Head coach Doug Weight is emphatic that the New York Islanders’ focus over the upcoming weeks will be centered around bolstering the roster.Doug Weight re-emphasized on Thursday that the next three weeks will be “important … for our organization.”
In an interview with Newsday’s Arthur Staple, the newly hired head coach confirmed that the upcoming moments will be crucial in determining the team’s future: “We want to get better, not take a step back,” he said.
While the focus of the offseason will be to entice John Tavares to remain with the team — “He’s our captain and our best player, [so] I’d be crazy not to bounce things off him,” Weight said — the front office has its sights set on improving the roster for the upcoming season.
“We have had numerous discussions,” Garth Snow told Newsday. “There is a lot of talk going on. Any time we can try to make our team better, we will.”
Over the next couple of weeks, the Islanders will have their hands full with the expansion draft, lottery draft and free agency. To avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight season, they’ll need to be aggressive — or risk entering the 2017-18 campaign with the same squad as a season ago.
As we’ve discussed ad nauseam, the Isles have a profusion of defensemen and the need for a top-6 forward. It’ll be up to Snow to break his stubborn tendencies and pull the trigger on a potential deal.
“We have a strength,” Weight said. “We have good players on defense and we have good numbers there. There’s teams that need things we have and there’s teams that have things we need . . . To add a high-end skill player on the offensive side, that’s something we think about.”
Many writers, myself included, have pointed to Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan as potential trade bait. It’s even possible that the Isles could part with their first round pick. To paraphrase Snow, all options are on the table.
Which means that acquiring the Avs’ Matt Duchene or the Oilers’ Jordan Eberle via a trade isn’t necessarily off the table. It also signals that nobody — not even a top prospect like Joshua Ho-Sang or Mathew Barzal — is safe from trade talks.
In recent weeks, Weight has assembled a notable cast of assistant coaches to solidify his staff. He’s already tabbed Luke Richardson and Scott Gomez to posts behind the bench, and will reportedly be adding Kelly Buchberger after the draft. We reported Friday that he’s retaining Greg Cronin, as well.
Regardless of what happens over the next couple of weeks, Weight wants to ensure that his team is extremely well prepared.
“I’ve mapped out a lot of it,” Weight said. “I’m a writer, I’ve got two or three books of ideas. You go from thinking about how training camp will run to the season, how to get the most out of players and how to fulfill the coaches’ duties. You have to take advantage of practice times. With the Olympics looking like they’re drifting, that’s going to mean more practice for us. Every minute has to be used wisely. We want the guys to come off the ice saying, ‘Holy cow, these guys are prepared.’ ”