Weight to remain as head coach
The Islanders wasted little time in naming their new head coach.
Actually there is not much new about him as Doug Weight saw the interim title removed from his position on Wednesday, the team announced.
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After firing Jack Capuano in January, Weight led the Islanders to a 24-12-4 record that almost lifted them from last place in the Eastern Conference to the playoffs.
It is an enormous vote of confidence by ownership and general manager Garth Snow to retain Weight. Three of the NHL’s top-10 all-time winningest coaches, Ken Hitchcock, Darryl Sutter and Lindy Ruff, were available during the early portions of the team’s offseason.
Reports are surfacing, per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, that Hitchcock will return to the Dallas Stars, the team he coached from 1995-2002 and won a Stanley Cup title with in 1999.
While there might have been more experienced options out there, the team looks to be keeping their star captain John Tavares in mind. Set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018, Tavares has expressed his approval of Weight behind the bench.
The happier Tavares is, the more likely he is going to re-sign with the Islanders next summer.
Home sweet home?
Let’s just put this out there now in case anyone has any doubts: the Islanders are not staying at the Barclays Center.
A 2018-19 opt-out clause within the Brooklyn agreement is going to happen and the team will be faced with finding an actual hockey arena to call home. The Barclays Center is not that. It is a basketball arena with sightlines for a concert that just so happened to have enough room for a sheet of ice and boards. The venue was not accommodating to fans and management did little to remedy their long list of complaints.
Preparing for the move, Islanders and New York Mets ownership began talks with a Madison Square Garden-backed group in February about the possibility of building a new arena at Belmont Park in Elmont. Among other prospective spots was the Willets Point area near Citi Field in Flushing.
It looks like the franchise has set a target for one of those locations though. On Wednesday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that “all signs [are] pointing towards” Belmont.
There has been little word about a possible return to the team’s former home, the Nassau Coliseum. The venue recently reopened its doors on April 5, as a concert and special event venue. With just 13,000 seats, there is no way that it could house an NHL franchise again, but the venue does have the capacity to hold enough fans to make it a viable option.
Long Island brass seems to think it was a mistake letting them go in the first place as Nassau County executive Ed Mangano has been pushing for an Islanders return.
A move back to suburbia might not be what the NHL would have wanted for the team though. Keeping them near New York City would ensure a larger market with more exposure for the league.