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.
The Islanders made a trio of moves in the opening two days of free agency, solidifying their roster for the upcoming season. Andrew Ladd (seven years), Jason Chimera (two years), and PA Parenteau (one year) were all signed to deals. Although long-serving members of the team Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, and Matt Martin are all gone, the Islanders lineup still looks formidable and ready to compete.
LW – Andrew Ladd
C – John Tavares
RW – PA Parenteau
Breakdown: John Tavares will technically have two new linemates this year, although Parenteau did spend most of his two seasons with the Islanders on Tavares’ wing. Parenteau put up 120 points in 161 games in that span, which took place from 2010 to 2012. Ladd, however, is completely new and is expected to add a much needed dynamic presence to the wing on the top line. When Matt Moulson was on the left wing to this duo, he put up 31 and 36 goals respectively in the two years. With more skill and a similar playing style, how many can Ladd pot? Only time will tell, but this line should be a good one. Also, it’s possible Mathew Barzal gets a crack on the right wing next to John Tavares if he makes the opening night roster, but with the addition of Parenteau it is likely Barzal heads back to Seattle.
LW – Anders Lee
C – Ryan Strome
RW – Shane Prince
Breakdown: Ryan Strome finally slots back into his natural center position with Frans Nielsen gone. How long that will last, no one knows. But regardless, it’s a great opportunity for Strome to rebound from his pitiful 2015-2016 campaign. As for his wingers, Anders Lee returns to top-six action after his season was ended last year by a broken leg. Although he struggled to get on the scoresheet early last year, he was doing everything right. There is no reason to worry on that front. As for Shane Prince, he’ll be entering his second full season. An analytical darling, he has a chance to put his tremendous shot and speed to work in the top-six. He could be a breakout candidate this year.
LW – Nikolay Kulemin
C – Brock Nelson
RW – Josh Bailey
Breakdown: This line is up in the air. It has the potential to be good with a two-way forward (Kulemin), a sniper (Nelson), and a playmaker (Bailey), but all three have to bounce back from bad years. It’s almost a misfit line where the players don’t fit anywhere else. It was together for a short stint last season but was very, very bad defensively. But maybe it’ll work out.
LW – Jason Chimera
C – Casey Cizikas
RW – Cal Clutterbuck
It’ll likely take a little while for Cizikas and Clutterbuck to get used to their new linemate, but this line will have the ability to inflict some serious damage. Will all respect to Matt Martin, Jason Chimera is flat out a better player. He put up 20 goals and 20 assists last year on a deep Capitals team and still skates with speed like he’s 23 years old. All three members of this line will be pests to play against, both defensively and offensively. If you liked the old fourth line, you’ll love this one (probably).
Defensive pair #1:
LD – Nick Leddy
RD – Travis Hamonic
Breakdown: This pair saw most of last season’s action together. Both are extremely talented skaters and are good at both ends of the puck. They can be deployed in all situations without worry.
Defensive pair #2:
LD – Calvin de Haan
RD – Johnny Boychuk
Breakdown: Like Hamonic and Leddy, these two have seen a lot of time together. One thing that is worth keeping an eye on is Boychuk’s progression this season. He took a big step back last year, albeit still while being a serviceable defenseman. The Islanders can’t afford to have him drop off even more.
Defensive pair #3:
LD – Thomas Hickey
RD – Ryan Pulock
Breakdown: Ryan Pulock is ready (finally!) to step into a full-time top-six role next year. Thomas Hickey, his counterpart, had a tremendous end to the season and playoff run.
Goalies: some combination of Greiss, Berube, and Halak
Breakdown: Something is going to give in the three goalie situation eventually. The ideal scenario is Jaroslav Halak being traded, but suitors are thin and he has had health problems. JF Berube going through waivers and down to Bridgeport is another last-resort option if Halak can’t be moved, but he has a high chance of being claimed. The only safe one right now is Thomas Greiss.
Scratches: Alan Quine, Mikhail Grabovski, Adam Pelech
Breakdown: Quine and Pelech are youngsters who have proven their keep but just can’t find a spot in the lineup right now. They’ll be the first ones called on when injuries happen. As for Mikhail Grabovski, it is unlikely he sees much playing time this year, due to a combination of concussion issues and poor play. It is not even known if he is fully healthy yet.
Islanders fans, despite looking at a completely reformed roster, have a lot to be excited about next season. The injection of new blood and veteran leadership will hopefully push them over the ledge and bring them to a conference finals and beyond.
This list is in no particular order.
