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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Doug Weight ready to succeed as a Head Coach

Doug Weight scored 1033 points in 1238 NHL games with the Rangers, Oilers, Blues, Hurricanes, Ducks and Islanders. He only played 23 regular season games and 23 playoff games with the Hurricanes, but he won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006. Weight had an excellent playing career, and he’s one of the few 1,000 point players to become an NHL head coach.

Alex Delvecchio coached the Red Wings for four seasons. Phil Esposito coached 43 games for the Rangers in 1987. Bryan Trottier coached the Rangers for 54 games. Wayne Gretzky coached the Coyotes for four seasons. Denis Savard was the Blackhawks’ head coach for 147 games over parts of three seasons. Adam Oates stood behind the bench in Washington for two seasons. Dale Hunter also coached the Capitals, but only for parts of one season, 62 games. Hunter and Oates were the only two to make the playoffs as head coaches.

Weight has been as assistant head coach with the New York Islanders since 2011/2012, but he was named interim head coach this past January after Jack Capuano was fired. The Islanders went 24-12-4 in 40 games with Weight as the head coach and in April they removed the Interim tag and named him the 16th head coach in Islanders history.

Weight has a great offensive mind, is a natural leader and he is confident his 26 years in pro hockey will help him become a successful head coach.

Weight’s most productive years came in Edmonton. He played 588 games with the Oilers scoring 157 goals and 577 points. He was an outstanding passer, an outgoing communicator and extremely competitive. He had  great offensive instincts and while he understands the importance of being solid defensively, he would love to see more creativity in the game.

I brought up Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors. Kerr has coached the Warriors to their strengths. He allows Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and others to take shots many NBA coaches wouldn’t. He thought outside the box and, while he encouraged his team to be aware defensively, he put a strong emphasis on scoring. The NBA is very different to the NHL in that there is no “two-goal” line. A goal is a goal, but I asked Weight if a head coach could look at ways to generate more offence?

“Well I hope so. I hope that I can prove that. I one hundred percent think so,” said Weight. “A lot of those things you’re talking about, they write a lot of articles about that on Golden State and Steve has a lot to say on exactly what he’s thinking. Hockey is hockey, and you can’t re-invent it, but you have to be progressive not just in how you play the game but how you train with it, how you deal with your individual players one-on-one, how you communicate and the world is all about change. If you get stuck and you don’t want to progressively move on in some areas and explore them, I think you are going to get left behind..

“So I think that there’s room to grow in our game for sure in that respect. If the goalies aren’t getting smaller and the nets aren’t getting bigger, then we have to produce more offense and find ways to keep the puck in the offensive zone for longer periods,” continued Weight.

Weight made the move from assistant coach to head coach mid-season. It is a tough move to make, and it also rare to go from assistant coach to head coach in the same organization and have success. Weight was amazed at how difficult it was.

“I realized it’s the biggest six feet you can ever imagine, moving from the forward to the middle of the bench. It’s a completely different mindset and it’s a completely different game. I think I was prepared for it, but certainly with every game I learned it’s going to be a lot about relationships and about challenging guys. The biggest thing I was worried about was being their friends for a lot of the time and having their respect, but I think you have to be able to get out of your comfort zone and have these relationships with these guys.

“Sometimes it’s good and sometimes there are ugly conversation, but you have to close the door and have them on a day- to-day basis. You can’t ignore when someone is not playing that night and why. You have to listen to him, and agree or disagree and you also need to tell them when they are playing great. I think that those conversations have to be had. I felt I very comfortable doing it. I think that it was a big key to success and that’s probably the biggest difference.

Apr 6, 2017; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Islanders head coach Doug Weight looks on from behind the players bench against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The New York Islanders defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

“There is so much on your plate and so much to deal with. You have to make sure that you don’t take your foot off of the gas. It’s important to go to work every single day and these kids, these younger kids, they should be talked to. I think they still want authority, I think they still need to be shown things that are bad in front of their peers in a tactful, respectful way but I also think that they need a lot ff one-on-one communication. So be it, they are really good kids. We don’t have to look negatively, so many words like entitlement goes around. Maybe it’s true, they’re different than us, but they’re all good kids, they’re good people and they want to be great so we have to help them be great,” explained Weight.

