The scene was the Barclays Center press conference room. Standing in front of the Islanders backdrop, Jack Capuano bared his frustrations with his team to a room of reporters.
It was a moment that, honestly, could have taken place in October or November or December.
“We signed some guys for reasons,” Capuano said after the Islanders’ 2-1 loss to the Panthers on Jan. 11, according to the New York Post. “We want to give those guys an opportunity.”
Without mentioning Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera by name, Capuano was calling out the team’s July 1 free agent signings. In the loss to the Panthers, Ladd recorded two shots in 14:40 of ice time while Chimera committed a two-minute minor in 9:45.
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“There are some other guys, too — you can say the veteran guys, but there are a few of the young guys; you watch the game tonight—they were non-factors. What you need to do right now, in the time that you’re in this game right now, you have to come to the rink and you have to be a difference-maker. If you don’t have that mindset to be a difference-maker, knowing it’s a crucial time with games in hand, to play like you played tonight, then you’re in the wrong profession as an athlete,” said Capuano, who saved his most telling statement for his team’s performance in the second period.
“Probably the worst second period we’ve played all year. We had no rhythm, no execution,” Capuano said. “Certain guys should have stayed in the room.”
Actually, it was a moment that, honestly, did take place in November when Capuano criticized his team and his players for non-performance.
And like he did previously, Capuano threatened lineup changes.
“There are guys that will be out of the lineup next game, no doubt about that,” Capuano said. “It’s the accountability of the coaching staff to do what they have to do.”
But when the team took to the ice Friday night in South Florida for the second half of the home-and-home, it was Stephen Gionta, Scott Mayfield and Shane Prince who were scratched. The next night in Raleigh, N.C., Gionta and Prince were scratched, while Johnny Boychuk missed the game with an upper body injury, according to Newsday.
It would be easy to say that Capuano should bench Ladd and Chimera, but professional hockey is not a meritocracy. Especially a league in which the performers are well-compensated and teams have to abide by the auspices of a salary cap. Like the NHL. Like the Islanders.
Calling up the organization’s young talent from AHL Bridgeport to provide a jumpstart seems like a non-starter. LW Michael Dal Colle has 16 points (eight goals and eight assists) in 36 games, even though he does have 12.3 percent shooting percentage. RW Josh Ho-Sang also has 16 points (three goals and 13 assists) in 31 games, but was a disciplinary scratch Saturday. Mike Ashmore of the Trentonian tweeted the following quotes from SoundTigers coach Brent Thompson after the game: “It was a decision that had to be made. Unfortunately, he was late. When you’re late, just like anyone else, you get fined or held out and not allowed to play. You can’t change the rules for him.”
In the interim, it appears as if Groundhog Season will continue unabated for the Islanders.