April 12, 2011
What's inspiring about the New York Islanders' announcement that they're dropping the "interim" tag from head coach Jack Capuano's title is that (a) he earned that opportunity through adverse conditions and (b) typically the only predictable thing about this franchise is unpredictability.
The Capo was 15-12-6 since the NHL All-Star Break, coaching through the usual mix of injuries and inconsistency that have unfortunately defined Islanders hockey recently. Love it or loathe it, he also tapped into a defiant streak in that locker room that would at times manifest itself in chaos. The Islanders were fourth in the NHL in major penalties (31) and first in the league in game misconducts (11, juiced by that grudge match with the Penguins).
But the players wanted to play for him, which is the essential ingredient for any interim coach shedding the label. Many of the Islanders played for him during his four seasons behind the bench in the AHL, and that familiarity and trust translated into success at the NHL level as it had for Bruce Boudreau and Dan Bylsma.
"It was an easier transition with the players because I knew them on and off the ice," said Capuano in a conference call today. "The coaches make you better down [in the AHL]. Here, you don't lose [sight] of the teaching side of it, but the bottom line is to win hockey games."
So Capuano will return next season with a contract in hand that lasts through … some point in the future. The Islanders don't disclose terms of their contracts, and GM Garth Snow would only say that Capuano was "the right coach" for the team.
And he might be, because of his success in the second half and because, as we've previously written, his persona and comportment (Bluto Blutarsky, had he left the Senate for an AHL coaching position) seem symbolic for a ramshackle team fighting for respect.
"The one thing about me is that I'm not going to change who I am," Capuano said.
With this decision, the Islanders are hoping he's the guy who can change them.