If this is, like Scott Gordon's 2010 Western Death March, the last game of Jack Capuano's tenure as New York Islanders coach -- and Garth Snow or his "people familiar with his thinking" have done an expert PR job of leading us to believe it is not -- then we'll look back on one decision as a typical "WTF?" symptom:
We just want to get him acclimated to our meetings. I want to get him involved in our power play, but I’m sure you can expect him pretty soon.
To recap, Ryan Strome was held out of the last Bridgeport game (a 3-0 loss), but a combination of the NHL roster move regulations and the weather jeopardized his ability to get to San Jose in time for his NHL debut, so he met the team in Phoenix.
Once in Phoenix, for the last game of the long road trip, Strome is a healthy scratch.
Now, independent of certain variables, in theory I actually don't think it's the craziest thing -- not the smartest thing mind you, but not an insane thing either -- to work Strome in carefully while reorienting him to the team and "system." And regardless, Strome is probably bummed to be held out but thrilled to be staying in a nice Phoenix (er, Glendale) hotel while playing with NHLers.
But Capuano's choice of words, if reported accurately, is entertaining in a perverse way (acclimated to meetings?), and the whole thing raises the question whether Snow is cool with sending his top prospect out West only to sit. Further, the Isles travel back and then play again on Saturday, so ... is that enough meeting acclimation time?
Or are we making a mountain out of a mole hill, because Islanders? ("All of the above" is also an acceptable answer.)
For as long as this road trip loomed as a coach killer, tonight's meeting looked like its most winnable game. At the beginning of the trip, the five opponents were collectively well over +110 in goal differential, but the Coyotes were just +3 in that department.
They have a gaudy record in a tough conference -- 39 points, good for only fifth in the division!? -- but they are quite beatable, as their underlying numbers and the Islanders 6-1 October win over the Yotes reveal.
However, this is how long ago that game was. Back on Oct. 8:
- Frans Nielsen was still on fire, as is his will. (But he got suspended for slashing Martin Hanzal.)
- Griffin Reinhart was still with the team. (He was returned to juniors the next day.)
- Despite the 6-1 win, Capuano discussed problems with the team's play that the scoreboard hid, and we thought it was a "good problem to have."
- Many of you still probably believed.
Oh, October memories.
For tonight, several moves: Evgeni Nabokov comes off IR to back up Kevin Poulin, while Brian Srait comes off IR and will play for Matt Carkner. (Radek Martinek takes the IR convenience spot.)
But no Strome.
For the Coyotes, Shane Doan is still out, and for a while.
Mike Smith took ill on short notice last game, so Thomas Greiss and his $750,000 salary got a surprise start. They think Smith and his 6-year, $34 million deal is ready for tonight though.
Seriously though, the Coyotes' underlying stats aren't particularly impressive, even granting that they play against a bunch of possession monsters in the West. This game is winnable, if Good Poulin shows up and Scrambly Poulin gets a few breaks.
First Islanders Goal picks can be left here, yo. Tip: Don't pick Strome.