Before news broke that Doug Weight would shed the interim tag and become the 19th head coach in New York Islanders history, a number of Islanders publicly endorsed the coach.
John Tavares, Andrew Ladd and Travis Hamonic were just some of the Islanders who spoke highly of Weight at clean out day after the coach took the Islanders from last place to the brink of the playoffs
"You saw what he brought to the team and really sparked the great finish we had to the season and gave us a great opportunity to make it," Tavares said. "A lot of guys responded individually as well. I think he did a great job at handling the group. We have a lot of respect for Dougie."
The Islanders went 24-12-4 after Weight was named interim head coach on Jan. 19, recording the second-best record in the National Hockey League with 24 wins and 52 points. The Islanders also scored the fourth-most goals (120) during that span, following up on Weight's promise to play more in the offensive zone.
Video: Isles Clean Out Day: John Tavares
Individually, a number of Islanders had a strong second half to the season. Tavares returned to nearly a point-per-game pace with 34 points (12G, 22A) in 35 games after recording 32 points in 42 games to start the season. Anders Lee scored 31 points (19G, 12A) in 39 games, while Ladd scored 15 of his 23 goals under Weight.
"He came in and did a great job," Ladd said. "Right off the hop he gave us confidence. For me he was very honest and up front about everything and the way everyone played as a group. I think we kind of fed off that and wanted to work hard for him."
Weight's communication style was brought up by the players on clean out day. The coach had two meetings with Tavares per week and a Sunday phone call, as well as a series of individual meetings with players during the second half. The Islanders said they appreciated the coach's blunt, honest, but encouraging style. They also appreciated his upbeat personality around the rink - he's not just the fiery personality sometimes seen behind the bench.
"[He was] straight up honest about the way we need to play and was holding guys to that standard," Ladd said. "On top of that, he's a guy that brings a good attitude to the rink and brings some excitement every day, whether it's practice or a game day, he's excited to be at the rink and try to get better. That has a way of rubbing off on everybody and I think the guys enjoyed that."
Jason Chimera echoed the sentiment, saying Weight connected with the players as individuals.
"I think he knows how to talk to individuals rather than talk to teams," Jason Chimera said. "Nowadays you're coaching individuals, you're not coaching teams, you have to get the best out of each person. The way they move, what makes them tick, he knows he's pretty in tune with that. How he treats me is different from how he treats [Ryan Strome] or [Brock Nelson] or how he treats Johnny. He treats everyone as an individual and tries to get you going individually. That's a strength he has."
Weight was just as honest with the team. He was up front with the team about their place in the league when he took over, posting the standings daily in the locker room. When the Islanders were in last place in the Eastern Conference, he wanted that to be motivation, but as they moved up he wanted them to see their progress.
As a player, Weight played over 1,000 games, scored over 1,000 points and won a Stanley Cup in 2006. That resume carried a lot of clout with the current Islanders and respect was a word brought up repeatedly during Weight's time as coach in the second half.
"One of the first things is the respect that he commands when he walks into a locker room," Hamonic said. "It's not demanded, it's just there."
Weight's task now is to replicate the Islanders' second half heading into next season, but he'll have the support of his players to start with.