“Fans want answers and solutions. Sometimes, they want a scapegoat. But what do the players want, and how do they want the situation handled?”
In the hockey world, accountability can take many forms. Discussions about accountability can include a goaltender taking blame for a goal against, a coach calling out his players in a press conference, or a player speaking candidly to a reporter about a poor effort. On the other hand, those same discussions can take place behind closed doors – in locker rooms and video meetings, away from media cameras and microphones.
The Islanders 3-2 loss to the Kings this past Thursday was a microcosm of the early 2013-2014 season: Moments of brilliance and flashes of excellence, followed by crushing mistakes leading to a tough loss. This is a team that’s 3-2-1 when holding a two-goal lead at home. It wasn’t the first time fans have seen forty minutes of strong play evaporate in the final twenty.
The loss to the Kings was the Isles’ fifth regulation loss in their last six games. After the game, fans were expecting, maybe hoping, to hear Jack Capuano speak about how poorly the team has played and what they need to do better moving forward. Instead, the Head Coach stuck by his team, saying, “I thought we played pretty good in the third.”
It’s true that Capuano could have handled the press conference differently. He could have spoken about Kevin Poulin not hugging the post on the Kings’ first goal. He could have mentioned Colin McDonald’s head contact penalty that led to the tying goal. He could have told reporters that his team let up and played too conservatively.
He didn’t say any of those things. Does that mean there’s a lack of accountability on this Islanders team from the coaching staff? Fans want answers and solutions. Sometimes, they want a scapegoat. But what do the players want, and how do they want the situation handled?
“It’s always good to keep things in house,” Captain John Tavares said. “Obviously, there are times when we need to challenge each other and the coaching staff is a big part of it. Cap does a good job of recognizing when we’re not playing well and he expects more out of the group.
“When he expects more out of certain guys he handles it face to face, and I think that’s the way to do it,” Tavares continued, “to get guys going and stay confident, have a good relationship and good communication that way, instead of going through his press conferences or through different angles.”
He added, “Especially in our group, a young team, when you’re able to communicate one-on-one it can make a big difference… You see guys respond in more of a positive way.”
Tavares concluded by praising Capuano’s treatment of the team: “He’s always been a good guy to the players. He always wants to feel the heartbeat of the room and the heartbeat of each and every guy. He knows how everyone thinks and what gets guys going. He’s very good that way.”
Matt Martin also spoke about the importance of having a Coach who keeps things close to the vest: “It’s huge. It’s a family in here and he tries to keep everything positive. It’s nice when you don’t have to worry about a coach selling you out to the media.
“He handles everything internally. He’ll hold us accountable but he’ll back us in public 95% of the time. Cappy’s good for that, he’s a good coach and a player’s coach. Now it’s just about winning games for him and proving to him and the coaching staff that this team can get it done.”
Travis Hamonic also spoke in glowing terms about the Head Coach: “We love Cap, we love playing for Cap. He definitely stands up for his players and he’s the best Coach I’ve had.”
The Isles take on the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday at 7PM. Follow @MattSaidman on Twitter for Islanders’ news and updates throughout the day.