Not a surprise, but surely a delight for many: The Islanders have removed the "interim" tag from head coach Jack Capuano's title. GM Garth Snow's statement:
"We have made tremendous strides as a team this season under Jack's direction and I'm confident that he's the right person to lead the Islanders into the playoffs. Jack's work ethic and familiarity with the numerous players on our roster has eased his adjustment to the NHL and we look forward to him taking the Islanders to the next level."
Capuano coached the Isles to a 26-29-10 record since he took over, including a 25-21-8 mark in their final 54 games (since mid-December) and a 15-12-6 mark since the All-Star Break.
Some outsiders don't realize he's been coaching for quite some time. A former pro player who saw a handful of games with Toronto, Vancouver and Boston, Capuano has coached in the Isles organization since 2005-06, and was a GM and frequent coach in the ECHL from 1997-2005.
He's been credited with lightening the mood in the Islanders room this year after their nightmare November. He has become quite popular with a lot of fans (that's admittedly a fickle barometer for coaches, who are consumed like fire wood in this league).
A team that was struggling desperately to score goals when he took over ended up having two 30+ goal scorers and three more 20+ goal scorers. The defense, decimated by injuries and finishing the season with a skeleton crew of rookies and ATOs, will be the focus next year.
It's been his team for a while, but now it's official: Jack Capuano is your Islanders coach.
UPDATE: Newsday says expect the assistants back...maybe Doug Weight gets a role if he retires.
UPDATE 2: The conference call for this announcement is at 11:30 a.m. today. I will post any good bits/quotes from that in a comment subthread in the comment section of this post.
Update to the update: Call's over, I posted some paraphrased quotes in comments below. Nothing too surprising. Standard fare. Not disclosing term of contract per usual ... expect to make playoffs ... Capuano doesn't expect to be a part of free agent recruitment ... Snow did mention that they're in the process of evaluating the injury situation, in terms of finding any factors that can help curtail it.