Mathew Barzal, 19 – Seattle (WHL)
Last season: 58GP, 27G-61A-88P
Considered the best of all Isles prospects, Barzal exhibits great hands and vision. He has a real opportunity to make the 2016-2017 team
Anthony Beauvillier, 19 – Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Last season: 47GP, 40G-39A-79P
Selected 28th in 2015, Beauvillier is a hard worker and has risen the ranks in the Isles system as the year has progressed. Small, but skilled.
Michael Dal Colle, 20 – Kingston (OHL)
Last season: 30GP, 27G-28A-55P
Dal Colle had a rough few months with Oshawa but took off on Kingston. Has the ability to be a top-six forward, but also could be a trade chip for Garth Snow.
Joshua Ho-Sang, 20 – Niagara (OHL)
Last season: 66GP, 19G-63A-82P
Arguably the most offensively-skilled forward prospect in the system, but has had his fair share of issues in the past. Can become a solid NHL regular if he puts that aside when he transitions to the AHL.
Kieffer Bellows, 18 – Sioux Falls (USHL)
Last season: 58GP, 33G-19A-52P
Pure goal scorer selected 19th overall in this year’s draft. Likely to convert to wing when he transitions to the NHL.
Anatoly Golyshev, 21 – Yekaturinberg (KHL)
Last season: 56GP, 25G-19A-44P
Older prospect selected in 2016 but still has oodles of skill. Under contract in the KHL for a few more years.
Otto Koivula, 17 – Ilves U20 (SM-Liiga)
Last season: 49GP, 26G-32A-58P
Big Finnish winger that still needs time to round out his overall game. Has a natural scoring touch as a power forward, though.
Collin Adams, 18 – Muskegon (USHL)
Last season: 59GP, 27G-34A-61P
Much like Beauviller, works hard every shift he is on the ice. Exhibits a nice amount of scoring as well.
Nick Pastujov, 18 – US U18 Team
Last season: 21GP, 3G-5A-8P
Forward that’ll need time to grow. Committed to play college hockey next season.
Taylor Cammarata, 21 – U. of Minnesota
Last season: 37GP, 7G-12A-19P
Drafted a few seasons ago and has not progressed much since. The tiny forward has little real chance of making the NHL.
Kyle Schempp, 22 – Ferris State (WCHA)
Last season: 41GP, 9G-16A-25P
Makes a living below the hashmarks and is not afraid to get into the dirty areas if it means scoring a goal.
Carter Verhaeghe, 20 – Missouri (ECHL)
Last season: 20GP, 8G-17A-25P
Acquired in the Michael Grabner trade, it’s uncertain what will become of Verhaeghe. He potentially possesses a two-way game fit for a bottom-six forward in the NHL.
Mitch Vande Sompel, 19 – Oshawa (OHL)
Last season: 46GP, 10G-28A-38P
The high scoring defenseman has a good year on a bad Oshawa team. Still needs to round out his overall game, but the offense is there.
Parker Wotherspoon, 18 – Tri-City (WHL)
Last season: 71GP, 11G-45A-56P
A hidden gem in the Isles system, Wotherspoon is prepared to make the leap to AHL play next season. The Isles have a special two-way defender with him.
Matt Finn, 22 – Bridgeport (AHL)
Last season: 33GP, 6G-8A-14P
Another piece acquired in the Grabner deal, Finn has struggled with injuries. His ceiling is a bottom pair defenseman.
Scott Mayfield, 23 – Bridgeport (AHL)
Last season: 54GP, 5G-7A-12P
Mayfield has seen time in the NHL in recent past and uses his big frame to his advantage. He still needs to work on his skating to become an effective everyday player.
David Quenneville, 18 – Medicine Hat (WHL)
Last season: 64GP, 14G-41A-55P
Drafted in the seventh round in 2016, Quenneville is much like Vande Sompel — good offensively but needs to round out his overall game.
Jesse Graham, 22 – Bridgeport (AHL)
Last season: 52GP, 5G-12A-17P
His offensive numbers haven’t transitioned to the next level, but he still has the instincts to put them to work.
Dylan Somerby, 21 – Boston U.
Last season: 39GP, 5G-8A-13P
Big defenseman is unlikely to ever crack the Islanders’ lineup, barring a major change.
Jake Bischoff, 21 – U. of Minnesota
Last season: 37GP, 6G-12A-18P
Smooth skating defenseman that will have to work his way up to the NHL. Solid at both end of the rink.
