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Islanders fire coach Jack Capuano in his seventh season

Islanders fire coach Jack Capuano in his seventh season

Stuck in last place in the Eastern Conference, the New York Islanders fired coach Jack Capuano on Tuesday, ending one of the longest tenures in the NHL.

General manager Garth Snow named assistant GM/coach Doug Weight as Capuano’s interim replacement in the hopes that a new voice could provide a spark for his struggling team. The Islanders are 17-17-8 and their 42 points are the fewest in the East, leading to Snow making the move for the short and long term.

“Obviously we’re not in a position where we want to be standing wise,” Snow said on a conference call Tuesday. “At the end of the day organizationally I don’t think Jack was probably going to be a coach that we were going to bring back.”

The Islanders went 227-194-64 in seven seasons under Capuano and made three playoff appearances. Last spring, Capuano led them to their first playoff series victory in 23 years.

They’re 8 points back of the final playoff spot this season despite beating the Boston Bruins 4-0 on Monday. Snow said the halfway point of the season played a role in the timing of firing Capuano, who took the fall for New York’s underachieving performance.

“I don’t know that Jack fell short of expectations,” Snow said. “I think when you’re a coach in this league sometimes you’re a victim of different circumstances.”

Snow signed Andrew Ladd to a $38.5 million, seven-year contract in July and the winger has been a disappointment with 12 points in 41 games. The Islanders have also dealt with some injuries and waived veteran goaltender Jaroslav Halak to send him to the minors.

The team is under new ownership with Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin, and that group is expected to consider major organizational changes this off-season. Snow said he takes “100 per cent” responsibility for the underachievement but that he doesn’t worry about his own job security.

“I don’t think there’s a player on our roster who I haven’t had a hand in either drafting, picking up off waivers, a trade, a free agent signing,” Snow said. “Same with the staff, whether it’s trainers, coaches, scouts. Obviously not hiding from the fact that it starts with me.”

Snow named Capuano interim coach in November 2010 and stuck with him to lead the Islanders through a rebuilding process. Capuano was the fourth-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins, Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks and Dave Tippett of the Arizona Coyotes.

Capuano’s 482 games and 227 wins rank second in franchise history behind four-time Stanley Cup-winning Hall of Fame coach Al Arbour. Snow said the organization owed Capuano a ton of gratitude for his contributions.

Yet Snow acknowledged the old adage that it’s easier to fire a coach than to make sweeping roster changes midseason, especially in a salary-cap world, and expressed confidence in Weight, his assistants and players to “turn this ship around.”

Weight, 45, has been with the Islanders in an executive and coaching capacity since retiring in 2011. Snow said his relationship with all players, including Ladd, was positive and that he called captain John Tavares and others to inform them of the “organizational decision” to fire Capuano.

“Obviously with the career he’s had in the game of hockey at all different levels, the success he’s had behind the bench as an assistant coach, the work he’s done with me in the front office, he’s well-respected by everyone in that room,” Snow said of Weight.

Snow said assistant coach Bob Corkum would move down from the press box to the bench as part of the restructuring. And he expects Capuano, who had been with the organization since 2005-06, to do well in his next job.

“I know he’s going to have success wherever he ends up,” Snow said. “Whatever manager or president or owner that ends up hiring him, they’re going to get a tireless worker that he’s a winner. I appreciate everything he’s done.”

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Follow Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno .

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press