VOORHEES, N.J. — It seemed improbable at first.
Scott Gordon had only two-plus years of NHL head coaching experience with not the shiniest of résumés at this level. He went 64-94-23 with the Islanders from 2008-10 and was called to take over a Flyers team in an utter mess.
A general manager from outside the organization had been on the job for two weeks, while a three-time Stanley Cup-winning head coach was on the minds of everyone as the hottest available candidate for any impending vacancy in the league.
Chuck Fletcher, the Flyers' new GM, had to go off of what he knew and was hearing when he summoned Gordon from AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley to become the interim head coach following the firing of Dave Hakstol.
"People I respect rave about his character, his preparation, his intellect," Fletcher said about Gordon on Dec. 17.
"At this point, everybody's a candidate going forward."
Here we are on April 8 and Gordon is still standing, a "strong candidate" for the Flyers' future head coaching job, according to Fletcher Monday at his end-of-the-season press conference. Joel Quenneville, that aforementioned three-time Stanley Cup champ, was in sunny Florida holding up a Panthers jersey as their new leader.
While the Flyers' process began Monday, Gordon is going to be utilized by Fletcher for insight on how the team can plan and improve in all facets ahead of 2019-20.
"I'd like to sit down with Scott and I will talk about the future, the makeup of the team and what he feels we need," Fletcher said. "There are certain things I think we need to do starting in training camp next year to make us more competitive. Making sure we share the same vision. That's something that will be part of the process like it would be with any coaching interview."
Gordon might actually win this thing and why not?
One of his biggest strengths and selling points is his communication. People skills can go a long way in coaching, especially when developing younger players. If the Flyers want to leap back into contention next season, they need bigger strides and consistency from their youngsters.
Gordon produced growth across the board with the Flyers' youth. Throughout the season, he worked with players 1-on-1 to break down film. He would listen to them and they would listen to him. He was listening again in exit interviews.
"Through the player meetings, I talked to the players and asked them, 'OK, what did you like that we did, that we changed — meetings, practice, systems, video length?'" Gordon said Monday. "And it was refreshing to hear the players say that they did have appreciation, particularly the younger guys, to sit down and go through their shifts or go through things, tendencies they had in their game that were either good, bad or indifferent.
"It was nice to hear that because sometimes you think you're doing it and it's in one ear and out the other. They look at you as you're coming down the hall and you say, 'Hey, let's go sit down and watch some video,' and in the back of your mind, you're saying to yourself, 'Is this guy saying not again?' So the fact that they offered up that information, saying that they had value in it, just makes you want to continue to do it."
Nolan Patrick was an example.
"He showed me things that not many coaches have showed me," the 20-year-old center said Sunday. "Even things on the offensive side of things. It was pretty impressive to see the stuff that he was showing me. It helped a lot. He's a smart mind.
"He was great from right when he got here. He helped me a lot with video and stuff I haven't been shown in a while. It was awesome having him here. He changed a lot with our systems. For the most part, I think they worked very well."
Jakub Voracek spoke highly of Gordon on Sunday. He said the coach gave the Flyers "new life" and "new ideas" with a "tremendous amount of respect for the players."
The Flyers were in last place of the 31-team NHL standings more than halfway through the season. Buoyed by an 18-4-2 stretch from Jan. 14 to March 11, the Flyers crept to within three points of a playoff spot before running out of gas.
"The most important thing other than their words is how they played for Scott," Fletcher said. "Their actions spoke loud that they played well for him."
Gordon will now prepare for next season, helping Fletcher and the Flyers over the upcoming weeks. He said his situation isn't awkward as he continues his extended interview with the club.
As Quenneville smiled for the cameras Monday, Gordon reflected.
"I had a great time with the group of players here," he said. "What I liked about it is when I was up front, when I did call them out, when I was hard, when I challenged them, I got a response from them. To be able to do that, particularly in this day and age, and not have the players resent you, that to me is the important part."
Maybe Fletcher had his guy before he ever knew it.
We'll find out soon.
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