Last night’s game was pretty awful on all accounts. The first line had a few flashes and you have to appreciate the effort from David Ullstrom. He played like someone getting his first shot at the big time. Anders Nilsson didn’t have a lot of help but he did make 30 saves including some big ones in the first. It’s hard to knock a kid who was put in a very tough spot. Otherwise, things were pretty ugly and there’s not a whole lot of use in dissecting a game that was more of a formality to Crosby’s return than anything else.
Last year, when the Islanders were in a similar funk it got coach Scott Gordon fired. Some of the talk — as is standard for any coach getting canned — was about how the players had tuned out the coach. In this case, it was the ‘task master’ Gordon. If Jack Capuano is the friendly buddy cop, then Gordon was the hard-ass sergeant.
Naturally, we saw the team loosen up a bit after Capuano came on board. Regardless of the results of the stretch run last year, one thing that was there was effort. Credit that to Capuano or simply being in a pressure-free zone at the bottom of the standings as you see fit. But now that there has been an unbelievable lack of effort from the team the question is; was Capuano an agent for change or was it simply the change itself that inspired the team?
This team came out of the gates playing decently, some nights better than others. Some nights have had more effort than others. As we’ve gone along, the problems have snowballed. No one has been able to stem the tide or solve any problems. That responsibility falls on leaders in the locker room (looking at the newly appointed captain here) as well as the coach. But, ultimately, it is the coach’s responsibility.
As we’ve gone along, little problems and big problems have each gotten worse and worse to the point that the team hasn’t scored in seven plus periods and has been listless for a month. After Saturday’s beat down at the old barn, Capuano was angry when talking to the media. Later, he held a closed door meeting with the team. Per Chris Botta:
Capuano, known for a player-friendly approach, was hard on his team in his postgame assessment after the Islanders were timid and uncompetitive throughout the drubbing by Boston… In search of answers, Capuano kept the players at the arena for two hours after the game. He must have been satisfied with his team’s response because, after the meeting, he canceled Sunday’s workout.
After a long meeting Saturday night, the team headed to Pittsburgh and repeated the effort and results that the coach had called them out both privately and publicly for. That sure sounds like a team that has bailed on its leader. It can certainly be said that last night’s game was an oddity, an extremely tough environment given the circumstances. Regardless, to have a visual copy of the Boston game repeated after the coach calls out the team is a pretty strong indictment of what he is doing.
It certainly looks like this is a team that is down and out, beating itself up and magnifying the mistakes that it makes. Capuano personified as much in the post-game interview on MSG. He looked exhausted, as if he had used up all of his options to right the ship. Maybe as a player’s coach Capuano was simply a welcome change last year when he replaced Gordon, the change itself helping to right the ship as much as the coach.