Doug Weight earned his promotion as New York Islanders head coach this offseason after garnering the second-best record in the NHL after his appointment. Although the Isles failed to make the playoffs, the contributions he got out of several players was immense. Using their secondary scoring and some hot play from Anders Lee and John Tavares, the blue and orange thrived.
By missing the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by just one point, it’s clear they have potential. With a host of youngsters and his core under contract, Weight can continue his work next season. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t face some challenges though. From a lackluster power play to inconsistent defense, Weight and the Islanders have a ton of work ahead.
Fix the Power Play
As one of his responsibilities as the assistant coach, the power play was ranked near the bottom of the league. Many were surprised when Weight got the interim coach tag in January because of that. The power play continued to languish with Weight behind the bench, even when the team won. It was easily one of the reasons why the team failed to make the postseason. The Islanders will challenge for the last two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference if it’s fixed. Weight must find a way to get it done with the man advantage. Garth Snow could help though by bringing up Ryan Pulock to man the point.
Get Significant Contributions From Beauvillier and Ho-Sang
These two are the Islanders’ most exciting prospects for a variety of reasons. Beauvillier has the ability to be the two-way center the Isles sorely miss after the departure of Frans Nielsen. Ho-Sang, on the other hand, is a fantastic playmaker that is excellent at moving the puck around. Together, they can do great things, if given an opportunity. That has to happen in 2017-18. Beauvillier and Ho-Sang, paired with just about anyone from Brock Nelson to Ryan Strome, could be an energetic third line that gets a ton of playing time. The team’s secondary scoring got the Islanders pretty close to a playoff spot last season. This upcoming season it could cement a postseason birth for the club.
Tame the Two-Headed Monster in Net…if it Stays That Way
If Jaroslav Halak is a member of the Islanders next year, Weight must get him in as many games as possible. If not for Halak’s late-season hot streak, the Islanders season ends two weeks earlier. Thomas Greiss must be accommodated too. He proved he can kill it in a 40-45 game season. Even with J-F Berube most likely testing free agency, making sure Weight’s two other goalies stay sharp will be a challenge. Halak is on the last year of his contract and Greiss’ has an affordable one. Either one can be traded to make room for Ilya Sorokin or Linus Soderstrom. With that in mind, they must be consistently showcased.
Play 60 Minutes, Every Night
The Islanders should have won a dozen games last season that they didn’t. They didn’t get it done in a variety of ways – including on the power play, turnovers in their own zone and at times, sub-par goaltending. If they win one of those 12 games they’re in the playoffs now playing the Washington Capitals. If they can find a way to tighten up their entire game, they’ll be a playoff team.