Doug Weight provided a scathing, unsparing soundtrack as he showed the most recent game video to his Islanders players on Friday. He then ran an intense practice, breaking up the top line. Finally, he singled out one person in particular for the way the team has stumbled out of the All-Star break.
“It’s on me,” he said.
The coach called the compilation of 20 clips from the 5-0 loss in Toronto on Wednesday “one of the worst films I think I’ve ever shown.”
Referring to sequences such as one in which two Maple Leafs got the better of four Islanders who were basically just standing around, he said, “It makes me ashamed. It makes me sick to my stomach . . . It’s just shameful. They’ve got to hear it. We’ve got to compete.
“What I have to be better at — and our staff, but mainly me — is to find a way to have them compete consistently.”
His message to the players: “You think you’re working hard, but you’re not. You’ve got to challenge yourself.”
One way to get his players’ attention and to generally shake things up for a team that has been outscored 9-1 in two games since the break was to shuffle his top two lines.
Anders Lee and John Tavares, two-thirds of arguably the most successful line in the National Hockey League since the fall, were separated for the first time this season. Lee skated with Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle, and Anthony Beauvillier was moved to left wing with Tavares and Josh Bailey.
“Just a little change, just a little more speed with Johnny. Maybe it’s a period, maybe it’s a game, maybe it’s a couple,” Weight said.
Players were embarrassed by the video they watched and said it energized them for a fast-paced, arduous, spirited practice Friday in preparation for Saturday night’s game against the Blue Jackets at Barclays Center. “I think we need to get back to that and get our energy levels up and get that fire under our seats,” Lee said. “I think we’ve been pretty disappointed and ticked off with the last couple games. I think we showed it out there at practice.
“Obviously, Barzie and Ebbs are two great players, and I think we’re going to have some good things going tomorrow.”
Said Tavares, “Everyone on this team is a good hockey player. They’re here for a reason. Play to your strengths, trust your instincts, try to read off one another. I think that’s the best way to approach it. Don’t try to do too much.”
Weight said he must get tougher, perhaps not be as much of a friend to the players and administer discipline by cutting ice time. He will be tough on himself, too. At least he liked what he saw at practice. “They got their [expletive] chewed,” he said, “and they responded.”