There are a few parallels between the New York Islanders and Dallas Stars. A relatively lethal offense last season, a disappointing result in the playoffs, a window that many felt was opening for both teams to make real strides towards the Stanley Cup, and quite disappointing seasons to date this year.
Both teams find themselves with .500ish records and chasing the second wild card spots in the standings.
Finding themselves eight points out of playoff position and at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the Islanders made a change today: they relieved head coach Jack Capuano from his coaching duties.
The jury is still out on whether this move will work for them. Last season, the Penguins replaced their head coach mid-season and went on to win the Stanley Cup. But for every one of those stories there are dozens of others where the outcome of the season was not influenced by a mid-season coaching change.
General manager Garth Snow spoke with the media today and indicated that Capuano was unlikely to be brought back for next season, so the mid-season relief of his duties allows the team to begin their search for a new coach ahead of other teams that may find themselves looking for a change in head bench boss.
With the Stars just four points out of a playoff position, and obvious flaws on the roster (*cough* goaltending *cough* defense *cough* penalty killing ability *cough*), combined with a mediocre record, there have been calls by many Stars fans to see general manager Jim Nill also consider a coaching change.
I’m not sure that is a move that Nill will consider during the season.
The Stars are within shouting distance of a playoff spot, and have the benefit of a weaker field of competition out West this season than in years past. It doesn’t seem that the possibility of capturing that second wild card spot and making the playoffs is out of reach.
I think that with the expansion draft this summer, and teams more aware of where they are in the standings closer to the trade deadline, there will be options that become available on the trade market to address some of the holes on the roster. That’s likely the route he will take to improve his team if they continue to be close to a playoff spot.
However, after the way this season has gone to date, it would make sense for all avenues of improvement to be examined in the offseason when the full picture of what is available as replacement is clearer — whether that is through trades, through free agency signings, or through coaching changes.