A GM who builds his team based on analytics best practices and drafts conducted by their Director of Analytics since 2006 is bound to piss off an old-time coach eventually. When the pressure built last season there were rumblings of a discord between Capuano and internal staff. There was also blowback from players on Capuano’s methods. Overall, most veteran players liked Jack Capuano, but they did not like some of the items coming from him as they struggled last season. We can only assume it wasn’t very pretty this season, as well.
We saw the result of these as we called Cappy’s non-analytics moves as Cappylytics, which also helped sink his ship this season. The fact is that this fundamental split was shown when Cappy ran out of coach skill-set and options on how to get players to perform. He reverted to old ways… and Garth Snow and the hockey operations brain-trust wanted the “new”. Had Cappy bought-in and not feared that move, he would still have a job.
That right… when it came down to it, Cappy failed to buy-in. He hadn’t really bought in since the 2014-15 season. How it was left that way to persist will be a head scratcher for a long time.
Garth Snow placed a warning that he believed in this roster only a few weeks before Capuano’s dismissal. This was writing on the wall to change or at least revert methodology. Jack failed to believe in the message, just as he failed in key moments in the last few seasons.
Capuano was convinced he had less to work with as compared to other teams. This mistrust seemed to trickle down to those kids who were expected to expand performance. Lack of trust erodes confidence, and Cappy’s habit in punishing for mistakes seemed to add to this. Lack of trust led to lack of use. Lack of use led to lack of development in key personnel this season and the last one.
The Islanders failure to get Ryan Pulock more involved last season led to him being used in the AHL this season. In the playoffs, where you need your best skill players, Ryan Strome sat in favor of lesser skill vets.
All the warning signs were clanging like a gong.
Capuano was also frustrated in not having much say in free agents. This in lieu of Ladd and Chimera’s resurgence really speaks volumes. Chimera is on pace for 20 goals, and Ladd 20 to 25, BOTH from 3rd line play.
No, the UFA period was not kind to the Isles, especially in the first few months. But this was just a small part of what was failing. Coaching philosophy was failing badly. The Isles were eroding fr0m within due to the deep schism between coach philosophy not meshing with team make-up and analytical philosophy.
Since Capuano’s dismissal, we have seen more than just the usual coaching change bump. The style and philosophy have adjusted and led to better overall play. It shows that it was skill-sets of the previous coach and lack of buy-in at key pivotal junctures that really was the failure.
What is the new?
We saw it in 2014-2015, with high possession style and run/gun play. Somewhere along the line, about the start of 2015-2016 season, Capuano changed the style of play to a far more careful plodding style… and the wheels began to fall off. There seemed to be a fearful and careful philosophy pervading from the coach staff. This season, the wheels floated off with other pieces…. And it wasn’t until he got the axe where the team then began to revert to that style once again.
This is NOT a coincidence.
Doug Weight might yield some hype here, but make no mistake about it.. it isn’t just Doug Weight that deserves accolades. This team is now re-employing the items that made 2014-15 a success. The team is now utilizing the best skill-sets and style to how this team was drafted and crafted. Fancy
The real question is what took so long for Garth Snow to make this very necessary and needed move? Truth is, this should have been down 4-6 weeks ago. If they had, they wouldn’t be just playing catch-up.
Loyalty played a factor here, and the fact that Garth Snow is far too much a team guy, as a former player. Sometimes you need cold hard calculations. They need to buy-in to the cold hard analytics to show how it matches the team trajectory.
Now the team is forechecking. Centers now come down low, and they are now making shorter passes into the slot. The result has been scoring. They still need the goalie to buckle down and get the high danger shot save percentage up. Greiss is still below last year’s numbers. This is how the Carolina game skated away… despite outplaying their opponent.
The more the high danger save percentage level is held and increased by the starting goalie, the better the team will be to holding leads or keeping games close. If you follow me on twitter, you have heard me citing this issue for weeks. It is key for this season.
Player Performance and Trades on the Horizon?
In the meantime, player performance is increasing. Anders Lee is showing to be a top line wing and scorer currently on pace for 30+ goals. Josh Bailey, a constant Isles fan goat, is performing like the 9th pick overall and more, on pace for 55+pts as a top line playmaker. He also leads the team in 1st assists.
In fact, with the top line performing, it might show that the Isles look for a player to plant on the 2nd line via a trade so they can get scoring from other places. This will really throw the “get an elite player for JT” crowd for a loop.
This seems more likely than just adding a top wing. This is why a Center like Matt Duchene might be their best option.
Most teams have their elite players split to two lines. Go across the NHL to see this in action. Malkin and Crosby play together, right? Nope. They run as a one-two punch on separate lines. In fact, only really Anaheim places elite players on the same line. Almost 80-85% of NHL teams have their elite players separated.
The problem is the cost of Duchene… who the Avs are auctioning off hoping that teams overpay. Expect the Islanders to have a solid offer. Will it be the best offer in lieu of other deals on the table???? That is where the question really is.
The cost of an elite player is an NHL player, top prospect, and 1st round pick…. especially at the trade deadline. So if Avs want D, they could be interested in Travis Hamonic, but you can bet your bottom dollar they also want Matthew Barzal. This will be a stiff cost if that happens. Barzal is considered a future 2nd line center and elite playmaker. You could also see Hamonic, Ryan Strome, and the 1st round pick being possible (1st round pick looks like a must for any trade with the Avs).
Some might be all for this… but let me warn you that this might be a severe overpayment if Strome, now that the coach has been changed, reverts to the .5 point a game player he was back in 2014-15. And what if Colorado wants Hamonic, Strome, AND Barzal. Oooph.
The cost of one player cannot eat away and create weaknesses elsewhere. The Isles simply CANNOT afford to lose two top 6 players, a top 4 dman, and only gain 1 player even if elite. That cost hurts too much.
Ryan Strome has 8pts in his last 7 games. If they Isles truly believe he will go back to his 50pt per season level and build out… then he should NOT be dealt along with a top prospect like Barzal. Duchene allows someone like Barzal to develop at a natural rate. One can go, but the Isles cannot afford both.
This could be an interesting trade deadline, but beware the costs of doing business. This is not a cup level team by any stretch of the imagination. Those teams willing to overpay will be cup or bust. At the trade deadline, this is almost always the case.