When the Islanders came to Edmonton in early March, John Tavares raved about Weight’s hockey knowledge and how he communicated with Tavares. Ken Hitchcock said the key to being a successful head coach is ensuring your five or six best players are on the same page as you. They need to believe in your message, because if they do the rest of the team will follow. It is crucial to have strong relationship with those players, but also have the ability to challenge them.

Tavares was excited to have Weight as the head coach, and didn’t knock Capuano. He just said Weight sees some things that some coaches might not.

Does Weight believe he has the ability to connect with the highly-skilled players in a way some other coaches might not be able to?

“I hope so,” he said with a smile. “It’s your segue so I won’t feel immodest saying it, but I feel that’s a definite advantage. I saw the game a certain way and I think that Johnny is a special player, not to put myself in his category or him in mine, but I think there is a special thing for offensive guys and a flare. Those players know that I’m thinking on the bench and Johnny knows what I’m thinking.

“It’s good that we can have good conversations about his offense and doing things and I think one thing he appreciated as well, is that I voiced my opinion on the bench and again it’s going to be tactful and respectful.  He had to hear some things that maybe he wouldn’t have heard before.  I think that it’s important to the entire group. I hink it’s important that the coach is positive, and our coaches are positive, but at times they need to hear from the coach that it’s not going to be put up with and maybe just sit down for two or three minutes and be pulled from the other guys.

“We know he’s (Tavares) a leader and he’s our best player, but sometimes [things] have to be drilled into their heads that way. And we always talked about it after, they happen once or twice, but he’s an ultimate player. I want to put him in positions to succeed and practice for him to lead our team. I think it’s important when your best player is going everybody else is better, everybody else has less pressure. Those people that can handle that load, they’re built for it. He’s been doing it since he was fifteen years old in the OHL as an underage scoring ninety goals. It takes pressure off of everybody else. The stars like to have that pressure,” said Weight.

Weight’s excitement was noticeable through the phone. You could hear the passion in his voice. He was that way as a player and he’ll be the same as a head coach. He is also aware he only has 40 games of head coaching experience, but he believes in his ability and if last season was any indication, the Islanders will be competitive with him behind the bench.

They picked up 52 points in 40 games with him guiding them, and they finished the season with 94 points. The Nashville Predators made the Stanley Cup Finals with 94 points.

Weight is confident his team can get back to the postseason next year.

“We want to win that Stanley Cup next year, that’s our goal. That’s why I’m here, that’s why I took the job. I believe we’re going to prove to a lot of people that we’re going in that direction. I understand that we do have to prove to people a lot of different things, but I want us to be a team that’s going to be on a everybody’s radar.”

Weight is a smart coach, a great communicator and he has a good chance of becoming one of the most successful, if not most successful, coach to transition from being a 1000-point player.

PARTING SHOT…

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  • I can’t imagine the emotional swing for the two players who go from the Stanley Cup Final and within 10 days being a member of the Las Vegas Knights. I know some might say First World Problems, but going from the Cup Finalist to a team at the bottom within ten days will be difficult mentally.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

    • Jason Gregor

      I’m sure many said the same thing about Predators at this time last year. Probably Senators too. Things can change quickly, and the Islanders have many talented players.

  • Tombstone

    We will see how good the Leafs are next year with Stamkos healthy and the NYI off to a good start. Unlike the Oilers the maple leafs barely made playoffs.
    I highly doubt Tavares doesn’t sign. Name one elite player in the past years that didn’t sign with the team that didn’t draft them and I’m not talking about being traded. Tavares will sign with NYI.
    Forget Doug Weight. He was a Hurricane when they beat the Oilers.

  • Finnish Oiler fan in Edmonton89

    Gretzky was an awful head coach. He talks about it in his book. He assumed that all of his players could see the game the same way he did, which is literally impossible.

    I think that’s why guys who were former grinders usually make better coaches than guys who were elite super stars.