The Flyers’ late-season stumble out of playoff contention didn’t help Scott Gordon’s chances, but in an informal survey, his players believe he is deserving of being promoted to head coach.
“He’s been great for us,” center Sean Couturier, the Flyers’ MVP said before the team ended its frustrating season with a hard-fought 4-3 loss Saturday night to Carolina at the energetic Wells Fargo Center. “He made some adjustments that made our team better. It’s too bad we couldn’t pull the comeback and make the playoffs, but I think as a team we got better and that’s what you want.”
Carolina, which went 4-0 against the Flyers this season, secured the Eastern Conference’s top wild-card spot with the win. The Hurricanes will play the Washington Capitals in the first round.
The Flyers, who used an NHL record eight goalies this season, finished 37-37-8, and the 82 points is their lowest total since 2006-07.
Asked if he wanted Gordon to return, Couturier said, “for sure," adding that when a new coach comes in, "there’s always an adjustment every time. It’s never easy seeing a coach go away, so I definitely would like having him back.”
Scott Laughton, whose role increased under Gordon, felt the same way.
“He integrated the systems slowly, and I think that’s the best way to do it,” said Laughton, whose team used an effective 1-3-1 neutral-zone forecheck to frustrate opponents during a two-month run of excellence. “You don’t have many practice days (because of the crowded game schedule), but he was really detail-oriented and held you accountable, so you know what you’re getting out of him. And that’s all you can ask for from a coach: honesty. He lets you know when you have a good shift and he let’s you know when you have a bad shift.
“I’d like to see him back.”
That seems like a long shot, however, based on hints dropped by the Flyers’ brass.
The Flyers lost their last five games and seven of their last eight under Gordon, who had a 25-22-4 record after taking over for Dave Hakstol on Dec. 17 and being named the interim coach. The Flyers were 12-15-4 under Hakstol this season.
Captain Claude Giroux liked Gordon’s coaching style. Ditto James van Riemsdyk.
“It’s tough coming in during the middle of the season and making some adjustments and not having a training camp to do that,” said van Riemsdyk, who was in Toronto when Gordon was an assistant with the Maple Leafs. “He did a really good job of communicating the different things he wanted to see from us and the different changes he wanted to make.”
The Flyers, with their special teams making strides and the goaltenders playing solidly, went on an 18-4-2 spurt to climb within three points of a playoff spot before collapsing down the stretch, winning just three of their last 13 games.
“He obviously helped us go on a pretty good run, where we put on ourselves back in it for a while, but unfortunately, we came up a little bit short,” van Riemsdyk said.
After Saturday’s loss, Gordon said his previous head-coaching stint with the Islanders “wasn’t a great one. So much so that I really didn’t think too much about coaching in the NHL (again). If it happened, great. But I wan’t losing any sleep over it. But as I told the players after the game tonight, coming in here and dealing with the character of the players. ... re-invigorated my desire to coach in the NHL. That being said, I’ll do what job is asked of me and I won’t think twice about it.”
General manager Chuck Fletcher has several candidates he is considering, including Gordon, who is not believed to be the first choice. Joel Quenneville and Dan Bylsma, each of whom have led teams to Stanley Cups, are believed to be strong candidates.
Quenneville, 60, won three Cups with Chicago and has the second-most wins (890) in NHL history.
“Ultimately, those decisions are outside of our control as players,” said van Riemsdyk, whose team faced a 2-0 deficit 32 times this season -- and won just four of those games, “but I’ve had a good relationship with Gordo and I think he’s done a great job for us and we’ll see where that goes.”
Fletcher said he will name his coach long before the NHL draft starts on June 21.
“I think everybody wishes the best for him,” right winger Travis Konecny, who scored his 24th goal Saturday, said of Gordon. “I’m in no position to do Chuck’s job, but I think he stepped in and did a phenomenal job for us. We played some really good hockey under him, and for the young guys, he does a lot of explaining and coaching and trying to make you become a better professional at both ends of the ice.”