Doug Weight didn’t mince words during his three months as interim Islanders head coach. Now two months into his tenure as the team’s full-time head coach, Weight is still telling it bluntly.
“It’s an important three weeks for our organization, no doubt,” Weight said Thursday during a phone interview. “We want to get better, not take a step back.”
Weight has been putting in the hours since he was named coach on a permanent basis April 12. He’s already added two assistant coaches, Luke Richardson and Scott Gomez, and will be adding a third in Kelly Buchberger next month. He’s been brainstorming plans to change everything from how meetings are held to the structure of training camp to how practices will be run this coming season.
And, in his holdover role as assistant general manager, he’s been closely involved with GM Garth Snow and the rest of the front office about these next few weeks, when the expansion draft, the NHL draft and free agency come up.
“I’ve mapped out a lot of it,” Weight said. “I’m a writer, I’ve got two or three books of ideas. You go from thinking about how training camp will run to the season, how to get the most out of players and how to fulfill the coaches’ duties. You have to take advantage of practice times. With the Olympics looking like they’re drifting, that’s going to mean more practice for us. Every minute has to be used wisely. We want the guys to come off the ice saying, ‘Holy cow, these guys are prepared.’ ”
Weight interviewed a dozen candidates for coaching spots and found his two newest assistants in different ways. He’s known Richardson since the two longtime NHLers were teenagers; Gomez was more of a professional acquaintance that Weight didn’t think was interested in making the jump to coaching so soon after his playing career ended.
“Luke’s an unreal guy, father, friend,” Weight said. “The fact he coached four years in [AHL] Binghamton is key. I have confidence in myself, but I know I’ve coached 40 games in this league. He gets it. We talk all the time about how to communicate with the young guys today.
“Gomer, I just reached out to him to pick his brain a little, I didn’t have expectations he’d be on the staff. Three meetings later, here we are. With his age, so recently removed from the game, I expect he’ll be down in the [locker] room a lot. He’s excited, he’s energetic . . . You look for the fire in the belly with players and it’s no different with coaches.”
Weight added that Greg Cronin, a fellow assistant under Jack Capuano, will be returning. “He was integral for me the second half of the season,” Weight said of Cronin, who ran the defense and the penalty kill but will likely have a new role.
Who the new staff will work with is now the big question. The Islanders will lose one player in the June 21 expansion draft to Vegas and are looking to upgrade the top end of their forward group, likely with the depth they have on defense.
“We have a strength,” Weight said. “We have good players on defense and we have good numbers there. There’s teams that need things we have and there’s teams that have things we need . . . To add a high-end skill player on the offensive side, that’s something we think about.”
Weight has been keeping John Tavares in the loop on many of the coach’s ideas. Tavares is eligible to sign an extension on July 1 and he and Weight are close.
“He’s our captain and our best player,” Weight said. “He’s also mature and intelligent about the game and all he wants to do is win. This isn’t about appeasing — he has a great hockey mind. I’d be crazy not to bounce things off him.”