The New York Islanders have announced that they have removed the interim tag from head coach, Doug Weight’s title on Wednesday as the Dallas Stars announced that they will rehire their former coach, Ken Hitchcock, on Thursday.
Weight, who replaced Jack Capuano in January, helped lead the Islanders to a 24-12-4 record after the coaching change. The team had the National Hockey League’s second best record from January 19 through the end of the regular season.
While the Islanders finished the season on a six-game win streak, they fell just short of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, one point behind the eighth seeded Toronto Maple Leafs. Weight, who was not sure if coaching was something he wanted to do in the future, when he took over for Capuano, will also continue to remain the team’s Assistant General Manager.
He said, “I was not lying to everybody when I said I was kind of taking it a day at a time and just really focused on once we got close to that playoff race to just trying to get into the playoffs and compete.”
He becomes the Islanders, 19th head coach since the inception of their franchise in 1972. Weight added, “It was probably two days after the season, to be honest. I felt like a good feeling coming out of the year after the last game against Ottawa and talked a lot about it with friends and obviously, my family and people within the organization. We just worked hard at it for two days. It was important to me to meet with all of my bosses face-to-face and talk about things that I believe in, that communication, that clarity, as do they.”
He continued, “By the time we went to our wrap up dinner [Tuesday night], I was feeling really good about it, as were they, and that was really exciting to me. I would say in the past 48 hours nothing really changed my mind.”
General Manager, Garth Snow said, “I was just hoping and crossing my fingers on a personal level, because it is a big commitment. Doug has obviously, a family, a lot of moving parts going on in his life away from hockey. I know that the stars had to align for him personally to accept this responsibility, so I was happy that Doug and his family had that comfort level.”
When Weight took over the reigns, the Islanders were sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference. He managed to guide them back into the playoff picture, despite one of the franchises longest road trip in franchise history. During those nine games away from Brooklyn, between February 21 and March 11, the team went 5-3-1 helping them stay in the race until the final weekend of the regular season.
Now that Snow has his coach in place, he can direct his attentions to the 2017 Expansion Draft, 2017 NHL Entry Draft and resigning his free agents, like his captain, John Tavares, as well as upgrading the roster for the future.
Hitchcock, who led the Stars to a Stanley Cup Championship over the Buffalo Sabres in 1999, will be named to take over behind the bench in Dallas during a press conference scheduled for Thursday. The team announced on Sunday that they would not be bringing back Lindy Ruff, who coached against Hitchcock in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final, for the 2017-2018 season.
Hitchcock was let go of his position behind the St. Louis Blues bench, on February 1. In 20 seasons behind an NHL bench, with the Stars, Blues, Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets, Hitchcock put up a record of 781-474-88.
In seven seasons with the Stars organization, between 196 and 2002, he led the team to 277 wins, 154 losses, 60 ties and 12 overtime losses. He led Dallas to four Western Conference Finals and two Stanley Cup Finals between 1997 and 2002.
After raising the Stanley Cup in 1999, he led the Stars back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2000, only to fall to the New Jersey Devils in a six-game series, with two multi-overtime games. He also led the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2003-2004 and led the Blues to the Western Conference Finals last season.