Practice Can’t Make Islanders Perfect

The Island of Charles Wang has degraded into a second-rate operation where mediocrity would be a step in the right direction. That is why the Islanders blogosphere lit up when it was reported that the team was subjected to a two-hour practice by current head coach/whipping boy Jack Capuano.

"Does anyone here know how to play this damn game?"

With only five wins on the season and the Islanders desperately seeking offense, the coaching staff should push the team to the limit every time they take the ice. This should be the norm, but in Islanders Country it’s cause for a ticker-tape parade. Call it lack of coaching know-how, call it general malaise or just lack of skill — there is a problem with this organization from the very top to the very bottom.

What was most striking about the news of the marathon practice was the players’ reactions. Let’s just say their comments left me with the feeling that the team normally doesn’t practice very hard, if at all. With an anonymous player objecting to the “country club” atmosphere and fans receiving tweets about “optional skates,” it doesn’t take much to see that the coaching staff doesn’t take training seriously. The on-ice results are proof.

The players don’t skate nearly as fast as their opponents and never seem to win a footrace to the puck. Afraid to absorb body checks, I have seen a few players shy away from being the first one in to retrieve the puck. The battle along the boards is a key component to a winning strategy and nobody seems willing to get the job done. Outside of tough guys Zenon Konopka, Trevor Gillies and Matt Martin, the team is sorely lacking in strength, grit and backbone.

The Islanders training staff needs to instill “battle mentality” with the players. When your team has as many wins as your most-hated rival’s backup goalie, two-hour skates should be the rule, not the exception.

In an interview with Newsday’s Katie Strang, defenseman Bruno Gervais sounded as if he had never been pushed by any of his coaches from pee-wee on up.

Bruno Gervais from last season -- where he belongs.

“At first, it’s hard and it kind of shocks you, but it’s good to have your cage rattled once in a while,” said the probably out-of-breath and most likely flushed Gervais.

P.A. Parenteau, whom the Islanders picked up off the Rangers’ scrap heap, did say that the team should have been pushed even harder.

“We probably deserved to practice a little longer and get our a** kicked a little bit,” he said. “We lost 17 out of 18. It’s not fun, no one’s happy about it, but we still believe we have the guys to turn this around.”

That’s the problem P.A., there is a good chance that you don’t have the guys to turn the season around. When the Islanders lost Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit to injuries in September, the script for the 2010-2011 season was written.

This team lacks hockey skills, muscle and leadership. And in the NHL if you are lacking in those key areas, you can skate for five hours per practice, and it still won’t make a difference.

Photos Courtesy of Flickr

The Hockey Writers

  • Bo

    “The battle along the boards is a key component to a winning strategy”. Wise words sir.

  • Jack

    I’d love to know which player said it’s like a country club in there. The Islanders development staff must be a joke. Everyone (including well-respected hockey professionals) are always saying we have great prospects. Well, why aren’r these guys developing and performing like prospects on other teams? This is not a recent thing either. They’ve never developed these guys properly. It was most obvious in the Milbury days when players flourished once they left the island.

    • Steve Mosco

      That’s the biggest problem with the Islanders … it’s not the mediocrity of the players, it’s the maddening mediocrity of the staff behind the scenes. And it’s been that way since the early-mid 90s.