A weird pseudo-watershed moment:
After last night's game, Brett Cyrgalis of the Post called out Jack Capuano's decision-making in choosing to healthy scratch Calvin de Haan, one of the team's better defensemen, against the Devils. You didn't need to read too much into deHaan's comments to know he was unhappy about the call.
"It's easy to score 50 goals from the press box, it's completely different than playing," de Haan said. "Like I said, it's not my decision to sit out. Do I want to? Of course not. I feel like I can help the team win, but like I said, it's not my decision."
Capuano has been rotating scratches for a few weeks now as players sustain or return from injuries and to rest some guys before the playoffs. But in choosing to scratch de Haan and other regulars, Capuano is purposefully playing with one hand tied behind his back in a time when the Islanders need points despite a cushion built during the first half of the season.
It's hard to think of any scenario where Capuano wouldn't want to put his best lineup on the ice every night, which includes the 23-year-old de Haan, a steady partner for Travis Hamonic and fifth among the team's defensemen in averaging 19:09 over his 62 games. But not dressing his best lineup is exactly what Capuano has been doing over the past couple of weeks.
With the lead he had built up in standings, he was sitting players here and there — giving Frans Nielsen a day off on March 13, sitting Ryan Strome the next night against Montreal, scratching Michael Grabner on Saturday for his second straight game, and another benching for Grabner back on March 10 against the Rangers.
Capuano has his reasons for the scratchings - and got away with one last night as Jaroslav Halak shut out the Devils. But he may be over-thinking the game-to-game line-up and derailing his team in the process.
There is no questioning the fact Capuano is a terrific motivator. His guys will run through a wall for him, and that's more than a lot of teams can say.
But that's the stuff of the AHL. This is the big leagues, where good intentions die quiet deaths under a pile of losses. Capuano should understand that, and realize the playoffs are going to be here before he knows it — and they could be over before he knows it if his team isn't ready.
Throughout the Islanders' post-Tavares period, most of the criticism from mainstream media has centered around ownership and management. The coaching staff has generally gotten a pass while the roster and payroll took the brunt of the shots.
Cyrgalis' article is (I think. I could totally be wrong) the first by a mainstream media member questioning an Islanders coach in some time. Around here, Capuano criticism makes up roughly 84 percent of our comments - often to a hysterical and hyperbolic degree that stifles any actual constructive criticism or discussion. But seeing it in print in the outside world is a little surprising.
That's not to say I disagree with Cyrgalis. I don't. With the exception of rest days for the creaky Lubomir Visnovsky and indispensable Halak, the maintenance days and healthy scratchings are getting a little absurd. I also get wanting to work new guy Tyler Kennedy into the line-up before the playoffs, but it shouldn't be at the expense of top six players like Ryan Strome and Michael Grabner who are going to be leaned on to score in every playoff game (however many it turns out to be).
Personally, I don't get spitting mad about line-up decisions and was waiting to see how the roster solidified for the playoffs. I don't think Cappy "HATES" any of his players and I don't think they hate him. But I do wish he would worry less about games that haven't happened yet and trust the team he's got to execute the plan.
And if I can get #IslesTwitter to do the same thing, I'll be all set.
Now on to the Islanders links
- Recaps: LHH | Newsday | NY Post | Daily News | NY Times | Islanders | NHL.com | ILWT | NYI Skinny
- D-Shuffle: Nick Leddy in, Matt Donovan also in, Calvin de Haan... yeah. [Newsday]
- For once, some Islanders could have a reason to be at the NHL Awards show in Vegas. [Newsday]
- "The game felt like the playoffs," the Devils said wistfully. :( [NJ.com]
- And the Sound Tigers are back to losing, dropping their eighth straight home game. [CT Post]
- Joshua Ho-Sang had a goal and two assists in Niagara's win. [CP Round-up]
Around the NHL
- Great pinball goal by Mike Smith. Too bad it bounced off a Penguins' ass and into his own net. [SB Nation]
- Crazy saves: Tuukka Rask robs old broken Dave Bolland. [SBN] | Carey Price stretches and stops the Sharks on a 2-on-1. [EOTP]
- What's a little lost teeth between friends? [SBN]
- NCAA Signings: The Leafs signed Penn State's Casey Bailey [PPP] | The Blackhawks reached an agreement with Notre Dame center Vince Hinostroza [SBN College Hockey]
- Tired of blackouts with sports TV packages? There's a trial going on you might be interested in. [AP]
- Old friend Anders Nilsson makes a great save and gets compared to Tim Thomas and Dominik Hasek because The Hockey News is bonkers.
- Sure, teams can rebuild in a couple of years just like the Blackhawks, right? Yeah, not so much. [Edmonton Journal]