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Doug Weight ready for challenges in first full season as Islanders coach

Will try to build on solid second half, hopes New York signs John Tavares to extension

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- Doug Weight had one request when New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow asked him to replace Jack Capuano as coach in January.

He wanted Capuano's blessing.

"I think the important thing to me was to know that Jack was behind it and was pushing for me to take over," Weight told NHL.com. "It was one of those situations that Jack was not even close to giving up on his team. He wanted to be here and believed in our team, but certain times in an occupation such as this, you kind of know when the writing's on the wall. I felt Jack knew that, not that I was intimate to the decision or the conversation or the situation. But I wasn't willing to do something that was going to be perceived by him -- I didn't care about anybody else -- as a little bit obnoxious or intrusive.

"He was awesome about it. Very supportive. It was 40 games. I felt 100 percent prepared. I had been preparing for that. It's not something I had on my goal list, but that doesn't matter. I was prepared and ready to do it. I thought our team could turn it around and I felt confident in myself. I also felt like I owed it to the franchise too. I believe in the franchise. We've come a long way. I want to help us get to a position where people say. 'These guys are turning it around and they're doing it the right way.'"

Weight had never been a coach before, but he guided the Islanders to a record of 24-12-4 in their final 40 games. New York missed qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs by one point after a 17-17-8 start. Snow removed Weight's interim tag on April 12.

 

[RELATED: Islanders must win 'right now' to keep John Tavares, coach says]

 

"Moving that six feet down the bench east is pretty incredible," Weight said. "It's a pretty incredible environment, it's different, it's challenging, it's exhilarating. I have a good relationship with our players. I think it was a real positive for me to be able to not only play with them and be part of the organization and become comfortable that way, but know a lot of them as people. We've gone through some ups and downs as a coach and a friend. That was a real plus for me.

"Regardless if it was a hard decision or not, once you make a decision, I'm all in. I'm here to work, I'm here to accept the work and the challenge and I'm here to bring people in that want to work and want to be part of a team that's going to represent our players in an unbelievable way, where they feel confident, respected, they feel that respect towards us and they know they're prepared. They know they have an unbelievable group of guys that want success for them. I wanted guys in here that have experience in not only playing, but coaching and dealing with these players."

Video: Weight calls in to discuss his new job title

Weight has been hard at work since officially being named coach. Luke Richardson, who was Weight's teammate with the Edmonton Oilers from 1993-97, is joining the Islanders as an assistant coach. Weight also named Scott Gomez an assistant on May 30.

"He's just a remarkable man," Weight said of Richardson. "He's a family man, he's professional. He brings it to the rink. He earned everything he had. He's tough as nails mentally, physically. He's very confident, very fair. It was an easy fit.

"Scott blew me away. We ended up meeting two or three times. He was prepared. The fact that he stated he wants to be a Hall of Fame coach about 15 times in the first two interviews … he is passionate. It was just a good fit and a good opportunity for him."

Weight could have an intense battle for the No. 1 goaltending job when training camp opens in September. Jaroslav Halak returned after spending three months with Bridgeport of the American Hockey League and went 6-1-0 in seven games, including 5-0-0 in his last five starts of the season. Barring a trade or being selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft, Halak will compete with Thomas Greiss for the No. 1 job.

"It's behind us," Weight said. "Sometimes in life, you make mistakes and you get second chances, but to me, you have to earn them. Jaro went [to Bridgeport] and we talked to [coach Brent Thompson] twice a week. He never had one issue, one thing to say about Jaro except for he's working hard in practice, he's playing great in the games, and he's being a good teammate.

"He had one bad day. After the [NHL] Trade Deadline, he wants to play in the NHL. It was an easy decision [to bring him back] when he was playing so great and we had some problems in net. We brought him up, and nothing changed here. He worked hard, he was focused on winning, and Jaro's proven since he got here that he's a great goaltender. I'm excited to see him in camp."

Of course, the biggest splash the Islanders can make this summer is signing center John Tavares to a contract extension. That can happen as soon as July 1. Tavares, the No. 1 pick at the 2009 NHL Draft, has 235 goals and 302 assists in 587 games with New York.

But if Tavares doesn't sign July 1 …

"I would just say don't panic," Weight said. "You come to this situation maybe twice in your career if you have a long career that works out where you're really in control of the situation. John wants to win Stanley Cups. He wants to be a Hall of Fame player. He wants to do it as an Islander. I would want nothing more, as our organization, than to see him lift the Stanley Cup with the 'C' on his chest with the New York Islander logo. It's where he belongs.

"Make no mistake, John loves it here. I'll speak for him, I don't mind. But he's earned the right to come and make a decision, an intelligent decision. He's a thinker. He's not a PR guy that wants to drag it out. But he's going to do what he sees fit. I believe we have an unbelievable opportunity to sign John. We have things to prove to him. But it's not going to affect our hockey club. I hope to sign him on July 1, but if it doesn't happen, I'm not changing my mindset or anything of that nature, and neither is he. That's the most refreshing thing. We have a big year ahead of us here and we're not going to let those things affect us personally or as a team."

One would assume it is important to Tavares to know where the Islanders will be playing their home games long-term. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told a group from The Associated Press Sports Editors in April that Islanders co-owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky will submit a bid to build an arena at Belmont Park, which is on the border of Queens and Nassau County. The Islanders have been playing at Barclays Center in Brooklyn since the start of the 2015-16 season.

"We have ownership in here that is committed; they've proven that to me," Weight said. "I wouldn't be sitting here if it wasn't proven. We have to make our team better, but I believe in the guys we have. John [Tavares] wants to win. That's the biggest thing to be deal with. We've got to win, and I'm going to do as much as I can to help him. He knows that. Everything else can take care of itself. These owners have committed in every way I've seen. They're 100 percent in. They want to be a great franchise, so I'm on board."

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