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Monday, August 11, 2008
Gordon should be Isles' man


According to a report in Newsday, Islanders GM Garth Snow has whittled down his coaching wish list to just three names: former Hurricanes/Leafs bench boss Paul Maurice, ex-Avalanche/Thrashers coach Bob Hartley and current Providence Bruins (AHL) leader Scott Gordon.

If the report is true -- and Newsday's Greg Logan does a good job covering the Isles -- Snow should tap Gordon.

Yeah, I know Gordon doesn't have any previous NHL head-coaching experience. He has spent the last five seasons working behind the bench in Providence. In that role, Gordon has been dealing with young players, trying to get them ready for the next step.

The former Boston College goaltender was named the AHL's Coach of the Year in 2008. He has a winning record at Providence and he seems ready to move to the next level.

On Long Island, where Snow (wisely) seems committed to rebuilding with youth, Gordon would be a good fit. Plus, he wouldn't command a salary commensurate with previous NHL experience. That's important to a franchise that continues to lose money. Also, the Isles still have to pay recently departed coach Ted Nolan for one more year.

There's another reason that I favor Gordon -- he's not Maurice or Hartley. I don't think either one of those coaches are a good fit for these Islanders.

Quite frankly (wasn't that a show?), I don't think Maurice is a very good coach. I find him to be a very good guy, but very average behind the bench. In his 12 NHL seasons, Maurice's teams have qualified for the playoffs just four times. The quick math tells me his clubs have missed the postseason in eight of those 12 years. Not good.

As for Hartley, who led the powerhouse Avs to a Cup in 2001, I just don't think he's the right person to guide a rebuilding program. Players and coaches who've been around Hartley believe he can be overly negative in dealing with young players. That would be a big problem in this situation.

Really, Hartley should wait for a better opportunity. This club is several years away from being a serious contender for a conference crown, no less a championship. If Hartley fails again (after the Atlanta disaster), he might not get another NHL opportunity.

After failing to follow through on previous promises to rebuild with youth, the Islanders should stay the painful course. In their case, there will be no long-term gain without some short-term pain.

With that in mind, Gordon is a much better choice than either Maurice or Hartley.