One minute he’s announcing his goaltender two, yes two, games in advance.
The next, he’s cracking wise with this one-liner after a spine-tingling 1-0 win over the Rangers in which they gave up 38 shots: “They’re not all Picassos.’’
How about disclosing injuries, right down to the specific affected area, or calling off practice an hour before its scheduled start because he sensed that his team needed a break?
The point we’re trying to make is, Flyers interim coach Scott Gordon has enough faith in his own ability to be open, honest and funny all while he goes about the serious business of being a National Hockey League coach.
What a refreshing change.
Many a coach has made his way through these doors but for some reason a lot of them have not felt secure enough to be candid with the media, or, in general, not really be themselves.
Gordon, who previously was head coach of the New York Islanders and assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, seems relaxed enough in his own skin to trust his instincts and be “real’’ outside the locker room.
And by all accounts, he’s the same way with the Flyers players.
Since moving up from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to replace the departing Dave Hakstol, Gordon has shown an ability to be natural.
He knows when and how to push buttons, in a good way.
If the situation calls for a stern approach, he can do that.
If it calls for a little levity, he can do that, too.
When Carter Hart was named NHL rookie of the month on Friday, here’s how Gordon assessed the situation: “I heard something on the radio today it was between him and Gritty. . .’’
Drum rimshot, please!
So we checked in with former Flyer and current TV analyst Bill Clement to learn if Gordon’s personality lends itself to this current situation, i.e., a new regime which is still somewhat in a state of flux.
From the sheer optics, it feels like something is working, at least through the six-game winning streak.
Is Gordon really as multi-faceted as it would appear?
“I think if you’re a one-dimension type of coach, you’re not going to be able to reach all of your players,’’ said Clement, a long-time resident of Bucks County.
“Different moments, different junctures of a season call for different types of behavior. Whether it’s to lighten things up or to make sure that everybody all of a sudden got the wakeup call, that it’s time to go.’’
Clement indicated that all of what you see from Gordon goes back to more than coaching.
“He’s not only a multi-dimensional person, but he’s also confident,’’ Clement said. “You don’t exhibit all these different qualities and traits unless you’re a real confident coach.
“Personally, I’m really happy that the team is doing well now. Because every coach who was an NHL coach who goes back to the minors (Maple Leafs to Lehigh Valley before coming to the Flyers) wants another opportunity.
“Things got worse when he got here (an 0-6-2 streak in January). I believe he’s a really good coach and I’m happy the team is winning so that he will get another opportunity, and validation that he can coach at the NHL level.’’
Some thought Gordon was a natural choice by new GM Chuck Fletcher because he had coached so many of the current young players when they were together up in Allentown.
But what about making an instant connection with guys like Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier?
“He (Gordon) came in with zero practice time,’’ Clement noted. “He knew the young players but he had to reach the star players, the veteran players. That is often a more difficult task.
“You have to make sure you connect with them. Make sure they understand what you want, believe in what you want. In other words, the Kool-Aid that you’re pouring for them. That’s a tall order.’’
Clement compared the lack of practice time at the outset to coming in and “walking into a 40-mile-per-hour wind.’’
And he added, “he’s really done a good job with it (getting players up to speed) since he’s been here.’’
No doubt the Flyers appreciate this sort of open-line style of communication, too.
“All you want to know as a player is where you stand,’’ Clement said. “If I’m doing what you want me to do, and be who you want me to be, tell me that. If I’m not, tell me what you need that I’m not giving you and I will try to do that.
“That stuff works. And it’s very simple, straightforward communication, honest. Players buy into that. That’s all a player ever wants.’’
Would Clement, who once played for a guy named Fred Shero, make Gordon permanent head coach if it were his call?
“As long as the team is playing strong down the stretch, of course he’s making a case,’’ Clement said. “But one way or the other, he’s making a case to stay in the NHL as a head coach somewhere else.
“He’s basically proven to the world that he can get it done at this level.’’
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