Friday, August 01, 2008

Gordon a good fit for Isles

One candidate who is eager for the opportunity, AHL coach of the year Scott Gordon, met Wednesday with Snow. The interview was said to have gone "extremely well."

Gordon, who spent the past five seasons coaching Boston's AHL affiliate in Providence, was the fifth candidate to meet face-to-face with Snow.
Of the six coaches in the running for the last available head coaching job, Gordon has the lowest profile — but that's part of what makes him a good fit on Long Island.

GM Garth Snow has five other candidates lined up — John Tortorella, Paul Maurice, Bob Hartley, Mike Sullivan and Gerard Gallant — all of whom have had a shot at an NHL head coaching gig and, for one reason or another, were turfed from their teams.

So, who's Gordon?

At 45, he might not be a young upstart, but he has certainly only recently arrived on the scene.

A smallish goaltender who had a 23-game NHL career with Quebec, Gordon is a Massachusetts native who starred for four years at Boston College and went onto a meandering minor-league career.

By age 31, he was in the IHL with the Atlanta Knights and hung up his skates to work as an assistant coach the following season. After three years as an assistant in the IHL and working in the ECHL as a head coach, he jumped up to the AHL as an assistant under Sullivan with the Providence Bruins.

The Baby Bruins have actually been somewhat of a coaching factory in recent years, boasting current Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette, Sullivan and Gordon as recent bench bosses. When Sullivan made the (ill-fated) jump to coach Boston in 2002-03, Gordon got the big job and has since posted a 219-139-47 record in the AHL.

Back when the Thrashers position was vacant, Gordon was considered one of the top candidates, and I talked to him while Providence was still in the Calder Cup hunt back in May.

The obvious question seemed to be what he thought of making the jump to the NHL.

"Ever since I’ve played, and when I’ve coached, I’ve never worried about my next job – I’ve worried about the job I have," Gordon said. "My feeling is if you do a good job at the job you have, the next job will come. It’ll take care of itself.

"I think everybody’s goal is to get to the NHL, and you know I’ve never been one to rush things because the way I’ve looked at it, every year I’ve been here, I’ve learned something new. It’s been dramatic. It’s been something that you look back on and say ‘if I didn’t have the opportunity to do what we’ve been doing for the last three years, I wouldn’t be near the coach that I am now.’ Having said that, if my next opportunity doesn’t come for two years, or five years, then there’ll be some good that comes out of that. And if it comes next year, then that’ll be good too."

I'll admit, I haven't seen Providence play a ton the past few years, but when it comes to strategy, Gordon knows his X's and O's. I asked one question about how coaching in the AHL was good preparation for the NHL, and the answer involved an explanation on how to prevent controlled breakouts, playing around traps and other "little subtleties" that contribute to wins and losses.

He lost me a few sentences in.

As a former goaltender in the Quebec system, a few years before Snow, it's no surprise he's popular with the Islanders GM. Gordon has a reputation as a defensive specialist who works well with young talent, which is exactly what Snow needs going forward.

In a lot of ways, it's a similar situation to what Peter DeBoer faces in Florida: Low expectations, a young roster and nowhere to go but up.

With that in mind, the Isles need a coach willing to put up with a slow and patient rebuild, someone who can concentrate on the task at hand without fretting about becoming the fall guy if the losses mount. It's a tough spot for anyone to walk into, given the circus-like atmosphere in Long Island lately, but I think Gordon could do it better than most.

There's a reason Bruins fans aren't keen on seeing him go. He'll be an NHL coach soon — and probably a good one.

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At 3:32 a.m., August 01, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I quess Ulf Samuelsson is out?

At 10:47 a.m., August 01, 2008, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) The next Peter Laviolette? He'll get hired, have some success, then be fired for no apparent reason(DiPietro starts to not like him) then win a Cup with another franchise.

At 12:14 p.m., August 01, 2008, Blogger Jawsh said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10:56 a.m., August 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an interesting blog- well written and informative. Thank you!


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