Kyle Burroughs, 20 – Bridgeport (AHL)
Last season: 31GP, 2G-8A-10P
Similar to what Thomas Hickey is right now. Small, not flashy, but gets the job done regardless.
Devon Toews, 22 – Quinnipiac U.
Last season: 40GP, 7G-23A-30P
Was a backbone in the Quinnipiac defense and showed poise at both ends of the rink. Like Bischoff, he will need to work for his opportunity.
Loic Leduc, 22 – Missouri (ECHL)
Last season: 21GP, 1G-1A-2P
Big stay at home defenseman, unlikely to amount to much.
Linus Soderstrom, 19 – Vita Hasten (SWE-1)
Last season: 17GP, 7W, .927 SV%
Young goalie who has played well with Sweden at major tournament. Has the skillset to become a NHL caliber goalie.
Ilya Sorokin, 20 – CSKA (KHL)
Last season: 28GP, 17W, .953 SV%
One of the best goalie prospects in the NHL, Sorokin currently plays in the KHL but should (hopefully) make the transition over in a few years. There’s plenty of reasons to be excited about him.
Eamon McAdam, 21 – Penn State
Last season: 22GP, 13W, .913 SV%
Started for Penn State last year and has seen a little bit of pro action, but not much. Not a bad goalie, but not a star.
Stephon Williams, 23 – Missouri (ECHL)
Last season: 7GP, 2W, .892 SV%
Has struggled over the years and it continued in Missouri last year. It’ll be a long, tough road if Williams ever wants to make it to the NHL.
Other news and notes:
There could be no info pulled on defensemen Andong Song and Peter Hansson, both selected late in 2015. Additionally, Ryan Pilon, a fifth round pick in 2015, remains away from hockey.
2013 picks Ryan Pulock and Alan Quine both have become formidable NHL players and thus are left off the list.
Besides the listed Scott Mayfield, most of the 2011 prospects are gone from the organization or have transitioned to the NHL. This includes Johan Sundstrom (KHL), Robbie Russo (DET), Andrey Pedantic (VAN), Brendan Kitchton (WPG), and Ryan Strome (NHL).
Anyone beyond 2010 is not listed.
Although we do not know a date for certain, NHL expansion is right around the corner. With the system of protecting seven forwards, three defenseman, and one goalie or eight skaters and one goalie in place, teams will be faced with tough decisions to make. That includes the New York Islanders. As a young and upcoming team, they have plenty of good assets that they will have to risk losing.
The expansion could happen before the 2017-2018 season, meaning professional (NHL and AHL) players who started their careers in 2015-2016 or 2016-2017 will be exempt. If the league decides to expand by two teams, each team will face potentially losing a maximum of one player. If it’s a one team expansion, teams lose a maximum of one player. Here is my outlook on the Isles expansion draft possibilities:
Protected forwards: John Tavares, Anders Lee, Frans Nielsen, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck
A few players here, like John Tavares, Frans Nielsen, and Ryan Strome, are practically givens. Lee and Nelson are borderline, but both are good players that should be protected, granted they are on the team by the time 2017-2018 rolls around. The last two players may come as a surprise, but I believe Cizikas and Clutterbuck bring an essential element to the Islanders that they would miss severely if one or both of them were to be taken. Both players kill penalties and hit almost everything that moves, all while pitching in energy and offense. The Islanders rely heavily on both of these players.
Notable unprotected: Nikolay Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, Matt Martin, Josh Bailey
Josh Bailey is someone the Islanders will likely want to protect, but he may need to be sacrificed. He is the most likely to be taken in the draft out of the mentioned forwards. Matt Martin is the other third of the Islanders’ fourth line with Cizikas and Clutterbuck, but let’s be honest, is anyone really going to take him. Grabovski and Kulemin are unlikely to be taken, but they’ll be reaching the last year of their deals anyways. They were here to help win now and bridge the gap until Dal Colle, Barzal, and others were ready.
Protected defensemen: Nick Leddy, Ryan Pulock, Calvin de Haan
These three players being taken is assuming Travis Hamonic gets his wish of being traded this offseason. Anyways, Leddy is the only for sure pick here. There is a zero percent chance he reaches the draft. Ryan Pulock will be available to be taken, and the Islanders have waited too long and have been too patient in developing him to see it all go to waste. Calvin de Haan, barring another disaster of a season like 2015-2016, should be protected in my eyes.
