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Islanders Look to Doug Weight for ‘spark,’ puck management decisions

The players prep for a different voice after Capuano

New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders
“THIS IS THE PUCK. WE WANT IT.”
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

There’s going to be a lot of talk and a lot of interpretation as we try to figure out what, if anything meaningful, will change with the New York Islanders’ switch from Jack Capuano to Doug Weight as (interim) head coach.

Today’s post-practice media interviews, the first with players since the firing, produced the expected emotions of remorse as well as optimism. These moments always do.

A few nuggets worth pulling out, and one to file away as the rest of the season plays out:

Does Weight See the Isles’ Puck Management Flaws?

General manager Garth Snow had said he didn’t expect much to change with the Isles’ systems, and maybe that is true in the broadest sense of the word. But you wonder if there will be territorial areas of emphasis, such as the neutral zone that has been a black hole for the Isles much of the season.

The Isles concede too much space on defense and don’t sustain enough attacks on offense. Maybe there is a hint in Doug Weight’s comments, first from Newsday’s Arthur Staple:

...and as reported by the Associated Press:

"I'm certainly not going to reinvent the wheel," Weight said. "We're going to tweak some things in certain systems. ... We're going to play the right way, we're going to win games ... We're going to have a little more discipline in managing the puck in certain areas, making some decisions."

That’s of course ultimately general speak — we don’t have a whiteboard here and Weight isn’t about to explain — but a difference can be made in some tweaks in when the Isles hang on to or safe-dump the puck (“managing”) and the decisions they make (i.e. when to do those things).

Weight also spoke of discipline in this area, and rather than “not taking penalties” that likely has to do with the discipline of offering support to the puck carrier and making sure he has better options than the last resort of dumping it.

Weight and Capuano Spoke for Hours

As reported by Christian Arnold at Islanders Insight, the two former colleagues, now fired coach and successor, spoke a lot before parting ways last night:

“It’s a tough business and certainly I got to sit with Cap for two, three hours last night and had a great chat. As everything, he’s handled it awesome.”

Can just imagine those conversations.

Tavares Looks Back, Looks Forward

The captain, John Tavares, also spoke of regret, feeling for Jack Capuano, who to the end never seemed to have players quit on him. Via nhl.com:

"I've got a ton of respect for him," Tavares said. "It was a tough day, because you really feel that burden of him being the guy taking the fall with the way we've played and the way I've played (32 points in 42 games), which just hasn't been good enough. It's tough to see him go with how much he's given to a lot of the players in here, the team, the organization over his tenure. It's been a long time. It's not an easy thing, I think we all felt that.”

But Tavares spoke of what always happens here — looking for a new voice — and since Tavares lived with Doug Weight his rookie year and Weight has been around ever since, he has particular insight on what to expect:

"I think just as a personality, Dougie's a different type of guy," Tavares said. "I don't think that means in a negative or positive way; I think he's just his own person. He's obviously been through a lot, he's accomplished a lot as a player. He's probably been in a lot of our shoes of our careers during his career, so I think there might be some understanding as a player to that aspect. He's very articulate, understands the game and he's very intense. I think that's what we're looking forward to seeing from him."

A bit from Josh Bailey, via the team site:

"I've always had a lot of respect for Doug and his mind for the game," Bailey said. "He's been a guy that personally I've relied a lot on over my time here, so I think he's going to make a great coach."

Strome: Let’s Do This

One guy who’s also looking forward with hope is a player who never could seem to please Capuano. Ryan Strome, here quoted at Islanders Insight:

“I thought Dougie’s message this morning was real inspirational, real lifting,” Ryan Strome said. “Hopefully that can light a spark to our team that for whatever reason we couldn’t find.”

Strome added: “Guys were pretty lifted. Just his passion… Maybe a different voice behind there. Maybe some who sees the game a little differently and he certainly he has a lot of emotion. He cares a lot, so it will be good to have a different voice back there. Not that Cappy wasn’t good or anything like that in any means, but just something new for the group.”

Something old, yet something new.

Strome vs. de Haan

Strome was also, you may have heard, part of a scuffle during practice with Calvin de Haan.

From the AP:

"Just in the heat of the moment, we're doing a lot of battle drills, you know emotions get high," Strome said. "That's where you want them. We're trying hard, we're trying to win. He's a guy that cares, I'm a guy who cares and we're trying to get better. When you put a bunch of grown men on the ice with weapons in our hands, that stuff is going to happen."

Okay. Got that out of your system then.

Hamonic, Ladd, Clutterbuck Still Out

We’ll see how it goes from here on out. The injured Travis Hamonic, Andrew Ladd and Cal Clutterbuck were still out of today’s practice.

Once they return and there are bodies to scratch, lineup decisions will be parsed: Does Anthony Beauvillier escape rookie scratch purgatory? Does Ryan Strome escape the same...and does he play wing or center? Which forwards draw the first scratches? Are there any changes on the defense, which Weight did not run as assistant coach?