
Now a seasonal holiday losing bender seems to have started more fan frustration, coach musings, and tough talk from Snow in a recent video piece on the Isles’ official website. What he said has been misconstrued by many as a warning shot fired across Capuano’s bow.
It wasn’t. Unless Capuano has a Scott Gordon-like meltdown or clashes with the brass, he will not be going anywhere. Those who are waiting for the axe to drop like it did last season will be waiting a while.
If you really break down what Snow actually said, he said the buck has to stop with the players. The message seemed to come through loud and clear on Thursday as the Isles went to the body like Rocky and beat the Flames, 3-1 at the Coliseum.
The Islanders are, indeed, regretting their veteran free agency pickups, and that can be put on Snow, but please keep in mind the market for free agents wanting to come to Long Island has been, is and will remain rather minuscule. The questions surrounding the Coliseum and the franchise’s uncertain future past 2015 are looming as large as the fact that the Isles are not near playoff contention.
Teams like the Florida Panthers, despite also not being a playoff contender, had an easier time picking up key free agents. Year-round sun, year-round first-rate training facilities, and the cost-of-living down south seem to be a large factor for many of their players and their families. The Panthers’ success courting veterans might also be due to the fact their GM, Dale Tallon, formerly of the Chicago Blackhawks, has a Stanley Cup-winning pedigree and a solid reputation.
Hockey players like opportunity, but in the fast and cash-loose free agency market, playoff contention and long-term decisions are what actually attract families. It’s the type of stability the Islanders cannot currently provide.
So as Snow fires off a cryptic missive about players needing to play a full 60 minutes and as the coach wish list gets filled out by armchair GMs who rightly want better and faster results, it is clear to this columnist that more players will be on the firing line, not the coach.
As Brian Rolston and Jay Pandolfo come back from injury, both are on a plank that demands sink-or-swim production. You can also add to that list one Marty Reasoner. Rolston got the message for at least one night Thursday, icing the game with an empty-netter in the final minute.
Snow and owner Charles Wang are not eager to eat contracts by sending players down who don’t perform for kids who may or may not be their equal, but you can bet that they will do something other than stand pat. It worked in the case of Comeau, and will likely again once they pull the trigger.
The onus is more on the offense than the defense. Veteran blueliners Steve Staios, Mark Eaton and Mike Mottau are not likely to be moved or waived. This will likely be the case despite the trio being the usual suspects on the fans’ firing line in imaginative transaction scenarios. The fact remains the Isles are unconvinced that youth will be any sort of difference-maker at this juncture defensively. After all, defense has not been the eyesore this season.
It’s all about the offense, so expect any moves to be made to come on that end of the ice.
Moreover, it was Snow who cited on the Isles’ website that he and everyone else were surprised over the team’s glaring lack of offense this season. It was also my biggest question mark at the start of the season.
All of the offensive expectations were based on completely unproven players and, even now, on the cusp of January, the Isles still have severe scoring issues beyond their top line, which was changed a bit on Thursday, with Kyle Okposo moved up to play with John Tavares and Matt Moulson, while highly productive P.A. Parenteau was moved down.
Until the talent develops this team will not become an offensive powerhouse. This issue will trail through the season and be a talking point during the next draft and free agency. The only hope is that those kids who the Isles’ brass has pegged as the structure of the rebuild start to play to their perceived potential and fill the large gaps and flaws that are causing this team to continue to pretend instead of contend.
Read more columns by B.D. Gallof.
Do you think the fault lies with Capuano or do you agree the Islanders’ players need to get their act in order. Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.