Capuano takes fall for Isles’ mediocrity
Weight Installed as Interim While Full-Time Coaching Search Begins
When the Islanders hit the ice at the Barclays Center Thursday night to host the Dallas Stars in the opener of a critical six-game homestand, they will do so without Jack Capuano as their head coach for the first time since Nov. 15, 2010.
That’s the date Capuano was installed as interim coach of the then-Long Island-based franchise.
The Rhode Island native went on to win 227 games behind the New York bench, second only to Hall of Fame coach and four-time Stanley Cup champion Al Arbour.
He also guided the Isles to three playoff appearances in the past four years following a six-year postseason absence, and oversaw their first playoff series win since 1993 last spring during the franchise’s inaugural campaign in Brooklyn.
However, this year’s team did not come close to meeting the high expectations that come with having one of the best players in the world, John Tavares, and a team that some thought capable of challenging for an Eastern Conference title.
Hence, general manager Garth Snow’s Tuesday afternoon announcement that Capuano was done.
“The New York Islanders would like to thank Jack for his tireless work throughout his seven seasons with the organization as head coach,” Snow said before revealing that assistant coach and general manager Doug Weight would be installed as the team’s interim head coach while the organization sought a full-time leader.
“[Capuano’s] leadership guided the team to the playoffs in three of the past four years, which included two straight 100-point seasons,” added Snow. “He is a great coach and an even better person. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”
No matter how hard he tried to extract better effort and more consistency from this year’s team, Capuano ultimately fell victim to a new ownership group, spearheaded by Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, that was tired of waiting for better results.
“Obviously, we’re not in a position where we want to be standing-wise,” Snow said during a media conference call Tuesday. “At the end of the day, organizationally, I don’t think Jack was probably going to be a coach that we were going to bring back.”
Snow, who allowed free agent forwards and franchise staples like Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin to seek greener pastures elsewhere this past summer, now replaces the coach he hired as the man on the spot.
It was Snow who signed veteran forward Andrew Ladd to an eye-popping seven-year, $38.5 million pact in an effort to make up for some of the scoring and veteran leadership he lost during the offseason.
Also, 37-year-old Jason Chimera was brought in on a two-year deal to further bolster the Isles’ offense.
Other than a recent three-game scoring surge by Chimera, both players have been major busts in Brooklyn.
“I don’t think there’s a player on our roster who I haven’t had a hand in either drafting, picking up off waivers, a trade [or] a free-agent signing,” admitted Snow, who also relegated starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak, the franchise’s all-time single-season wins leader, to the minors after waiving him just prior to the New Year.
“Same with the staff — whether its trainers, coaches, scouts. Obviously not hiding from the fact that it starts with me.”
ESPN reported Wednesday that the Isles had already contacted the Florida Panthers about interviewing their recently fired head coach Gerard Gallant, who was a finalist for last year’s Jack Adams Trophy as the coach of the year.
Ironically, it was Capuano’s Isles who knocked off Gallant’s Panthers in last season’s opening round of the playoffs to end New York’s two-plus decades of futility in the playoffs.
Gallant was fired by Florida following an 11-10-1 start to this campaign.
For his part, the 50-year-old Capuano was always a stand-up guy and straight shooter, calling out Halak as well as some of the unproductive players Snow brought in during what proved to be his final few months on the job.
“It’s an honor to have served this historic franchise and its passionate fans,” Capuano said in a statement. “I’d like to thank Garth and our ownership group for the opportunity to be the head coach of the Islanders. I’d also like to recognize our coaching staff, training staff and players for all of their hard work.”
Weight, 45, now takes on the cumbersome task of trying to move forward with a team that owns the least points in the conference, yet remains just eight points back of the final playoff spot in the East.
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While the mediocre Islanders are desperate to make a late-season playoff push, the struggling Nets are simply trying to climb out of the NBA cellar.
Brook Lopez scored 28 points and Rondae Hollis Jefferson and Caris LeVert added 14 apiece during Tuesday night’s 119-109 loss to the Toronto Raptors in front of 12,874 fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
Brooklyn has lost a season-high 11 straight games and is an embarrassing 8-33 overall, by far the worst winning percentage (.195) on the 30-team circuit.
“You’ve got to keep going,” said Lopez. “We have a young group and we’re learning a lot on the fly, so you’ve got to just stay positive. We’re doing a lot well, [it] just has not translated in the win column. I think we’re definitely going to break through soon. We’ve just got to give ourselves a chance every night.”
The Nets will try to avert a 12th consecutive defeat in New Orleans on Friday night while trying to snap a 16-game road slide.
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