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Garth Snow on Capuano Firing: Team performance is ‘100 percent on me’

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The team GM suggested it was an organizational decision, conceded coaches always take the fall.

New York Islanders Training Session Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Garth Snow was his usual candid-but-guarded self during the afternoon conference call with media after the announcement that Jack Capuano was fired as New York Islanders coach.

He didn’t reveal a lot, but there were a few nuggets as media peppered him with questions about the decision, about what (if anything) it says about his offseason moves, about what (if any) changes in play he expects, whether he’s feeling the heat, and if any other coaching reinforcements are coming in (no, not now, albeit one other minor change).

Who Made the Decision

It was Snow’s decision, but it wasn’t made in a vacuum:

“It’s not a dictatorship. It’s not one person waking up making the decision. There’s a lot of dialogue all through the organization when big decisions are made.”

So, yes...clearly there have been conversations. Who started the “should we make a move?” discussion — him, ownership, advisers — is up to your own speculation.

What the Decision Says about Capuano’s Performance

Snow was predictably gracious about Capuano, the coach he stuck with since 2010. He alluded to “things happen beyond your control” theory of the coaching lifecycle with this...:

“Sometimes you’re victim of different circumstances (as coach). It might be health. It might be a bad goal. A missed back check. In capped league, you don’t have much room for moves in season, and the coach bears the brunt.”

...but left unspoken is this decision and this season’s record did not come down to one bad goal, or health, or a back check. If anything, Snow was acknowledging this was the simplest move to be made in a league where in-season trades are scarce.

On that note...

How Much Responsibility does Snow Take for Team Performance?

He basically evaded a later question about whether this season is an indictment of his offseason moves (we’ll get to that in a moment), but he didn’t avoid the fact the buck starts and stops with him:

“100 percent [the record is on him]. I don’t think there’s a player on our roster who’s had a hand in the drafting, picking up players off waivers, free agent signings, trades…not the trainers or staff. I’m not hiding from the fact that it starts with me.”

About evaluating the offseason moves and why Capuano couldn’t make them work, however...punt:

“Every team has roster changes from year to year. It’s a byproduct of a salary cap world. We’re no different with the decisions you need to make to stay under the ceiling.”

Probably understandably so, he wasn’t going to come out and say the summer shakeup was a failure, nor indict the new additions (one of whom...is scoring goals in New Jersey). If anything, he’ll want to see them under different coaching before getting to that.

Is Weight Itching to Change the Systems?

“I don’t imagine systems-wise, we’ll change too much. Doug might change a few things. [...] Sometimes a new voice in the room can be a spark.”

We’ll add a caveat here that if interim coach Doug Weight — who was already behind the bench and is assistant to Snow upstairs — sees something that must be done differently, Snow surely isn’t going to divulge what that is. If they had disagreements on style and deployment, they are, as Snow likes to say, “keep(ing) it in the room.”

However, while no knew personnel will be added at this time, assistant coach Bob Corkum will come down from upstairs to get behind the bench.

Is Snow on the Hot Seat?

Finally, the inevitable question and the inevitable answer:

“I don’t even worry about [whether his job as GM is on the line]. I just worry about what I can do on a day-to-day basis, and do what I do. Whether it’s the draft...” etc., basically everyone in the organization worries about their own tasks, and aren’t in the business of telling media that yes, they worry about job security.”

But clearly, this season has played out to script under new ownership: Offseason changes haven’t panned out, coach-under-fire was the first to fall, speculation on whether the GM will keep his job will linger, etc.

Questions remaining to be answered by future events include:

  • Will performance improve dramatically under Weight?
  • If it does, would they give him the full-time gig?
  • (And would he even want it?)
  • If performance improves only slightly...who in the organization forces them to look outside for the next full-time coach?

Life in Islanders Country, it’s never dull.