Reputation Intact, Scott Gordon Will Get Another Opportunity
"It was an easy decision," Gordon told NHL FanHouse in a telephone interview on Tuesday. "There was absolutely no reason for this not to continue amicably between me and management."
Still, with most of the final season of Gordon's three-year employment agreement essentially void since he would no longer be coaching, the 46-year-old Gordon could have walked away quietly, collected a paycheck and taken time to be with his family in Atlanta while immediately beginning the search for a new job. But that apparently is not in his nature. He accepted a role as adviser to general manager Garth Snow.
"You still want to be involved, you want to be part of the team," said Gordon. "Of course, there's disappointment, but I'm not about to run and hide and sulk. If I can still help Garth and help the team, I want to. You have to remember, it was (owner) Charles Wang and Garth who gave me my first opportunity as an NHL head coach. I'm always going to be grateful to them for as long as I'm here, and I always will should I eventually land someplace else."
Despite the Islanders' unseemly record of 64-93-24 under his watch for the last two seasons and one month, Gordon will undoubtedly be presented with new opportunities from other NHL franchises. There can be no spinning of the final stats, but the coach's strong reputation built on his performance as head coach of the Boston Bruins' AHL affiliate in Providence remains intact. His time behind the bench with the rebuilding-from-scratch Islanders will not be held against him.
Gordon was chosen to serve as an assistant with John Tortorella on Ron Wilson's coaching staff for Team USA at the Olympics. His work with the second-place Americans was praised by Wilson and general manager Brian Burke. When Gordon was first appointed to the staff, Burke said, "I've been a fan of Scott Gordon's after watching his teams play in Providence. They were the most prepared and hardest-working teams in the AHL."
The results often didn't show it in New York, but Gordon's coaching was regularly hailed by visiting scouts in the press box at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. "Gordon is a great coach," a chief scout with an Eastern Conference team said 10 days ago as he watched Gordon's undermanned Islanders lose 3-2 to Philadelphia. "The Islanders still have a long way to go in their rebuilding and they've been killed by injuries. No one's thinking Gordon isn't one of the better new coaches out there. If it doesn't work out here, he'll get offers to be a head coach or an associate. He could also go back to being a head man in the AHL while he waits for another chance."
For his part, Gordon offered no excuses. He didn't hide behind the losses of key defenseman Mark Streit and forward Kyle Okposo to major injuries suffered before the start of the regular season. While the Islanders conducted a disjointed training camp -- because of a canceled trip to China -- that featured a half-dozen camp invitees and five-game exhibition schedule featuring four split-squad games, Gordon just charged forward and did the best he could. In his final game, a loss in Los Angeles, the Islanders played with only five defensemen because management did not travel an extra on the three-game West Coast trip.
Again, no complaints.
"I'm proud of the work our staff did," said Gordon. "There were some circumstances, but you put your best foot forward and make the best of it. I had a great relationship with the players, with Garth and with Charles. I'll take what I learned and put it in my back pocket. I'll take those lessons with me, if I get another opportunity."
With Gordon's reputation around the game unharmed, he can count on it.