So if most agree it's a sound, smart hire -- or at least it's August and we're all feeling sunny -- what do we expect to go right, and what do we fear may go wrong?
On the plus side, we have:
- his track record of working with young players
- his commitment to defense, which is sort of important when you can't score
- glowing reviews from peers, and
- the fact that his position during his playing days was the same as the other two most important people in the Islanders organization. Between Gordon, Garth Snow, and Rick DiPietro, the Islanders are now run by an Axis of 'Keepers. We all know goalies are crazy; now they're running the asylum.
On the minus side -- not minuses, really, but potential obstacles:
- The introduction. Gordon's first three months will be potentially the most critical part of his tenure: How he runs training camp, how he sets rules, how he adapts to the "luxuries" that NHLers are used to, and how the season starts. The Isles could easily start the season struggling. A few bounces or bad calls are the difference between a Laviolette-ish start and a less-than-Stirling start. How he carries the team through that (or whenever their first slump hits), will go a long way toward how the team receives him, and how long a leash he'll have the next time the seas get rough.
- As I've mused and Chris Botta gently warns, despite the youth movement the Isles have several important veterans who will need to be won over. All of them -- even Doug Weight -- signed on with the understanding that they would be playing for veteran-friendly "player's coach" Ted Nolan. Gordon is actually only a few years older than those guys: he entered the NHL around the same time and may be on the same generational wave length. Conversely, those guys went on to 15 years of million-dollar salaries, while he's spent the time busing through places like pre(post-pre?)-NHL Atlanta, Roanoke, and Providence. Not until next pay day will he have a remote understanding of how those wealthy vets shop for groceries.
- Speaking of veterans and starts, how will Weight and Co. react the first time they're told they're not back-checking enough?
- The "circus" factor: Although it appears owner Charles Wang has finally, fully entrusted hockey operations to Snow, Wang has -- how do I put this -- um, "changed his mind" before. But even if Wang stays out of things and lets Snow and Gordon do their job, NHL reporters will continue to bring up Wang, Milbury, Yashin, and even Little Big Horn because they are easy past references that require little checking into what's actually going on with the team right now. When the team slumps, Gordon will need to be able to brush off media innuendos and resist the paranoia that can set in when you're new to your position at a place where goofy things have happened before.