Scott Gordon was fired as coach of the New York Islanders on Monday during a 10-game losing streak that left the team at the bottom of the NHL standings.
He was replaced on an interim basis by Jack Capuano, coach of the Islanders’ AHL affiliate. He joins a team that was swept on a three-game California road trip and is 0-9-1 in its last 10 games. His Islander coaching debut is at home Wednesday against Tampa Bay.
Gordon was a relative unknown from the AHL when hired by the Islanders in 2008. In two-plus seasons with New York, Gordon went 64-94-23. He will remain with the organization as an adviser to general manager Garth Snow. This was the last year of Gordon’s contract.
”When we’re in a situation we’re in right now — we’ve lost 10 games in a row — sometimes you have to go with your gut and make decisions that are tough,” Snow said during a conference call.
Snow wouldn’t say how long Capuano would remain coach, not even committing to keeping him for the rest of the season.
”We’re just concerned about Wednesday,” Snow said.
The Islanders (4-10-3) have been ahead in a game only once during the skid, a 1-0 lead at San Jose on Thursday that ended as a 2-1 loss in a shootout. New York started the season 4-2-1 and created optimism when they briefly rose to the top of the Eastern Conference.
But long-term injuries to key forward Kyle Okposo and top defenseman Mark Streit left the low-budget team without much depth.
”We believe we need a change in direction and, with the majority of the regular season still ahead of us, our goal remains to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs,” Snow said. ”Scott has made tremendous strides with our team the past three seasons and I look forward to continuing our relationship in an advisory capacity.”
The Islanders have only 37 goals in 17 games for an average of 2.17. Only New Jersey and Florida have scored fewer.
”The biggest issue with our team right now is offense,” Snow said. ”We obviously have a young group of players with a good group of veterans. Our focus right now is to win a game on Wednesday.”
Capuano was 133-100-8-14 with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He joined the Islanders as an assistant coach for the 2005-06 season after working as general manager of the ECHL’s Pee Dee Pride from 1997-05.
He is familiar with many of the Islanders’ young players who were with Bridgeport before reaching the NHL and from his work with the team during training camp.
”There is a comfort knowing there doesn’t have to be a feeling-out process with our players,” Snow said.
Gordon replaced Ted Nolan as coach after the Islanders failed to make the playoffs in 2008 following a one-year appearance. They didn’t qualify in either of Gordon’s two seasons behind the bench, with the Islanders last in the Atlantic Division both times. They had the NHL’s worst record in 2008-09, enabling them to draft John Tavares with the No. 1 overall pick in 2009.
Gordon was the first coaching hire for Snow, who became the team’s general manager the same day he retired from the Islanders as the backup goalie. Gordon had been the coach at AHL Providence for six seasons before joining the Islanders, winning league coach of the year honors in his final season with the Boston Bruins’ affiliate.
”It’s very disappointing,” Snow said. ”It’s a situation where Scott is an excellent coach and a good friend. It’s been a great experience to work with him the past three seasons.”
Gordon was an assistant coach on the U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team that won a silver medal this year at the Vancouver Games.