Andy Graziano, SNY.TV Twitter
The Islanders are preparing to open their first full season under head coach Doug Weight in 2017-18, looking to return to the playoffs after coming within a point of making a third straight appearance last year.
What we have seen out of Weight during his 40-game run in 2016-17 and so far this summer has been a drastic change from his predecessor, Jack Capuano.
Practices are harder and more up-tempo with a clear focus on physicality and cardiovascular work. He doesn't seem shy about giving his young players responsibility and an avenue to succeed. He has brought a relaxed, casual yet business like feel to the dressing room, with the ability to reach and communicate with his players on a more personal level.
He knows how to handle the media and thus far has transformed that relationship with his good nature and blunt honesty. Whether that particular area of Weight's progression remains or is stunted at the first sign of some struggles, we will see.
Weight recently offered more of a look into his mind as he readies his troops for the grueling grind of 82+ games.
Islanders Point Blank: The need for a fast start has been the hot topic around the team, given last year playoff hopes were squashed after beginning the year 6-10-4. Has the emphasis on skating and physicality this camp so far been in response to that?
Doug Weight: People talk about the great shape that guys in this league are in, and it's true. But there's something about those hockey battles, getting into, as they say, 'game shape'. You have to bump into people, work on those down low battles. We'll do it as much as we can and when we need to give them rest, keep them away from the rink. When you're here, you have to work, work, work. We, as coaches, need to pay attention when they need the break.
IPB: Looking at those three young defenseman (Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield) and the minutes you guys lost with the trade of Travis (Hamonic), is that one of the, if not the biggest, decision of camp?
Weight: Yeah, I think so. We got 10 guys that can play in the NHL, a lot of impressive youngsters. Certainly, Adam, Ryan, Scott and guys of that nature, Devin and Parker too, are exciting to us. We're going to get them in there and let them play, let them dictate to us what we end up doing. In the past, it's been kind of, 'let them figure it out on their own' but I don't have that attitude. I've spent a lot of extra time, so have the other coaches, with those guys. We want them to hit the ice running. Don't think, just play. I need to put them in good situations that play to their strengths.
IPB: With most of the staff, outside of Greg Cronin, brand new, how has the adjustment and chemistry been?
Weight: It's been great, I'm excited about it. We, to my fault, have gone over things A LOT. I didn't want them here over the summer, wanted them to refresh and recharge but since, we've gone over things three or more times. I want them to feel like they've coached with me for a long time. We have everyone's jobs and expectations, mine too, set and everything is on the table. It's a great group. You see them all on the ice at practice because I want all of them on the ice. More eyes, more hands on. But the key is to act like referees - stay out of the way, one guy takes charge. We don't want to make it a big mess out there.
IPB: What was it that you saw in Casey Bailey that you invited him in on a PTO?
Weight: What he's done, what he's achieved. First thing you do is look at your depth chart, see what you need. Whether or not he has a chance to compete for a job, that's why he's here. He can score, has had a real competitive camp so far. He's a good kid, checked his character, why not bring him in. I think he can be a good piece of the puzzle. If he starts in Bridgeport, he's definitely a guy that could play and at some point, come up and be put in some different roles.
IPB: In the preseason, I would imagine it's tough for players and coaches to get invested mentally. The crowds are a lot smaller and not as vocal which effects the atmosphere. For the veterans, especially, there isn't much on the line. How do you keep that from seeping in and carrying over to the regular season?
Weight: Little soft and casual early in the game (versus the Flyers) for sure. We got much better after the first period as the game moved along. We are demanding a lot of them on a day to day basis and sometimes it wears them down, they're battling so hard in practice. But it was a pre-season game and I saw emotion in the last ten minutes of a 1-1 game. When you play it, you might as well win it. And I felt they were all playing to win. That is the mentality that needs to be there, every night.