It’s no secret that the 2016-17 season was a huge step back for the New York Islanders. Doug Weight, and his new staff will aim to help the Islanders take the next step from 15-16 and learn from the failures of 16-17.
For all intents and purposes, let’s call half of the 2016-17 season a “hiccup.”
After a 4-0 victory in Boston, it was determined that Capuano’s leash had gone far enough. Nothing had been clicking, lines were being shuffled every night and during the game, little to no results presented themselves and the New York Islanders were dead last in the Eastern Conference.
That’s when Doug Weight took hold of the coaching position, and the Islanders turned a new leaf. The ‘new’ Isles became more aggressive, faster, and more offensively apt. The defense had some work left to do, as did the morbid powerplay but it seems that steps are being made to continue to head in the right direction.
Now nearly two months into the Islanders’ offseason, Weight is surrounding himself with people he trusts. The list of new hires includes former NHL players Luke Richardson, Scott Gomez and the rumored hiring of Kelly Buchberger. Weight has hired a supporting cast of NHL veterans, including his former captain in Buchberger and former alternate captain in Richardson.
Both Richardson and Buchberger spent considerable time playing with Doug (Richardson from 1992-93 through 1996-97, Buchberger from 1992-93 through 1998-99) and Gomez never shared friendly ice with Weight.
The star cast of former players aims to help the Islanders take the next step in 2017-18. Starting with the new Head Coach, let’s take a look into the Islanders bench staff and how they will contribute in the coming seasons.
There isn’t much to say about the Islanders’ coach that hasn’t been said already.
Doug Weight has earned a spot in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and rightfully so. His resume includes 1,238 games played, 1,038 career NHL points, eight 60+ point seasons, six 20+ goal seasons (including a 104-point season in 1995-1996), 72 career points in 97 playoff games, and a Stanley Cup Championship in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Weight was drafted by the New York Rangers in 1990 and played in just one playoff game for the near-sighted management that dealt him after two more seasons. He then spent nine seasons as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, three and a half seasons as a member of the St. Louis Blues before being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2006 season to go on and win the Stanley Cup.
Weight signed on with St. Louis for another season and a half before being traded again to the Anaheim Ducks at the 2008 trade deadline. He spent his last three years with the New York Islanders before retiring and becoming a member of the Isles coaching staff, and the rest is history.
Weight’s fiery attitude and visible passion for the game make him a voice to be heard on the Isles bench, coupled with his expansive resume and personal relationship with Islanders captain John Tavares. He commands the respect of the Islanders locker room and it’s more than obvious that he cares deeply about the team. During the team’s annual locker clean out day and exit interviews Weight said, “We will be better next year, I promise.”
If everything is to follow the same pattern after the firing of Capuano, it’s a safe bet the Islanders will be better.
A lot better.
Luke Richardson was the first official hire on Weight’s team after removing the interim tag and being named full-time head coach.
A veteran of 1,417 NHL games, Richardson was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1987 and spent his first four seasons there.
He then spent time with the Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators. As a left-handed defenseman, Richardson scored 35 goals and 201 points throughout his career.
Richardson has never won a Stanley Cup with any of his teams, but served as an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators from 2009-12 and as their AHL affiliate Birmingham Senators head coach from 2012-16. Having bench boss experience to boot will only help his second stint as an NHL coach, this time reunited with old friends who already have strong chemistry.
Kelly Buchberger is another seasoned veteran joining Dougie’s team, the right-wing played 1,182 career NHL games and scored 105 goals and 309 points in that time. Buchberger formally won two Stanley Cup Championships with the Edmonton Oilers, in 1988 and 1990.
I say formally, because Buchberger was technically on the 1987 championship team, but had not played enough playoff games (3) to qualify as a member of the team.
After spending 13 seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, Buchberger was the 14th draft choice by the Atlanta Thrashers in their expansion year. He was dealt in the same season to the L.A. Kings, where he spent the following two years before moving onto the Phoenix Coyotes for one year in the 2002-2003 season and then one last year as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins the year after.
Buchberger coached the Springfield Falcons for one year before becoming an assistant with the Oilers from 2008-14.
Scott Gomez is the ‘freshest’ player behind the bench.
Gomez most recently played in the 2015-16 season for the Ottawa Senators and has an expansive resume spanning 17 NHL seasons and two Stanley Cup championships.
Drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 1998, Scott Gomez entered the NHL in the 1999-2000 season. Gomez won the Calder Trophy in 2000 as the league’s best rookie, scoring 19 goals and 70 points.
He went on to win his first Stanley Cup with the Devils that season and won a second with the team in 2002-2003. Much to the chagrin of Devils fans, Gomez signed with the rival New York Rangers in 2007-2008 and stayed for two seasons. He then played with the Montreal Canadiens for three years, starting with their run in 2009-10.
Gomez then became a journeyman, spending one season with the San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers, and another stint with the New Jersey Devils. After signing a PTO with the St. Louis Blues in 2015-16, Gomez finished the season with the Ottawa Senators and subsequently retired.
Next season will be Gomez’s first as an NHL coach, brought on and tasked with improving the Islanders hopeless powerplay from 2016-17.
With a little more context into the history of the players, it’s easy to note the chemistry that exists with the former Oilers and the contributions a guy like Gomez can bring to the team.
It adds more promise to the team that did a complete 180 under Weight, and will only get better with the smart additions being made this offseason.
This coming offseason will be a long one for the Islanders and one that will undoubtedly determine the next chapter of the franchise’s history. With the threat of a departing arena, Tavares set to become a free agent after this season, and numerous questions in net after Thomas Greiss‘ contract expiration, Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin have some answers to present to an anxious fan base.
But, at the very least, the team itself is poised to promise big results for next season.