Scott Gordon can be comfortable any place you put him.
As the coach of the Phantoms.
As an NHL assistant.
As the head coach of the Flyers.
That’s where the Flyers’ interim coach is currently, a point both he and general manager Chuck Fletcher made perfectly clear in back-to-back interviews Monday, as the team began the process of addressing and filling the team’s needs after yet another unfulfilling season. Fletcher and Gordon met for 10 minutes before meeting with the media Monday. Both said that Gordon coaching the Flyers going forward was not discussed.
“Look, Scott did a good job,” Fletcher said. “For me, I just think it’s prudent to take a little bit of time, decompress. … Do a little bit of thinking, do some due diligence. I think the right decision will be easier to come to in a little bit of time.”
Asked if it would be tough to go back to coaching the Phantoms, Gordon said: “No, not at all. That’s how I got here.”
After a rocky, practice-starved start after Dave Hakstol’s firing in December, Gordon authored changes to how the team played that triggered a near-historic turnaround, a 22-10-2 run from Jan. 10 through March 27 that pushed the Flyers to within three points of the final wild card spot before a series of debilitating tight losses finally did them in.
That seemed to end Gordon’s chance to return as coach, particularly with three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville hounding his universe. But Quenneville accepted Florida’s coaching job Monday, and all you had to do was listen later Monday to understand how that fact alone has bolstered Gordon’s chance to return.
Minutes before Gordon addressed the media, Fletcher minimized the importance of finding a coach with a Cup, or even NHL coaching experience.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be experience at the NHL level,” Fletcher said. "I think just coaching experience in general, intelligence, ability to communicate. If you communicate well, you can often motivate.
“I think somebody that you share the same philosophy with is important.”
That should embolden the belief that the Flyers might give their interim coach a full season, especially, as Fletcher also noted, he can hit the ground running with a team he already knows.
After listing a shared philosophy near the top of his requirements for hiring the next coach, Fletcher said the Flyers’ defensive woes were "not all on our defensemen. I think our forwards at times are very loose with the puck. We lose the third guy all the time in the offensive zone. We’re giving up odd-man rushes. We’re turning a lot of pucks over. I think we put a lot of pressure on our defense at times by the way we play.
“I think Scott worked hard at cleaning that up, and we did get better when we had that stretch. We won a lot of hockey games there.”
Later, after Gordon entered the room and Fletcher had departed, the coach said: “I think for me the biggest thing that our forwards have to get better at is not just our entries and turnovers and that, but how we play in the offensive zone … the amount of time you spend in your defensive zone, how good you are defensively, there’s a correlation of how good you are offensively. … It’s a willingness to work in the offensive zone under desperation like you would work in the defensive zone under desperation to keep the puck out of your net.”
Sounds like a shared philosophy, no?
“When you don’t apply yourself into the details of defensive zone coverage, and it ends up in the back of your net, it’s very easy to point fingers as to who made the mistake,” Gordon continued. “But the reality is, if you’re in your offensive zone and you’re paying attention to the details of getting to the front of the net, beating your check off the wall, protecting the puck, cutting back, moving your feet when you get the puck, supporting to the puck, that is to me what makes a team better defensively.”
When Gordon met the players for what could be the last time as their coach, he pointed to their very last period of the season as a template for how to train and play the next one. The Flyers outshot the Hurricanes 10-1 not by how they played in their own zone, but by how they played in the other end.
“When I look back over the 50 games that I was here for, that’s the one area I probably could have, as a coach, put more detail in,” he said. “But I think those are habits, and I think those are habits that get created throughout training camp, throughout preseason and at the start of the year. … Wherever I’m coaching, I’m going to get back to making an emphasis on the effort that’s exerted in the offensive zone.”
Will that be here? In Allentown? Or in one of the handful of NHL municipalities seeking a new coach?
Gordon’s work over the last three months has at least made him harder to ignore.