Weight named 19th head coach in Isles history
Interim Tag Dropped Following New York’s Second-Half Comeback
We don’t have to wait any longer to find out if interim head coach Doug Weight will be back behind the Islanders’ bench next season.
Just three days after they were officially eliminated from postseason contention for the first time in three years, the Islanders officially named Weight the 19th head coach in the storied history of the franchise Wednesday morning.
“Doug has earned this opportunity from the tremendous work he has put in over the past five seasons in our front office and especially from the time he took over as interim head coach earlier this season,” Isles team President and general manager Garth Snow said.
“His leadership and experiences from both playing and behind the bench are valuable intangibles that not every coach can translate into a winning formula,” Snow added. “He’s gained the trust and respect from our entire team, making him the best choice to become head coach.”
Weight, a former Islanders captain during the twilight of his playing days, took over a team that was headed nowhere fast on Jan. 19.
New York was a mediocre 17-17-8, and at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings when it decided to part ways with long-time head coach Jack Capuano.
But under Weight’s guidance, the Isles took off like a rocket down the stretch, posting a 24-12-4 record, including a season-ending six-game winning streak, to finish just one point behind Toronto for the final postseason spot in the East.
Though he’s still dealing with the pain of falling shy of his ultimate goal, Weight is eager to get right back to work, insisting that better days are ahead for his players and the loyal Blue and Orange-clad fans at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
“I’m honored to be named head coach of such an historic franchise with one of the most passionate fan bases in the NHL,” Weight said.
“There is a deep history of winning with the Islanders and I look forward to doing everything in my power to return to the playoffs and have success.”
Weight, a 46-year-old Michigan native, spent almost two decades on the ice with the arch rival Rangers, who drafted him 34th overall back in 1990, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks and the Isles.
He was New York’s captain at the Nassau Coliseum from 2009-’11 before retiring due to a back injury with 1,033 career points, including 278 goals.
Snow immediately hired Weight as an assistant coach and special advisor to the GM, and he served capably in both roles until the Isles opted to relieve Capuano of his duties following the team’s mediocre-at-best start this year.
Weight’s impact on the Isles was immediate, as previously struggling veterans like free-agent newbies Jason Chimera and Andrew Ladd began to flourish, catapulting New York right back into the thick of the playoff race.
“He came in and did a great job,” said Ladd, who potted 15 of his 23 goals after Weight seized control. “Right off the hop, he gave us confidence. For me, he was very honest and up front about everything and the way everyone played as a group. I think we kind of fed off that and wanted to work hard for him.”
“I think he knows how to talk to individuals rather than talk to teams,” added Chimera after finishing with a career high-tying 20 goals. “Nowadays, you’re coaching individuals, you’re not coaching teams. You have to get the best out of each person.”
The Isles were in control of their postseason destiny as late as March 24, when they rallied for a dramatic 4-3 shootout victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins in Pittsburgh.
But New York dropped its next three contests to lose its tenuous grasp on a playoff spot, something it never recovered despite reeling off six consecutive wins to cap the campaign, including Sunday’s 4-2 triumph in Ottawa.
The bitter taste of falling short of the postseason despite a furious push should linger with Weight and his players as they begin to make preparations for their upcoming third season in our fair borough.
But it should also hearten those who saw how well the team responded to its new leader.
“You saw what he brought to the team and really sparked the great finish we had to the season and gave us a great opportunity to make [the playoffs],” team captain John Tavares said as the Isles cleared out their lockers at Barclays on Monday.
“A lot of guys responded individually as well. I think he did a great job at handling the group. We have a lot of respect for Dougie.”
New York posted the second-best record in the league after Weight assumed his new position, and also tallied the fourth-most goals (120) in the NHL over that span.
Most importantly, the former four-time NHL All-Star now has a locker room filled with players who believe deeply in his ability to carry this franchise back into serious Stanley Cup contention.
“One of the first things is the respect that he commands when he walks into a locker room,” veteran defenseman Travis Hamonic said of Weight.
“It’s not demanded, it’s just there.”
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