There’s no getting around one simple fact regarding NHL coaches and their players.
If they don’t have relationships — that is, a good open line of communication — they have nothing.
That’s what makes the appointment of interim coach Scott Gordon so intriguing.
Gordon has a reputation for being vocal, both on the bench and off it. Word has it he’s not timid about expressing his feelings. And if his opinion about something is a little negative, so be it.
We’ve also heard he’s good at getting input from his players.
Whether Gordon can successfully install this two-way exchange of information on the fly remains to be seen.
The new coach does have a few things already going for him. He’s coached 11 of these players on the roster – nine of them with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, plus James van Riemsdyk and Andrew MacDonald at the NHL level.
If Gordon can establish a trust with the players he knows and also the ones he doesn’t, he will be that much ahead of the game.
“I’m just kind of pecking away at it here, touching base with everyone,’’ he said. “I try to give them a heads-up, what I expect from each guy and what their role is and go from there.’’
No doubt, the players appreciate that kind of talk. What might have been missing from the previous administration was a strong sense of role-defining, of individual give-and-take.
“Any time there are changes like this, it’s definitely eye-opening,’’ Scott Laughton said. “It’s a different voice, you have to buy into it.’’
When Gordon took over the New York Islanders bench back in 2008, he inherited a team which would get John Tavares a year later but didn’t have much else in the way of talent.
Predictably, he posted a 64-94-23 record and was let go 17 games into the 2010-11 campaign.
Some believe the Flyers should be at least as good as last year’s 98-point outfit but so far, prior to Gordon, that talent has not produced.
“The year I was with him (with the Phantoms), I learned a lot,’’ Laughton said. “Just watching video and things like that. It helped me out.
“I think he will be good for our group. He’s really vocal, holds guys accountable.’’
Accountability could be what this team needs to get over the proverbial hump.
They’ve had winning seasons the past six years but haven’t been able to get beyond the first round of the playoffs. That’s the longest stretch of not getting to the second round in Flyers’ history.
Gordon just might be the guy who can squeeze a little something extra out of this group.
Word has it that down in Allentown, Gordon would stop practice in the middle of a drill, go over to certain players and remind them of proper positioning.
At the end of the day, this is the sort of instruction that most pro players want. Then it’s not so difficult to execute a system in-game.
I guess new general manager Chuck Fletcher might not even be thinking in these terms. For all we know, he could be out chasing some big-name proven winning coach and hire him tomorrow.
In Fletcher’s eyes, Gordon just might be only a caretaker – keeping the seat warm until a more established tactician can take over.
If that’s the case, fine. It’s understood this franchise is starved for success and wants like anything to get back to the good old days of serious contention.
But we say give Gordon a chance. He took the Phantoms all the way to the conference finals last year and several current Flyers were on that team. Those guys have tasted success and know Gordon was a big part of it.
Let’s see if Gordon can build some meaningful relationships and repeat that sort of run on the big stage.