Flyers

Scott Gordon deserves to be an NHL head coach, but where?

Scott Gordon deserves to be an NHL head coach, but where?

Ken Hitchcock believes any head coach hired during the course of a season can have success based on one crucial element. 

“Sometimes they’re just ready to listen. Sometimes you’ve got trigger moments that allow it to be,” Hitchcock said back in December, not long after he took over the Oilers. “Sometimes they aren’t ready to listen. Doesn’t matter who’s the coach.”

The Flyers were ready to be attentive listeners. As general manager Chuck Fletcher stated when he made the switch away from Dave Hakstol, the team needed a new voice, and in a way that extends well beyond cadence and the delivery of the message.

“You just look in the shift in things in the past 15-20 years where everyone wants to get better — in the gym, skill work, video work. If you have someone who can articulate the different details to work on to get better, I think that’s huge,” James van Riemsdyk said. “It’s a really cool thing the passion that guys have for it, but it’s a 12-month job now. The best coaches are the ones that can articulate what they’re looking for.” 

That’s exactly what van Riemsdyk needed from interim head coach Scott Gordon when Gordon was brought aboard on Dec. 18 — a coach who could articulate the expectation out of each of his players. 

Gordon is the seventh different head coach van Riemsdyk has played for, but JVR’s game has thrived as a result of the coaching switch. His .78/ppg under Gordon is a significant improvement from his .47/ppg with Hakstol, and is even slightly better than the .71/ppg under Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, who is widely considered the best coach in the NHL.  

“He sees the game in a certain way,” JVR said of Gordon. “You bounce ideas off each other so you get the best route to go forward, so I think it’s a healthy thing when you have that dialogue with the coach. It’s good to have the dialogue in the relationship with your coaches and I think he’s been great about communicating with guys, and you have that trust aspect.”

Of the five head coaches who were brought aboard within the first three months of the season, two have stood out: former Flyers coach Craig Berube (a Blues assistant also hired on an interim basis) and Gordon.

Craig Berube - STL             28-16-3, .628
Scott Gordon - PHI           20-12-4, .611
Ken Hitchcock - EDM         20-20-6, .500
Jeremy Colliton - CHI          21-24-6, .471
Willie Desjardins - LA          20-26-7, .443

If you project Gordon’s .611 winning percentage over an 82-game season, the Flyers would finish with 100 points, a number good enough to reach the postseason, but considering where the Flyers started, it’s not nearly good enough. However, Gordon didn’t have time right away to make the necessary changes, and it wasn’t until that Jan. 19 game a month later in Montreal where Gordon had implemented his system of play.

His job uncertainty doesn’t change how he looks at the situation, but it has reinforced his principles.

“It might have reaffirmed some of the beliefs that I’ve had as far as coaching, how to do things, systems, people management, work delegation amongst coaches.” Gordon said. “When the year is over, I’ll re-evaluate everything, but to this point, there are things that are positive and things I can look back on and say we can manage this better.”

Maybe Gordon’s style, approach and short-term success will force the Flyers to re-evaluate their coaching position on a permanent basis. 

Three-time Stanley Cup champion Joel Quenneville is considered high on the organization’s list, and understandably so, but the 60-year-old coach will be in great demand with other teams also interested in his services. In that event, the Flyers need to have a Plan B in place and Gordon is proving to be that next best option.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

German Rubtsov continues roster push, Carter Hart sharp, more from Flyers' OT preseason loss

German Rubtsov continues roster push, Carter Hart sharp, more from Flyers' OT preseason loss

BOX SCORE

The Flyers couldn't get one back against the Islanders.

Alain Vigneault's team dropped consecutive preseason games to New York after losing, 3-2, in overtime Tuesday night at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Flyers never trailed until the Islanders' OT winner.

They have five exhibition games remaining. Big names like Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen have yet to dress for the Flyers.

Let's get into some observations:

• German Rubtsov came into the action as one of the most notable roster hopefuls on Tuesday night's game roster. He has played a lot. He competed in rookie camp, scored two goals in the prospects game, performed well in Monday night's preseason opener and was back in the lineup Tuesday.

The Flyers are challenging him.

"That's one of the reasons he's playing tonight," Vigneault said after morning skate. "There are some decisions to be made and some of the things we're going to do is put some players in a tougher spot to see how they react to it."

Rubtsov once again did some positive things. During the second period, he stripped the puck in a battle along the boards and rung the post, nearly giving the Flyers a 2-0 lead. However, he lost 10 faceoffs.

But he really showed himself when he raced out of the chute with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley last season before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He's healthy, strong and is looking more and more like an NHL center.

