UPDATED at 3:30 pm at bottom with news of Swedish HF approval for Robin Figren.
When Jack Capuano watches his players with the Islanders, the Bridgeport head coach becomes a fan.
"It's fun," Capuano said this morning. "You see a great kid like Jesse (Joensuu) score his first NHL goal in his first NHL game, and it brings a smile to your face."
The success of recent AHL call-ups like Joensuu, Jack Hillen, Joe Callahan and Mike Iggulden is in part the result of a seamless line of communication between Capuano and Islanders head coach Scott Gordon. We spoke with Gordon and Capuano to learn how it has worked from Day One:
sleep 5Scott Gordon: "My first day on the job, I was prepared to share everything with Jack. I wanted him to know everything about the system I was implementing and how it could work with both teams."
Jack Capuano: "I was looking forward to working with Scott. I had a lot of respect for him from coaching against Providence. At our first meeting, he gave me a bit of a homework assignment. He wanted me to prepare a 'pre-scout' report as if I was getting our team in Bridgeport ready to play his team in Providence. I liked that. I think Scott wanted to see how we prepared in Bridgeport. He wanted to see if there were ways we could be in sync to do the best job for the Islanders and Sound Tigers."
Gordon: "Jack does great work. My only recommendation to him was to learn a video editing program I had in Providence. I thought it would make his life so much easier and it would be an excellent teaching tool for him."
sleep 5Capuano: "If you know Scott Gordon, you walk into his office and the guy has three laptops sitting on his desk at the same time. I remember he had a JumpDrive. I was like, 'What the heck is a JumpDrive'? Now I know. Hey, I'm always open to learning. The editing system he recommended has been a godsend for us."
Gordon: "As much as I was prepared to share everything with Jack, you have to give him a lot of credit. He took everything to a higher level. During training camp in Moncton, he had his staff videotape all of our Islanders practices."
Capuano: "My coaches (assistant Pat Bingham and Matt Bertani) and I often had the rookies, so we couldn't always be at Scott's practices. I asked [Sound Tigers PR manager] Kimber Auerbach to record as much of Scott's sessions as possible. If we're going to be consistent in our approach from Bridgeport to the Island, what better way to learn? I wanted to see Scott's drills, but more important, how the system is taught through those drills."
Gordon: "I've said it all year to the press: whenever we call up a player from Bridgeport, I never have to worry about him being in condition and understanding ouy system. That's a credit to Jack, Pat Bingham and Matt Bertani."
sleep 5Capuano: "Scott and I talk almost every day, sometimes more than once a day. He knows from being in the AHL that the one thing I can control more than anything else is the conditioning of our players in Bridgeport. I'm fanatical about it, and I don't just mean on-ice conditioning. We monitor nutrition. I talk to our players about work habits, even sleep habits with the challenging AHL schedule. If you're not in the best shape, you cannot perform at your best. It doesn't help to 'know' a system if you're unable to perform it."
The results are coming in. Capuano's Sound Tigers and Gordon's Islanders - with plenty of Capuano's Sound Tigers - went 5-for-5 this weekend.
"I'm one of their biggest fans," said Capuano, fresh off three wins in three days. "As much as we're trying to win every game in Bridgeport, Pat, Matt and I never lose sight of the fact that our job is to develop players for the Islanders. We see Jesse score in his first game, Jack get that goal against the Rangers or Iggy rack up the assists, and there's a lot of satisfaction in that."
ETC: After back-to-back games, the Islanders did not practice today. Their charter left Farmingdale for Toronto at 2:30 pm with no news of any roster decisions. With Brendan Witt out of NHL timeout, it's expected a dman such as Joe Callahan would be returned to Bridgeport. Nate Thompson may also be close to getting off the injured list, which would result in a forward coming back to Jack Capuano.
UPDATED, 3:30 pm - Islanders prospect Robin Figren has been given the green light by the Swedish Hockey Federation to play for the Sound Tigers.
Expect Figren to primarily practice with the team, as he learns the Islanders system and gets into NHL/AHL shape. Unless the Sound Tigers' depth is tested even more by injuries and recalls, Figren will not see a lot of game action. In fact, the model could be Jesse Joensuu, who only played one game last season for Bridgeport and practiced, practiced, practiced.
Here's our story from last week on Figren.