Two weeks ago, Lou Lamoriello, the New York Islanders’ president of hockey operations and general manager, relieved Doug Weight of his coaching duties. Weight, along with former general manager Garth Snow, will remain within the organization but Weight’s days as the team’s head coach are over.
There were a lot of ups and downs throughout the season-and-a-half Weight was the head coach for the Isles, but, as Lamoriello says, a “culture change” was needed. The Islanders are reportedly looking to have a new head coach by the 2018 NHL Entry Draft which begins this Friday in Dallas, Texas.
On Jan. 16, 2017, the New York Islanders defeated the Bruins 4-0 in Boston, and, for the first time in a while, they were back at NHL .500 with a 17-17-8 record. The following day the Islanders announced that they had fired their head coach of seven seasons, Jack Capuano, and named assistant coach Doug Weight the interim head coach.
At the time of the firing, the Islanders were 28th in the NHL, 15 points back of the New York Rangers for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Doug Weight Era Begins
Weight made his head coaching debut on Jan. 19 in Brooklyn as the Isles posted yet another shutout, this one coming over the Stars by a score of 3-0. From that point on, the Islanders never looked back and went on a second-half surge that saw them miss out on the playoffs by just a single point.
With Weight as the bench boss, the Islanders went 24-12-4, tied for the second-best record in the NHL over that time span. The Islanders also finished out the season on a six-game winning streak in which four of the games were do-or-die scenarios where being mathematically eliminated from postseason contention was at risk.
Shortly after the season had ended, the Islanders announced that they had removed the interim tag and officially named Weight their head coach. However, the 2017-18 version of Weight’s Islanders looked completely different from the one we saw during the second-half of the 2016-17 season.
The Difference a Year Makes
Before the season had started, everything seemed to be looking up. Josh Bailey and Anders Lee were coming off their best seasons to-date, Jaroslav Halak looked to have regained his mojo in goal after being banished to Bridgeport for most the season, and the Islanders had a ton of young players who looked more than ready to make the jump.
Then on opening night, Josh Ho-Sang and Ryan Pulock were healthy scratches over their likes of Jason Chimera and Dennis Seidenberg in what was an eventual 5-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. This seemed like a contradictory move considering what Weight told Brian Compton of NHL.com during the preseason.
FWIW, Doug Weight told me this morning he's willing to sit veterans if the kids are outplaying them. #Isles
— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) September 27, 2017
Instead, as the season went on, Ryan Pulock, Josh Ho-Sang, and even Anthony Beauvillier were either given barely any ice-time, a seat in the press box, or a trip down to Bridgeport. All of this while the then 38-year-old Jason Chimera continued to play the first 24 games without a goal.
Even later in the season when the Islanders had little to no chance of making the playoffs, the team refused to re-call Ho-Sang. They even kept Sebastian Aho on the roster as a healthy scratch before deciding that if they weren’t going to play him, they might as well send him down to the AHL.
Accountability is a keyword within the Islanders organization but it ironically only applied to a select few. Ho-Sang, for example, was bashed for his turnovers and the team claims that is why he was sent down to the Sound Tigers. However, the team had the sixth-most turnovers in the NHL last season (920) and allowed the most goals per game (3.57).
In addition to questionable lineup decisions, there were also eyebrow-raising coaching decisions. During the preseason, Weight introduced a new defensive strategy focused on letting their goaltenders see the puck more and it backfired completely. The team allowed a league-worst 35.6 shots on goal per game and that resulted in allowing the most goals, 293.
When officially named head coach, Weight was allowed to pick his coaching staff. He elected for experience and friends who he trusted, hiring Luke Richardson to be an assistant coach (1,417 NHL games, coached in the Ottawa Senators’ organization). Sticking with that theme, he hired Kelly Buchberger (two-time Stanley Cup champion, 1,182 NHL games, coached within the Edmonton Oilers’ organization) as well as Fred Brathwaite to be the team’s goaltending coach. All three played with Weight in Edmonton.
Weight decided to keep penalty-kill coach Greg Cronin behind the bench for a fourth-straight season, switching his position from assistant to associate coach. In addition, he brought in Scott Gomez (1,079 NHL games, 756 points, two-time Stanley Cup champion) to be an eye-in-the-sky (watch the game from the stands rather the bench) and to run the team’s power-play.
Cronin’s penalty-kill finished at a league-worst 73.2 percent but to his credit, the Gomez hiring turned out great as the Islanders’ power-play finished at 23.2 percent, the sixth-best percentage in the League. According to Arthur Staple of The Athletic, Lamoriello has already relieved Cronin of his duties.
Weight also helped find what was arguably the best top-six in the NHL last season, with Lee, John Tavares, and Bailey on the first line and Anthony Beauvillier, Mathew Barzal, and Jordan Eberle on the second-line.
All in all, Weight’s tenure as the head coach of the New York Islanders will be remembered in two parts. During the 2016-17 season, he was the savior that nearly did the impossible by bringing the Islanders from 28th place to a point out of the playoff spot. Last season, he was the coach that refused to play his younger players despite it being in the team’s best interests. Either way, the team missed the playoffs both seasons and clearly, those results weren’t to Lamoriello’s liking.