Doug Weight wasn’t what you would call enthusiastic when he took over the Islanders head coaching job from Jack Capuano on Jan. 17.
But after a terrific 24-12-4 run that nearly got the last-place team to the postseason, Weight is all in now and the new head coach of the Islanders, having had the interim tag removed on Wednesday.
“I wasn’t lying when I said I was taking it a game at a time and that I was really focused on that playoff race, trying to get the team there,” Weight said on a conference. “I had a good feeling coming out of the year, talked about it a lot with friends, my family, people in the organization. We worked hard at it for two days and I felt it was important to meet with all of my bosses face to face — I believe in that communication, that clarity. By the time we wrapped up (the team) dinner last night I was feeling really good about it, as were they.”
Weight, 46, was clearly general manager Garth Snow’s first choice. Owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky also were on board, and the team moved quickly to answer at least one of the looming question about the franchise after it fell a point short of the playoffs on Sunday.
They chose Weight despite Ken Hitchcock, Darryl Sutter and Lindy Ruff, three of the 10 winningest coaches of all time, being out of work. Hitchcock returned as head coach of the Dallas Stars on Wednesday, but the other two are free agents.
That didn’t concern Snow or the owners.
“For me, Doug had the immediate respect of the players,” Snow said. “In his role as assistant GM and assistant coach, he had a hand in acquiring almost all of our players, so there was a comfort level there when he came in. This was something I was thinking for about the last month of the season.”
Weight said there will be changes behind the bench. No one was hired to the coaching staff when Weight took over for Capuano, so there already is one assistant’s job open. Greg Cronin, Bob Corkum and Matt Bertani, the current assistants, have not been notified of their future, so there could be more openings.
Weight’s standout NHL playing career for five different organizations has made him many friends along the way with coaching experience.
“I want good people that want to work and have a passion to win. We want everything that’s good around our team,” Weight said. “I think we need to improve in certain areas, that’s a focus. No matter who comes in and whether it’s one, two, five, we want people with passion that want to be part of this team.”