A new assistant sheriff in town?
Since the 2011-12 season ended (Well, for the Islanders anyway. It continues for the Kings and Devils, and green media continue to make fools of themselves.), there have been several published suggestions of Bridgeport Sound Tigers coach Brent Thompson as a candidate for promotion to the Islanders NHL staff. Chris Botta of SNY and Arthur Staple of Newsday hinted early on.
Last night St. Louis-based Andy Strickland, whose reporting is usually sound but whose diction is not always precise, reported it as done in a throwaway bit to a larger article about other things. Thompson was behind the benches in Peoria (AHL) and Alaska (ECHL) when those two were Blues affiliates, thus the relevance to Strickland's audience (and connections) there.
Why are we paying this much attention to an unconfirmed assistant coach hire? Because it could set up a very interesting dynamic behind the Islanders bench at another pivotal moment in the rebuild.
Already we've seen GM Garth Snow put Doug Weight behind the bench as a dual assistant coach and GM adviser straight after his playing career ended.
This offseason we've seen the removal of assistants Dean Chynoweth and Scott Allen -- not exactly shocking for a losing team, but noteworthy. We have the general impression of Jack Capuano as more of a "player's coach" rather than an X and O guy. We have some reason to wonder whether the Isles' defensive coverage approach (including forwards) costs them goals and sells their abilities short.
And now, if the reports come true, we have a coach on the rise, whose AHL team had a great second half, possibly joining the staff. It would make two assistants that weren't straight-up "Capuano hires" -- though to be fair, the recently released assistants he inherited were likewise not his hires.
Capuano, more reserved behind the bench, contrasts with Weight and Thompson's much more fiery demeanors (at least when the the cameras are on for outsiders to see). Thompson has been part of success in Peoria, Alaska and Bridgeport and has to be seen as a candidate to take the helm if things go wrong on the Island -- which isn't the plan, but is certainly an outcome we've seen through most of the last 16 seasons. Honestly, had Thompson's 2012-13 season looked more like the 2011-12 second half than the first, you'd put him in the broader "young and rising" pool for NHL jobs the following summer.
If Thompson ascends as Capuano's assistant, you want him to help bring what worked in Bridgeport. You want his knowledge of those future Islanders to help here. You also wonder how all of this will work.