• Elite Hockey Experience

Capuano's job in jeopardy?


No team has exemplified the traits of bad “puck luck” more than the Florida Panthers this season. Indeed, the Elite Hockey Experience franchise suffered a staggering 17 overtime or shootout losses. The league average? 6.

But even if Florida met the league average and added those 11 additional points to their total, the Panthers would still be 12 points out of the play-offs with 13 games to go.

So it's fair at this point to raise a question about the future of head coach Jack Capuano.

Capuano has been with the EHE squad since its inception, compiling an over-all regular season record of 197-179-46. The team has qualifed for the post-season just once, winning the opening round against the Columbus Blue Jackets in 7 games, then getting swept in the second round by the Boston Bruins.

The 2018-19 season was supposed to represent another stepping stone forward, but instead the team finds itself bottom-five in the over-all standings and likely just a few games away from being mathematically eliminated from the play-offs.

“That's not on Cappy,” said Florida General Manager Jeff Kuntz. “That's mostly on me.”

Kuntz says that by dealing away Ryan Suter, Mats Zuccarello, Brandon Montour, Jasper Fast and Mikael Granlund so early in the season, he knew the team would have an uphill battle to qualify for the post-season. The GM knows he made Capuano's job extremely difficult.

“But when you look at what we got back – Lindholm and Domi for starters. Then take the 5 first round picks and very recently drafted prospects, 3 second round picks and prospects, and a couple thirds, and add those to our existing prospect pool and we've set ourselves up for sustained success for years to come,” said Kuntz.

Lindholm and Domi will certainly help the Panthers after improving so much this season, but Kuntz knew they wouldn't provide a tremendous amount of help in 2018-19.

As for Capuano's fate?

“I knew what my plan would be coming in this season and I knew Jack was the right person behind the bench to execute the plan. I'll also say that if I evaluate the coaching market right now, there's no one I would be in a hurry to bring in here,” said Kuntz, adding, “In the off-season we'll evaluate Jack's performance and how we would expect him to do with the team we plan to construct going forward and go from there. I would not say that Jack is on the hot seat but he's going to be evaluated like every other facet of the team.”

Capuano has the remainder of this season as well as next on his contract. If the Panthers were to move on from him over the summer, it would cost them $1,200,000. Under the CBA, Capuano must now finish the 2018-19 season as Florida's head coach.

A new GM often does mean a new head coach will be brought in as the GM usually wants “his guy” behind the bench. But for the time being, Kuntz isn't giving any indication that Capuano will be replaced for next season.