The Islanders made their first major decision of the offseason, removing the interim tag from coach Doug Weight and making him the head man for next season.
Weight replaced Jack Capuano on January 17th, with the Islanders at 17-17-6 (I think) and at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Over the next 40 games, Weight righted the ship and got more out of a few players that had clearly stopped responding to Capuano. The team fought back into playoff contention and still had hopes going into the final week of the season, winning six games in a row. But earlier defeats were too much to overcome and the Islanders missed the cut by one lousy point.
#Isles went 24-12-4 under Weight (.650). -- that's a 106.6 point pace over a full season. Congrats to Doug! #NHL— Eric Hornick (@ehornick) April 12, 2017
Via the official site:
"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."
Time will tell if the move is the right one for the longterm. But as of right now, Weight gets the GOOD HOCKEY MAN Seal of Approval from the hockey media, which is something the Islanders don’t often receive.
Doug Weight went 24-12-4 as head coach of the Islanders. They have now officially named him the head coach. Good move.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) April 12, 2017
Ex-Oiler Doug Weight announced as New York Islanders head coach. Did a whale of a job as interim.— Terry Jones (@sunterryjones) April 12, 2017
I have to think that Doug Weight staying on as coach will benefit the Islanders in their contract negotiations with John Tavares.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) April 12, 2017
Of course, we can’t talk about Weight’s interim success without also mentioning the dude is a helluva quote and made post-game press conferences must-see TV.
In their exit interviews on clean out day, the players all uniformly praised Weight’s methods and influence in the room. It’s clear they wanted him as their coach next season. Now they just need to perform in the same way over 82 games that they did over the last 40.
"I think 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 it," John Tavares said. "So a lot of guys responded individually as well. I think he did a great job of handling the group and there’s a lot of respect for Dougie. So, yeah, I mean, he was great for me as well, challenged me and tried to put me in a position to succeed individually. So, yeah, I thought he did a great job."
The decision isn’t surprising given the results Weight got from the players and his relationships with everyone in the organization. Obviously, we’re all hoping this is the right call. But Islanders fans - who hold grudges like old Sicilian mafioso - won’t forget that Darryl Sutter, Lindy Ruff and Ken Hitchcock were also available at the same time.
But that’s a debate for another time. For right now, we look forward to more wins and great sound bites from Weight.