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Gordon takes command of Isles

by Brian Compton /

Scott Gordon will take over the New York Islanders bench after five seasons in Providence, where he racked up a record of 221-141-20-27, including the 2007-08 AHL Coach of the Year award.
WATCH: Gordon interview on IslandersTV
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Just a few hours before he was formally introduced as the 14th head coach in New York Islanders history, Scott Gordon decided to sit down and have breakfast with his family.

It was then when they first felt like they were home.

"Wow," said Gordon's wife, Jennifer, an Atlanta native. "Real bagels."

Welcome to New York.

Gordon, 45, saw a dream come to fruition Wednesday afternoon at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. After doing nothing but win the past five seasons at the American League Hockey level with the Providence Bruins, Gordon is finally getting his chance in the NHL.

The reigning AHL Coach of the Year, Gordon guided the Boston Bruins' top affiliate to a record of 55-18-3 in 2007-08. Over the course of five seasons in Providence, Gordon compiled a record of 221-141-20-27.

The numbers certainly indicate that Gordon was deserving of this chance. Now, it's up to the former Quebec Nordiques' netminder to prove that Isles General Manager Garth Snow made the correct choice.

Standing at the podium addressing the New York media for the first time -- as well as players Bill Guerin, Rick DiPietro and 2008 first-round pick Josh Bailey -- Gordon made no bones about what the goal on Long Island will be when training camp begins next month.

"The first step that our team is going to have to understand from Day One is you have to have the belief that you're going to win the Stanley Cup," Gordon said. "To do that, you have to believe that you can win every game. I can't wait to get started."

While most prognosticators will say the Islanders are a long shot just to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- let alone win hockey's Holy Grail -- Gordon believes there is enough talent for the Islanders to win their fair share of games. At the same time, he believes Jeff Tambellini and Kyle Okposo can be relied upon as key players.

"I think you can do both," Gordon said of winning and developing. "That's what it's been about the past five years in Providence. You want to get them to develop, create an environment that they can be successful as individuals and as a team, and, along the way, win some games. It's a lot harder to develop in a losing atmosphere. You have to learn how to win."

His P-Bruins did just that last season, as they racked up 117 points despite possessing a very young roster. Gordon believes the success mostly came from a strong chemistry inside his locker room, which he hopes to instill at the Coliseum.

"When you looked at our roster last year, we didn't have a team that anybody would have picked to win the amount of games that we did. When you're in that situation, if you can get your team to win 55 games, it didn't just take X's and O's. It took the players buying into the system that we played, being accountable to each other. We're all going to benefit if we're all pulling together.

"For me, the most important thing is the players wanting to play for each other," he added. "It's about getting them to believe in each other. You can be the nicest guy in the world, but if you don't have any structure, your team is probably going to fail. I think it's important as a coach that you establish relationships with your leaders so that they help you get your message across."

His ability to do just that is one of the many reasons why Snow tabbed Gordon over other candidates such as Bob Hartley and Paul Maurice, who held NHL coaching jobs as recently as last season.

"I had several ingredients I was looking for in a coach," said Snow, who parted ways with Ted Nolan last month. "Communication skills, the ability to provide structure, the sense of accountability … most importantly, I was looking for a coach with a lot of integrity and honesty. As an organization, we're extremely proud and happy to have Scott as our head coach. His track record speaks for itself."

Despite all of his success at the minor-league level, it took more than a decade for Gordon to reach this point. His first job was as an assistant coach with the Atlanta Knights of the International Hockey League. He was head coach of the Roanoke Express (ECHL) for two seasons (he went 38-22-10 in 1998-99 and 44-20-6 in 1999-2000) before joining Providence as an assistant.

Fourteen years later, he's in the NHL. He claimed he never once got dejected about not being offered a job sooner, and he has his playing days to thank for that. Gordon, a former goaltender, spent nearly four full seasons in the minors before getting the call from Quebec. He played parts of two campaigns with the Nordiques and represented the United States in the 1992 Olympic Games.

"I worry about the present season and I worry about the task at hand," Gordon said. "I never looked beyond that. In my third year pro, I was down in the East Coast (Hockey) League, and I thought I wasn't going to make it to the NHL. When I got to Johnstown, I couldn't believe the situation I was in. I said to myself, 'I'm just going to go out and have fun and enjoy every day and not worry about the future.' Almost a year and a month to that day, I made my NHL debut."

Next month, he'll make his NHL debut as a coach.

Defenseman Matt Lashoff -- who was selected in the first round by the Boston Bruins in 2005 -- raved about his former coach and believes the Islanders have made a very wise choice.

"It's one of the most deserving things I've ever seen," said Lashoff, who developed under Gordon and appeared in 18 games for Boston last season. "I was talking to some of the guys, and we heard he was one of the three final candidates. Everyone was pulling for him. He proved year in and year out that he was one of the best coaches in the AHL. He brings out the best in everybody."

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