Notable un-protected: Thomas Hickey, Johnny Boychuk, Adam Pelech
Boychuk and Pelech are tough pills to swallow. Pelech luckily may be overlooked for more established defensemen in the draft which would be fantastic for the Isles. He still has a good chance of being taken though as a young, reliable defenseman. Boychuk will be 33 years old, almost 34 by the time the expansion draft rolls around. He will also be heading into the third year of his massive seven year, six million per year deal. Boychuk will inevitably start to decline. I am positive the Islanders want to keep him, but will they risk losing a younger defenseman like Pulock or de Haan to keep him? Will an expansion team risk taking a declining defenseman with a huge contract despite him being a great leader? These are all questions the Islanders will have to answer.
Granted, the Islanders could chose to protect Boychuk, Leddy, de Haan and Pulock, but would only be left with four selections at forward.
Also noteworthy, Johnny Boychuk has a no-movement clause, and he is the only Islander to have one of those. It is still yet to be determined if he will even be able to be unprotected.
Thomas Hickey, the other name on the list, is a good defender but not protection worthy.
Protected goalie: Jaroslav Halak
Notable un-protected: Thomas Greiss
Despite Greiss playing so well this year, this should not come as a shock to anyone. There will be a contingent of fans wanting Greiss to be selected over Halak, but it’s not going to happen. Halak is entering the final year of his deal in 2017-2018.
Notable players exempt: Michael Dal Colle, Josh Ho-Sang, Mat Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Parker Wotherspoon, Ilya Sorokin, Mitch Vande Somple
All of these players are still playing in juniors currently, so they’ll be exempt. This is fantastic news for the Islanders.
The Islanders will face a lot of tough decisions when the day of reckoning for protecting players comes around. In all, I could see Bailey and one of Pelech or Boychuk being taken. It is what it is, and the Islanders will make out better than other teams like the Chicago Blackhawks or Washington Capitals will.
A lot can change between now and the 2017 offseason. Until then, it’s all speculation.
We’re reaching the dog days of the NHL season. December and January mark the intermediate period between the frenzy at the start of the season and the even larger frenzy of the trade deadline. The Islanders have been doing decent this year and have nothing spectacular nor disastrous to report.
The Islanders have been getting contributions from all four lines this year just as they had gotten last year (albeit Nelson-Tavares-Okposo is on a cool streak right now). The team didn’t make any major moves in the offseason unlike their counterparts in Washington and Pittsburgh. Garth Snow and the team have been banking on the internal development of their players, and they need three of these players in particular — Ryan Strome, Brock Nelson and Anders Lee — to kick it into the next gear.
Ryan Strome has been fantastic since being re-called from his three week stint in the minors. He, Mikhail Grabovski, and Nikolay Kulemin have been the Isles best line over the recent stretch. Even after getting off to a cool start, Strome is still on pace for just over half a point per game, but a hot streak can easily bump that up. Whether or not Strome sees time on John Tavares’ wing in the future remains unseen, but as of right now due to his line’s play it seems unlikely. The Isles need Strome to keep up and not get complacent again since they heavily rely on a four-line game. Having a lethal asset in the middle-six would be a huge help to the depth of the forward group.
Brock Nelson is a streaky player. He had a goal in four straight games in November and had six points in that stretch. Now, he’s been ice cold with one goal in his last nine playing alongside John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Nelson’s nine goals on the season are good for third on the team, but Jack Capuano and the coaching staff still need more out of him since the other four lines are doing well. Getting the first line back to its groove will only happen if all three players are working together, and Nelson is one of those guys. Playing with John Tavares could and should make it a quick turnaround for him and help turn him into a more consistent player.
Anders Lee has been an interesting case this year. He has looked good playing alongside the boards and behind the net and is using his size to his advantage. However, he only has four goals on the season. This is after he potted 25 last year. Lee is on pace for only 11 goals this year which is not nearly good enough. Lee, like Strome and Nelson, also saw time with John Tavares last year which could explain his high goal totals in his first full year. Regardless, more is expected from Lee, especially playing with a hot hand in Frans Nielsen. On the bright side, Lee already has 10 assists this season compared to his 16 last season which is good.
I foresee in the near future a switch up of Anders Lee and Brock Nelson in the lineup. This would give Tavares and Okposo someone out front to screen the goalie and feed the puck to, as well as not disrupt the Grabovski line or the Cizikas line by putting Nelson with Nielsen and Bailey. Or, at least that’s what I would do.
At the end of the day, the Islanders have faith in their youth, and will succeed or fail by them. Strome, Nelson, and Lee all need to pick up their game in the last half or so of the season and help propel the team to their first playoff win since 1993.