Weight weighs in on what’s next for Isles
Newly Minted Head Coach Looks to Change ‘Culture’ in 2017-18
Doug Weight readily admits that his “world changed” when he slid over a few spots on the Brooklyn-based Islanders’ bench at Barclays Center on Jan. 19, abandoning his assistant coaching duties to become the team’s interim head coach following the firing of Jack Capuano.
Now comes the really hard part.
“It’s an amazing thing when the buck stops here, so to speak,” confessed Weight during an interview with newyorkislanders.com this week.
“You have to run things and you have to run things in your way,” added Weight, who was promoted to full-time head coach on April 12, three days after New York fell a point shy of reaching the playoffs for a third straight season. “You have to breed that confidence and let people feel your confidence.”
Weight’s confidence certainly appeared to translate to the ice as the Islanders crawled out of the Eastern Conference cellar and posted a 24-12-4 mark under his guidance.
Veterans like Jason Chimera and Andrew Ladd, who had struggled mightily during New York’s first-half malaise, thrived under Weight, as did blooming young prospects like Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Ho-Sang.
Even goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who was demoted to AHL Bridgeport at the turn of the new year, came roaring back in March and went 6-1 between the pipes during the Isles’ furious late-season playoff push.
None of it was enough to get the Isles where they wanted to go, but it did give Weight a better understanding of what it takes to lead an NHL hockey club, rather than just aiding and assisting in that effort from a little further on down the bench.
“There’s times you’re vulnerable I think in any job, and it was new, but I’ve been in the game for 30 years and I think I was prepared and confident and you can get overwhelmed,” he admitted.
“These people know what you’re thinking. They’re experienced enough and you have to have the confidence to make your decisions and to make final decisions and manage your staff.”
He’ll also be busy managing perceptions regarding the Isles’ not-so-distant future.
With news swirling that the team may be headed out of Brooklyn in the next few years, and team captain John Tavares eligible for free agency following the 2017-18 campaign, Weight must keep his players focused on what lies ahead of them on the ice rather than the seemingly constant distractions that exist off it.
And for the first time in his three decades-plus in pro hockey, Weight will be the one calling the shots.
“I’m going to make some changes starting in training camp, starting on our culture, starting on my first words to each player,” he said. “Camp’s going to be tougher than it’s been. Camp’s going to be a different look, and we need to have a better start.”
Weight may have already begun to change the look of the Isles’ bench, reportedly adding former Edmonton teammate Luke Richardson to the staff on Thursday, according to nbcsports.com.
“I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel,” Weight said. “But I have time now and the luxury now of getting ahead of it and doing things the way I want to do it, and it’s just going to be a continuation of what we started to do last year.”
General manager Garth Snow, who has had Weight by his side since 2011, knows that the team’s future lies in its ability to continue to develop the stockpile of high first-round picks it accumulated during some of the franchise’s leaner years on Long Island.
How those players produce under Weight during his first full season as head coach could be a huge influence on Tavares, who is likely to test free agency if Snow can’t get him to ink a long-term contract extension this summer.
“You’ve got to put them in a position to succeed,” Weight said of the franchise’s cache of up-and-coming talent.
“I will say this, I did mention training camp, these guys have got to come, they have to bring it. Our young guys that want to be a part of this, they’ve got to come and misplace people off the roster to start the year.”
Weight certainly doesn’t view having Halak and Thomas Greiss competing for the starting goaltender duties as a problem, despite the fact that New York has another pair of young goalie prospects, Linus Soderstrom in Sweden and Ilya Sorokin in Russia, thriving in Europe.
“To me we have two great goalies,” Weight insisted. “We have two great goalies who are going to be competing from day one. We are going to lead them, challenge them and make them better.
“If you want to talk about winning the Stanley Cup next year, we can win with Thomas, we can win with Jaro. They both know that they like each other, but they are competing against each other.”
Though he readily admits that being the head coach, and handling all that comes with it, can get a bit daunting at times, Weight is eager to face those challenges and take the Isles where they haven’t been since the halcyon days of the 1980s.
“I love the work it takes to coach, the feeling of butterflies because it’s an intimidating job,” he said. “I’m glad I was able to find pleasure in the discomfort because it makes me want to be better.
“Part of me when you’re first going through it, you’re like, ‘I don’t need this, but now I want this, I want to be good at it, I want to be great at it, so that’s why I’m doing it.’”
And doing it quite well thus far.
Isle Have Another: Isles forwards Brock Nelson and Anders Lee, who led the team with a career-high 34 goals this past season, played a major role in Team USA’s 3-0 win over Italy at the IIHF World Championships in Cologne, Germany on Wednesday night. Nelson had a pair of goals and Lee added the other in a 3-0 victory over the Italians, giving Team USA its third straight win since a loss in its opening game of the international tournament. Lee and Nelson each have four points (3 goals, 1 assist) through their first four games with the squad.
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