So far this season, the only things that have gone right for the Islanders have been getting scoring from their defense and adopting rescue pups from the North Shore Animal League.
They’re 4-6-1 after a shootout loss to the Flyers tonight that wasn’t as close as the result would make it sound. Jaroslav Halak was very good, but if it wasn’t for a soft goal by Dennis Seidenberg (!) that went through Michal Neuvirth’s wickets, the Islanders would have left with bubkus, let alone a point.
After the game, head coach Jack Capuano sounded as out of patience as the few people still paying to watch his team. After anonymously calling out players for losing puck battles in his post-game comments, at about the 1:10 mark of the below video, he jokes about his own random line switching and makes a curious lament about the current weapons in his arsenal.
The level of concern for me is that we got a power play goal from Casey [Cizikas], Clutter [Cal Clutterbuck] and Johnny [Tavares], and Seidenberg had a goal. That’s my concern. Where are we gonna get point production from? We took 134 points out of our lineup that we lost. Now we gotta find a way.
There are two ways interpret this. One is as a call to the other forwards on his team not named John Tavares to step up and pot a goal every once in a while. This is similar to his “Pick your shit up” comments to Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and others at the end of last season. After watching the video, I kinda think this is what he was going for, but I don’t know.
The other, more insidious reading is that Capuano was making a direct criticism of general manager Garth Snow, who was more directly involved in the losses of Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin over the summer. The trio combined for 135 points last season (Cappy was off by one, but forget it, he was rolling) and so far, it doesn’t look like anyone is ready to step in and take their place.
Capuano might not be long for his job (I’m fully on board with making a change), but he’s not wrong. Okposo and Nielsen in particular were vital, consistent parts to the Islanders offense for years and players like Strome, Anders Lee and Nelson simply aren’t on their level yet. Not to mention the fact that free agent signees Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera have yet to score this season.
Before the season started, Capuano already sounded frustrated with the fact that he only had enough room on the roster for six defenseman. They eventually called up Ryan Pulock from Bridgeport, he got hurt in his first period in Brooklyn, and they’ve been back to six ever since.
All that said, the coach also needs to take responsibility for his own decisions, many stretching back to last season. The offense just looks creatively lost on most nights, the breakouts are sloppy, and their neutral zone play is non-existent. Capuano says a lot of the right things about playing with speed, cycling on the forecheck and not stifling anyone’s creativity. All it takes is watching a game like tonight’s amateur hour to see that none of that is happening.
For the more stats inclined, I’ll let Alex here provide you with a handy chart.
Drew up a network diagram of the Islanders breakout passes. Line thickness indicates frequency (not scientific) pic.twitter.com/vKDnbwzoRq— Alex Novet (@GhostofNyles) November 3, 2016
Time is ticking. Conservatively speaking, they have maybe two or three weeks from being out completely of playoff contention. Maybe the coach’s words shake something loose after tonight. Either the players start moving faster, winning more battles and controlling the puck more or Snow makes a move or two to snap the team out of its funk.
Or Snow finally splits with Capuano and brings in a new voice to try to squeeze something out of this roster before time runs out on the season.
Also, who is Shane Gostisbergh?