With a Consistently Inconsistent Team, It Should Be Time for a Shake Up


Kevin Schultz, Islanders Point Blank:

The Islanders are coming off a strange week that was really quite a roller coaster. There was a low last Monday of a 7-0 blowout, an improbable win in Montreal, and last night’s let down. Oh, and that whole Rick DiPietro waiver thing in between. It was a wild week, and one that was wildly inconsistent in the midst of an inconsistent month, but why?

The video above is Coach Capuano’s comments from last night’s post game. They’re a bit more emotional than usual and contained some interesting barbs towards his players.

“Well we didn’t have any emotion, that’s the first thing, for whatever reason… We’re two spots out of a playoff spot. No emotion, no spirit in the room. I could see it going into the game,” he told reporters. So, the Islanders weren’t even ready to play?

That’s surprising to hear and damning of all involved.

Capuano has talked about effort and some of his players being ‘passengers’ before, both of those things you can hear again in last night’s presser. Maybe a large part of these statements are just coaching platitudes that don’t mean a lot, recited after losses where the team didn’t play particularly well. But then there’s an interesting line that is anything but:

“I saw our D turn way too much tonight, I saw way too many giveaways by our forwards and our D and you’re not gonna be successful playing like that. If you want to play individualistic, go play golf or tennis.”

The Islanders had 11 giveaways tonight, so coach is right that there was way too much of that. But the individualistic comment is what caught my eye. With all due respect to golfers and tennis players, I’m sure.

So now we’ve got the team not ready to play, and not only that but they’re also playing for themselves. That’s pretty strong language to hear from the coach, and in some ways is self-indicting.

Clearly, there’s something wrong here. This team can’t get up for games (see recently: last Monday, Tuesday, first half of Thursday, last night). They can’t seem to put in a good sixty minutes in their own arena where they are 2-7-0, with much better results on the road.

The coaching staff, for whatever reason, hasn’t able to correct this thus far in February and the head coach — platitudes or not — is blaming the players pretty directly. But it’s the coach’s job to motivate the team and solve the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of these poor performances and find a way to light a spark. The lines have been shuffled, the goalies changed, but no combination seems to work well aside from the top line.

At the same time, the coach is looking at the leadership in the dressing room to step it up when he says things like ‘the room’s gotta take over.’ While the coach is ultimately responsible, some of it certainly falls on the player leadership as well. There are three players with letters on their jerseys that can help inspire a team. The one difference between this Islanders team and others in the recent past is the lack of a clear veteran leader. Aside from Mark Streit, this is a mostly young and/or inexperienced team.

Wherever the blame lies, whomever it is that needs to step it up, this team needs to figure it out.

The GM isn’t the type who makes trades just to shake things up and has stated as such. But, if it isn’t going to be the coach who gets the axe, it should be time to send a message to these, in the coach’s words, “individualistic” players whomever they may be.

The Islanders have a core group of players who have been on the team since they were drafted. A group that has never had to deal with the uncertainty of being put through waivers or play their way through the minor leagues, like some of their teammates. One sits atop the NHL’s stat sheet, and another has tried to inspire the team with his fists. Shouldn’t it finally be time to send a message to some of the others?

Kyle Okposo has one goal through 19 games, with a -8 mark that is tied for worst among the team’s forwards. Josh Bailey hasn’t scored since returning to the lineup nine games ago.

Meanwhile David Ullstrom, a 23-year old forward who should be in Bridgeport if he’s not going to play on Long Island, hasn’t been seen in a week. I’m not sure he’s the one that needed the week-long message but I imagine he’s received it by now.

Both Okposo and Bailey are more important to this team than Ullstrom and Marty Reasoner, who have mainly been the forwards sitting out so far this season.¬†At some point, players other than a first-year winger and face off specialist need to get the message.¬†Whether it takes a healthy scratch, trade, or coaching change to get that message across is ultimately left for the organization to decide, but it certainly seems like there’s no better time to pick your gut instinct and go with it.

“The room’s gotta take over. We talked about taking ownership in that room with our leaders and our guys. You know what, we all have to do a better job; the coaching staff on down to the players… It’s not good enough. On this particular team that we have we cannot have passengers, it takes all 20 guys.”

And at some point, something’s got to give. It’s self-defeating to keep putting the same players and coaches out there, with shuffled lines and different scratches, and expect different results.

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