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Islanders Gameday: Debuting the Snows of Capuano

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Summer seems so long ago now.
Summer seems so long ago now.

"...there, ahead, all he could see, as wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro. And then he knew that there was where he was going." -Snows of Kilimanjaro

The following table shows why last week I though that if Scott Gordon's position were in jeopardy, it wouldn't happen for at least another couple of weeks or so:

Islanders opponents Record on Nov. 16
Final 5 games of Gordon's tenure (1H, 4A - Ott, Ph, An, SJ, LA) 52-28-6
First 5 games of Capuano's tenure (4H, 1A - TB, Fl, At, NJ, Cb) 35-39-8

I will always wonder if Gordon would've gotten at least that long -- the season's first real home stretch, against some lesser teams -- if there had been a win here or there during the 0-9-1 slump. But I'll also wonder if it would've mattered, if there was simply something incompatible with what Gordon sought to instill crossed with his players' failure to execute it. Certainly some player comments make you suspect that possibility was in their heads as the losses mounted.

And if the decision-makers are wed to change regardless, there is merit to starting your new coach off with the best near-term schedule, the best chance at early success -- to say nothing of making the change while the season can still be turned around.

All in the past now. Here begins The Interim. With some luck, it could become an Era. Whatever its name, the Lightning -- coming back to Earth after a hot start themselves -- usher it in tonight at the Coliseum.

Update: Capuano Video on What to Expect


Tb-li_medium                Isle-east_medium
Tampa Bay Lightning (8-7-2) at New York Islanders (4-10-3)
Nassau [gloriously unsponsored] Veterans Memorial Coliseum
7 p.m. EST | MSG+ - NHL audio - WRHU 88.7
They like it raw and charged: Raw Charge

About those player comments, here's one from Blake Comeau, who has been inconsistent for a month and goal-less since Oct. 11:

"I think there’s a good feeling (inside the locker room)," said Islanders forward Blake Comeau. "It feels like the page has been turned. We know the players in here are the guys that are going to turn this thing around. I think the (coaching) change shows that the organization hasn’t given up on this team yet and they haven’t given up on playoffs. That’s a nice feeling.

Capuano, who has echoed many observers that this group itself is tight -- "they care" -- has also made line changes according to the above link, most notably putting Doug Weight between Josh Bailey and Comeau, while Michael Grabner goes beside Frans Nielsen and Trent Hunter.

Tactically, more from Comeau:

"He still wants guys around the net, but in the offensive zone and off the rush, he’s giving guys options to make the best decision because sometimes in a game things don’t play out the way they’re drawn up."

Notes

  • No mention of the goaltending in that report, but Katie Strang is reporting and tweeting that Rick DiPietro was on the ice for today's optional skate and riding the bike afterward. She'll have a chat at Newsday this afternoon, which I'm sure will be lively [$5 please]
  • The Lightning are still without Simon Gagne (injured in the previous meeting) and Vincent Lecavalier, who's out with hand surgery. The Isles are without the usual major core injuries (Kyle Okposo, Mark Streit) plus Andrew MacDonald, Milan Jurcina and Jack Hillen (concussion) for good measure. Dylan Reese gets his season debut next to Bruno Gervais.
  • The slump that got Gordon fired began, of course, after the last meeting between these two teams, a meeting that left the Isles in first place above the Maple Leafs. I'm not the "I told you so!" type, but this is precisely why I say enjoy early season blips while they last. It's a long enough season as it is.
  • I was on "The Sports Grill," Steven Grill's (of Hockey Night on Long Island podcasts) show up on Binghamton University's WHRW 90.5FM. We talked about the coaching move, of course, and I tried to relay in 20 words or less BenHasna's theory about the wing shuffle that revolves around Comeau. You can listen to the archive here.
  • At Fanhouse, Chris Botta reports Gordon is gonna be okay.
  • Michael Fornabaio reports Bridgeport lost in Pat Bingham's debut as head coach last night. He also had his weekly chat yesterday.

So all the player talk is of a fresh start, a new beginning, a new lease. I do believe this roster has the capability of settling down and producing better than that 0-9-1 march showed -- honestly, the 1.4 goals per game stretch wasn't going to last no matter who's behind the bench. But how much improvement is possible? That's in part up to the players who have underperformed, and in part up to how quickly Capuano gets a read on what he has in front of him and tries to make the most of it.

Talk is cheap. "Turn the page" sounds nice. For so many players with their next contract (or whether they get another contract at all) on the line, it's time to deliver.