The New York Islanders were understandably a little somber on Wednesday afternoon, addressing the departure of Coach Jack Capuano the day before.
In a serious tone, the Islanders reflected on their time with their former and longtime bench boss and that the coaching change was ultimately a reflection on their first half of the season.
"Certainly it was a tough day," John Tavares said. "He'd been here for a while and we were very familiar with him, close with him and had been through a lot together. We take it hard and we should feel a lot of the responsibility."
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But with the Dallas Stars on the horizon Thursday and half a season left to make a playoff push, Interim Head Coach Doug Weight said his job was to push ahead and keep the focus on looking forward.
"I have to forge forward for these guys, I have to be positive and prepared to work and I plan on doing that," Weight said. "All I want to do is help these guys and these coaches and these players get in a position in March that these games are meaningful and we've got that feeling going down our arms, that tingle, that we're in the hunt."
Weight, who'd spent six seasons behind the Islanders bench as Capuano's assistant, said he plans to tweak rather than overhaul the systems. He feels the team has turned a corner after a sub-par start to the year and wants the Islanders to build off of their road trip, where they took two-of-three games.
"I'm certainly not going to reinvent the wheel," Weight said. "We've started playing some good hockey. We've discussed our team for the last 24 hours and we'll continue to do that. I'm just going to demand a hard work ethic and some good decisions -- probably some better decisions moving forward."
"Some teams have begun to come back to us, and we've begun to get some points," Weight added. "Not as consistent as we'd like, but we've started taking a turn and playing some better hockey."
The Islanders backed Weight on Wednesday, asserting their belief in his abilities as a coach. Weight has deep-rooted relationships with the team going back to his playing days. The Interim Coach finished his playing career with the Islanders skating alongside Josh Bailey, Travis Hamonic and John Tavares.
"I've always had a lot of respect for Doug and his mind for the game," Bailey said. "He's been a guy that personally I've relied a lot on over my time here, so I think he's going to make a great coach."
Tavares also lived with Weight for three seasons, including his first two seasons in the league.
"He's just his own person and he's obviously been through a lot and accomplished a lot as a player," Tavares said. "He's probably been in a lot of our shoes at certain points of our careers and his career. There's definitely some of that understanding as a player from that aspect, he's very articulate, understands the game and is very intense. That's what I'm looking forward to seeing from him."
Weight said he didn't envision his playing career transitioning into coaching as quickly as it did - he became an assistant coach the season after retiring as a player - but said he's happy to have the opportunity to take over the Islanders bench.
"I'm going to give everything I have, whether it's five games or 40 games," Weight said. "If that turns into 10 years, we'll talk in 10 years. That's great. I owe it our organization, our ownership, our fans, and most of all these players and the coaches I work with. I'm going to give it my all. I believe in myself. But I'm not looking at it as [an audition]. I'm trying to win tomorrow night."