EAST MEADOW, N.Y. -- It was a bittersweet moment Wednesday morning when Doug Weight stepped onto the ice for New York Islanders practice less than 24 hours after he became their coach.
The Islanders were officially Weight's team. His friend, Jack Capuano, wasn't at the rink for the first time in more than six years. That's when it felt real.
Weight replaced Capuano on Tuesday, when the latter was fired with the Islanders (17-17-8) at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings nine months after reaching the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1993.
Video: NHL Tonight talks about what's next for the Islanders
"I've been a part of it a couple times, and it's never a good mood," said Weight, who played 19 NHL seasons with the New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks and Islanders. "What you do is you look in the mirror and you realize that we failed as a group. We're failing right now. We underachieved to a point. Everybody has to take onus of that from top of the organization down to the players.
"It's disheartening, and most importantly we lose a good person. Jack is very well liked and he does a great job. It's tough for the guys, but as we move through a meeting we're professionals and this is a professional life we live. We have to do better and we have to try to get it out of them. A lot of good things were said and it was a great practice today. Guys were talking and chatting, and we have to bring our best effort [Thursday against the Dallas Stars]."
That includes captain John Tavares, who will represent the Islanders at the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles from Jan. 27-29.
"I think just as a personality, Dougie's a different type of guy," Tavares said. "I don't think that means in a negative or positive way; I think he's just his own person. He's obviously been through a lot, he's accomplished a lot as a player. He's probably been in a lot of our shoes of our careers during his career, so I think there might be some understanding as a player to that aspect. He's very articulate, understands the game and he's very intense. I think that's what we're looking forward to seeing from him."
Tavares said he feels for Capuano, who coached the Islanders to back-to-back 100-point seasons.
Video: Staple on timing of Capuano firing
"I've got a ton of respect for him," Tavares said. "It was a tough day, because you really feel that burden of him being the guy taking the fall with the way we've played and the way I've played (32 points in 42 games), which just hasn't been good enough. It's tough to see him go with how much he's given to a lot of the players in here, the team, the organization over his tenure. It's been a long time. It's not an easy thing, I think we all felt that. You could kind of sense that in the room coming into the rink this morning.
"We felt like we just haven't done a good enough job, so hopefully this is a chance to change some of that. But it was good to talk to him. He was in pretty good spirits. He's always been a very good guy to be around, just a lot of enthusiasm and always very positive. I think wherever he ends up, someone's going to be very happy and very excited. They're going to get a tremendous person and a guy with a tremendous work ethic."
So the Islanders officially turn the page to Weight, who becomes an NHL coach less than six years after announcing his retirement. It's a career path he didn't think he'd follow in 2011.
"I thought I was going to take a couple years off and I got thrown right into it," said Weight, who became an Islanders assistant coach and a special adviser to general manager Garth Snow immediately following retirement. "I've enjoyed it, and like I said to the players, I still have the passion. I take a loss just as hard as I did when I was 25 on the ice. It's not as fun not being able to get out there, but I love the game, I respect my organization that I work for and I want to help them succeed. I'm going to work really hard. I believe in that, I've done that throughout my career and I'm going to work hard at this."
Weight will get his first chance at helping the Islanders try to get back into the playoff race Thursday against the Stars at Barclays Center (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-SW+, NHL.TV). Though New York is last in the Eastern Conference with 42 points, it trails the Ottawa Senators by eight for the second wild card with 40 games remaining.
"The year hasn't gone certainly as we would have scripted or we would have liked," defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "But at this point, you can't undo what's done. It is what it is, and all we can do is try and move forward as a group, an organization, and collectively try to get those wins. You see a lot of teams go on runs this year, it's been abnormal. We have a group that can do that. You string together five or six, and then see where you're at in the standings then. Certainly a lot of games left, 40 games to go, that's a lot of time."