Doug Weight passed his test with flying colours, and was rewarded Wednesday with a permanent role.
Weight had the “interim” tag removed from his title and was officially been named the head coach of the New York Islanders. He will continue to serve as the team’s assistant general manager under president and GM Garth Snow.
From the outside, this move should improve the Isles’ chances of retaining superstar captain John Tavares beyond 2017-18.
Stepping up from his assistant coaching position to replace the fired Jack Capuano, Weight was named the club’s interim head coach on Jan. 17 — and the players immediately responded.
The Islanders surged team to a 24-12-4 record over the final 40 games after the coaching change and were in playoff contention until the season’s final weekend.
During that span, the Islanders posted the NHL’s second-best record. The club also registered the most hits in the league during that stretch and scored the fourth-most goals (120).
This despite losing Tavares to a lower-body injury on March 31.
Anecdotally, Weight handled the “controversy” of Josh Ho-Sang wearing No. 66 wonderfully. Watch:
“Doug has earned this opportunity from the tremendous work he has put in over the past five seasons in our front office and especially from the time he took over as interim head coach earlier this season,” Snow said.
“His leadership and experiences from both playing and behind the bench are valuable intangibles that not every coach can translate into a winning formula. He’s gained the trust and respect from our entire team, making him the best choice to become head coach.”
A four-time NHL all-star and Olympic silver medallist in his playing days, Weight becomes the 19th head coach in Islanders history.
“I’m honoured to be named head coach of such an historic franchise with one of the most passionate fan bases in the NHL,” Weight said.
“There is a deep history of winning with the Islanders, and I look forward to doing everything in my power to return to the playoffs and have success.”
Weight has long been a fixture in the Isles organization.
Upon retiring as a player on May 26, 2011, Weight was named the club’s assistant coach and senior advisor to the general manager.
“I know how hard he worked, how committed he was, how much he cared about our team,” Tavares said about Weight.
“There’s a comfort level there, instead of someone else coming in. You don’t know how [a coach from the outside] is, how he does certain things.”
That Tavares is a fan of the new coach is key, especially considering Weight holds a front-office position as well.
The 26-year-old centre will enter the final season of a six-year, $33-million contract in 2017-18 and is eligible to sign an extension on July 1.
“You’d like to get something done as soon as possible,” Tavares told reporters this week. “But at the same time it’s a process and we’ve seen other guys go through it where it doesn’t necessarily happen the first day it can happen. I’m just speaking out loud. We’ll see how things go. Like I’ve said before and during the season, I’ve never had to worry about it because it’s just not that time yet.
“At the end of the day, I want to win a Stanley Cup. I think everyone here is absolutely committed to doing that. Hopefully we can work something out and I’m here.”
Speaking to Hockey Central at Noon Wednesday, Weight expressed his love for Tavares, calling him the hardest-working player at practice and a huge presence in the Isles’ room. Weight and Tavares talk two or three times a week.
“I’ve known John since he came into the league. He lived with me for a couple years. I trust him. I trust his extension of our coaching,” said Weight, knowing Tavares’ priority is to sign with a team that can win Stanley Cups.
“We have to prove to him that we’re gonna be the team to do it,” Weight said, “and I’m the coach to do it.”