It died the way it lived, an absolute tire fire. The reign of Dave Hakstol is over, and the city of Philadelphia rejoices. I won’t get into the drama of this weekend in Philadelphia – I’ll save that for the podcast – but exciting things happened, and the place to look now, is forward.
Scott Gordon – head coach of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms – will be taking over as interim head coach of the Flyers, presumably for the rest of the season (although no promises were made). Gordon, a Massachusetts native, played goalie for the Boston College Eagles, and for the Quebec Nordiques for a time, before ending his playing career and making his way into coaching.
Gordon has had mostly NHL assistant and AHL coaching jobs, with the exception of a 2 and a half season stint as head coach of the New York Islanders from 2008-2010, when the team was abysmal. (In fact, his first year resulted in the lottery pick that got them John Tavares.) He was given a short leash and a mediocre team on Long Island, and was unable to build a contender.
Why should Flyers fans believe in Gordon then? Why should we expect a man with a history of failure in the NHL to succeed here?
Well, first of all, look at the pieces. A Team with Giroux, Voracek, Konecny, Couturier, Provorov, Gostisbehere, and Sanheim is fundamentally better than one where the team points leader was Mark Streit. If Gordon can optimize the lineup, play the best players and play them the whole game, the team will instantly improve when compared to a team that was playing Andrew MacDonald 20 minutes a night against some of the top offensive weapons in the league.
Second of all is Gordon’s success in the AHL with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Gordon was the development guy. He was brought in to make sure that all of Ron Hextall’s draft picks became NHL ready. He has worked with the younger players – Gostisbehere, Sanheim, Lindblom, Hart – and knows them and how to push to make them better.
I am also excited to see how Gordon can influnce ‘plateauing’ players such as Nolan Patrick and Ivan Provorov. Development shouldn’t stop at the NHL level, like we’ve seen under Dave Hakstol, so I am curious to see what strides can be taken from this young core. The ignition of Patrick and Provorov could completely change this season, by giving the team the depth they were counting on going into October.
Thirdly, Scott Gordon was a goalie. This is something that flies under the radar, and may not be as important as I think it is. But I believe that having a goalie be in charge of deployment will help with injury management and overuse, as Dave Hakstol ran goalie after goalie into the ground. Gordon tends to take a more careful approach, splitting time more evenly, and not depending so much on the ‘hot hand’ but relying on his defense to play well in front of whichever goalie is behind them, and believing that the goalie can make the saves necessary.
This is a try out for Scott Gordon, and I know that we all want Coach Q, but I think it would be a shame to dismiss Gordon so quickly. We all assumed he would be the guy after Hak anyway, so lets give him a fair shake and believe in what he can do.
Lets be excited to watch Flyers hockey again, because the moves were made. We got what we wanted. And now we have to support this team as they find their identity after a disaster of a season so far and build a champion from the rubble that remains.