Senators’ Capuano Counted on to Fix Defensive Woes

On June 6, the Ottawa Senators added to their new coaching staff, naming Jack Capuano as the team’s new associate coach. Capuano previously served as the head coach of the New York Islanders from 2010 to 2017 before being relieved of his duties and replaced by Doug Weight. During his six and a half seasons as head coach of the Islanders, he had a record of 227-192-64, and was able to get his team into the playoffs three times.

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However, the Islanders’ struggles to live up to expectations led to Capuano’s mid-season firing during the 2016-17 season. Following his departure from the Islanders, Capuano was hired as the associate coach for the Florida Panthers. He served two seasons with them, but the Panthers would suffer the same fate as the Islanders, and fail to live up to expectations. With the Panthers making the decision to hire Joel Quenneville as their new head coach, Capuano found himself back on the coaching market. The Senators sought a former NHL defenceman as a factor in their coaching criteria, and Capuano soon found himself as the new associate coach of the Senators.

New Senators coach Jack Capuano. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Capuano’s Defensive Impact

Capuano will be taking over the Senators’ defence and penalty kill duties as part of his new role. These are the same tasks that he had while coaching under Bob Boughner in Florida. It’s also a situation that is very similar to his time with the Islanders, where Capuano worked with a young defense corps on a team that didn’t spend close to the NHL’s salary cap. And on a Senators team that struggled in the defensive end and on the penalty kill in 2018-19, he has his work cut out for him.

“He’s played defence, run a defence and run a penalty kill. He is a detailed, hard-working guy who players enjoy working with. We are happy to have Jack here in Ottawa to help with the growth and development of this team.” – D.J. Smith speaking about Jack Capuano

From: ‘ Jack Capuano named Ottawa Senators associate coach’ – Sens Communications – June 6, 2019

Like head coach D.J. Smith, Capuano believes in employing a unit of five, which relies on the three forwards pitching in defensively. Although the Senators’ penalty kill slowly improved as the season went on, it still finished 23rd in the league. He will have to focus his attention on molding the Senators’ young defencemen to continue to improve on their offensive prowess, while also taking more responsibility and accountability in their own end.

Florida Panthers Bob Boughner Jack Capuano
Florida Panthers head coach Bob Boughner (right) and assistant coach Jack Capuano. (Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports)

Promoting Growth of Youth

Jack Capuano joined TSN 1200 for an interview following his hiring by the Senators, and discussed his time as head coach with the Islanders. He mentioned the abundance of young players and draft picks the Islanders had, and that after a year or two, it was “go time.” He stated that the kids worked hard every day, and that he still has great relationships with them. He also stated that he wanted to connect with the Senators’ young talent and develop them, citing Thomas Chabot as one of the players he was excited to work with. He brought up ways he would aim to fix the defence, including working on body positioning, angles, and how players use their stick.

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Capuano has experience nurturing young players, dating back to his time with the Islanders. One such example was during the 2014-15 season. Ryan Strome’s offensive capabilities were evident, but his defensive play needed to be ironed out. Capuano stated that he would continue to press Strome about his play away from the puck and his battles along the edges, as he wanted Strome to play to his full capabilities. Strome had a strong end to his season, putting up 50 points while also earning three Selke Trophy votes.

“It’s all about promoting growth. I also had a lot of young defencemen in Florida. They want to learn. They want feedback. They want honesty. I enjoy working with kids.”

From: ‘Jack Capuano takes on challenge of improving Senators young defence’ – Ottawa Sun – June 6, 2019

Capuano was the mentor for younger players who are now valued and impactful players in the NHL. Players on this list include Josh Bailey, Calvin de Haan, Travis Hamonic, Kyle Okposo, and John Tavares. He was also able to get the most productive seasons out of defencemen like Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk, and Travis Hamonic while he was head coach. Having his primary responsibility revolve around mentoring the Senators’ youth, especially a defense corps led by Chabot, could be massively rewarding if it follows the same trend as his defensive core with the Islanders did.

Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators #72
Thomas Chabot of the Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Capuano a Popular Coach

The most important factors for a coach who wants to earn the trust of his players is to be likable, have a positive attitude, and promote a winning culture. Capuano brings all of this to the table. He also comes highly reviewed by coaches and players alike. Last week, Smith promoted his new associate coach on TSN 1200, saying that he had good personality with the players, and came well recommended from around the league.

“It’s all positive. It’s all to make us better. And it’s in the right way. There’s no negativity. It’s about being firm and up-tempo, and understanding the way we have to do things, the execution, and all those things. He’s honest about it, but it causes better results.” – John Tavares discussing head coach Jack Capuano

From: ‘As Islanders Evolve, Coach Jack Capuano Keeps a Steady Course’ – The New York Times – Jan. 13, 2016
Jack Capuano
Jack Capuano as head coach of the Islanders. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When the Senators set out to find an associate coach, they wanted someone who would be able to stabilize their defensive woes, promote a winning culture, and develop their young players into solid NHL talent. With the hiring of an experienced, defensively driven, and admired coach in Capuano, the Senators are one step closer to reaching their goal.

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