• Michael Raffl opened the game's scoring with a first period goal on a deflection. He and Scott Laughton were the only forwards in the lineup that played regularly for the Flyers last season.

Raffl will be a quietly reliable guy for the Flyers in 2019-20. Expect to see him on the fourth line and the penalty kill. The 30-year-old played a career-low 11:25 per game in 2018-19 and his minutes should be in that ballpark this season. Those lesser minutes are important, though, when they come on the PK and against the opposition's better lines to give the Flyers' top-six guys a blow.

• Carter Hart made his preseason debut and stopped all 14 shots he faced in 30 minutes.

He has been sharp in camp and the anticipation is there for his first full NHL season.

"For me, I'm here and I'm ready to play," Hart said last weekend. "I put in a lot of work this summer, on and off the ice. I added some muscle, added some durability and I feel really healthy in net, really strong."

Jean-Francois Berube allowed three goals in relief, including the OT winner, when he couldn't locate the puck after making the initial save.

• After a recent camp practice, Maksim Sushko spent a lot of time deflecting pucks at the net. He did about four or five rounds of redirecting shots.

The practice paid off as Sushko screened the goalie on a Chris Bigras goal in the third period. Sushko may have gotten a piece of it. Those role forwards understand that scoring chances will come from effort in limited minutes. Sushko is a 2017 fourth-round pick with speed and entering his first season with the Phantoms.

• Kurtis Gabriel got involved in the action. Flyers fans may recall the name. He's a big guy that likes to be physical and the former Devil is trying to get in the conversation for the Flyers' bottom six. Emotions boiled over between Gabriel and Ross Johnston during the second. In the third, captain Anders Lee laid a big hit on Gabriel, who was banged up and forced to leave momentarily.

Gabriel returned to the game for a short stint, but if anything lingers, it will obviously impact his roster chances with five exhibition games left.

• Bigras was signed on July 1 to a two-way deal. The 2012 second-round pick has 46 NHL games under his belt and enjoyed a career year in the AHL last season, scoring 22 points in 52 games. He had a nice game Tuesday night with two points and a plus-1 rating. The 24-year-old will be good for Lehigh Valley.

Nate Prosser, another defenseman, had an assist but was beat on the Islanders' second goal and was slow to react on New York's first goal. He played under general manager Chuck Fletcher from 2009 to 2018.

• Roster hopeful Andy Andreoff, who has shown a blend of toughness and skill in camp, was not very noticeable during his 15 minutes.

• The Flyers are off from practice Wednesday before welcoming the Bruins Thursday for the their third preseason game (7 p.m./NBCSP).

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers

Flyers at Islanders preseason: Storylines, game time and more

Flyers at Islanders preseason: Storylines, game time and more

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers and Islanders are back at it Tuesday night.

Alain Vigneault's team travels to New York for its second exhibition game.

Let's get into the essentials:

• When: 7 p.m. ET
• Where: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
• Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia+

• A roster hopeful to keep an eye on will be German Rubtsov. He scored two goals in the rookie game, played well Monday night and he's right back out there Tuesday night. It appears like the Flyers could test his endurance and consistency with plenty of looks during the exhibition slate after an injury-shortened 2018-19 season.

"That's one of the reasons he's playing tonight," Vigneault said. "There are some decisions to be made and some of things we're going to do is put some players in a tougher spot to see how they react to it."

Rubtsov does a lot of things that profile well for a bottom-six role.

"I liked his game," Vigneault said. "I thought we put him in penalty killing situations, I thought with his linemates he was good and I liked his pace.

"When I watched him in the rookie game, you could see the skill. … He has to continue to improve. There seems to be a lot of upside there."

• Connor Bunnaman has had an underrated camp. The 2016 fourth-round pick scored 19 goals in his first year of pro last season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley. He has good size and some sneaky speed.

The 21-year-old did not play in the rookie game or the Flyers' preseason opener, so this will be our first look at him in game action.

• Many players did not partake in morning skate, so the Flyers' projected lineup is to be announced. Below is the game roster:

Forwards

Andy Andreoff
Michael Raffl
Scott Laughton
Mikhail Vorobyev
Kurtis Gabriel
Chris Stewart
German Rubtsov
Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Maksim Sushko
David Kase
Matthew Strome
Carsen Twarynski
Connor Bunnaman

Defense

Travis Sanheim
Robert Hagg
Chris Bigras
Tyler Wotherspoon
Nate Prosser
T.J. Brennan
Mark Friedman

Goalies

Carter Hart
Jean-Francois Berube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers