The Jack Capuano era, which started on November 15, 2010, is officially over in New York.
The head coach was relieved from his duties by Garth Snow on Tuesday afternoon, finishing a turbulent run of highs and lows within the organization.
When Capuano took over in 2010, the Islanders were in a very dark place. They had drafted cornerstone superstar John Tavares one year earlier, but had managed to finished bottom five in the league in 2010-2011 after a disastrous start under Scott Gordon. The 2011-2012 campaign was not any better, as the Isles picked fourth overall in the draft.
However, in the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season, Jack Capuano managed to lead the Islanders to the playoffs as the #8 seed. They pushed the dominant Pittsburgh Penguins to six games, providing hope for a pesky team that had just made its first playoff appearance in a handful of years.
The next season was more of the same however. The Islanders traded Matt Moulson, a first round pick and a second round pick for a Thomas Vanek early in the season, but still finished bottom five. Capuano had much of the same roster, with only Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Peter Regin being the offseason acquisitions. Capuano’s future was in doubt back then, but the organization continued to show faith in the head coach and kept him around.
In the fall of 2014, after a pitiful finish the year prior, Garth Snow went out and acquired Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy. These two moves were franchise altering, as the Islanders compiled a 100 point season in their final year at Nassau Coliseum. They wound up losing to the Capitals in seven games that postseason.
The success came again in 2015-2016, with another 100 point season. This time, however, the Isles advanced past round one in the playoff by defeating the Florida Panthers. They were eventually smoked out by Tampa Bay in five games, which was marked by Jon Cooper’s impressive job of out-coaching Capuano.
On July 1st of that same year, Charles Wang relinquished majority ownership of the team to John Ledecky and Scott Malkin. The new owners came in and promised to make the Islanders great once more and to add a fifth banner to the rafters.
In this first year, things have not been going as planned. The Islanders sit last in the Eastern Conference, despite only being eight points out of the playoffs. This resulted in the firing of Capuano, who, admittedly by Garth Snow, was not going to be back as head coach next season.
You could describe Capuano’s tenure with the New York Islanders in a number of ways.
From one aspect, you could look at him as the coach who endured seven years here and accelerated the team out of the dark ages. Truth be told — whether you liked him or not — Capuano lead the Islanders to three playoff appearances in the recent four years and put together back-to-back 100 point seasons.
The flip side of the coin is Capuano was never a coach that was going to take the team to the next step. It’s doubtful the Islanders were going to win a Stanley Cup under the current regime.
Perhaps a big reason why fans, and maybe management, were so irked with Capuano over his time here was his treatment of rookies. Brock Nelson was a healthy scratch multiple times early in his career. Ryan Strome went through the same thing in recent seasons, which even included a trip down to the AHL in 2015. Recently, it’s been Anthony Beauvillier in the doghouse.
The most notable of the list, however, is Nino Neiderreiter. The Swiss right winger was continually put with the likes of Jay Pandolfo and Marty Reasoner when he was playing on the team. This resulted in him demanding a trade and eventually being moved to Minnesota. You have to wonder how different the Islanders roster would look if Neiderreiter had been played to his strengths.
In all, it’s been a bumpy ride. It was time to move on. The Islanders have over eight full months to decide on a new coach for next season.
The most interesting part, though, is that this may not even be the end of the changes.