And he is really the story here. This edition of Islanders training camp gets its intrigue almost solely from the coach making his first impression on the job, and not from players trying to make impressions to win a job.
The Islanders are fully stocked with NHL contracts, so the only possible "surprises" are young Jack Hillen on defense and the feature story-like tale of Brandon Sugden. You can throw first-round pick Josh Bailey in there if you want, but shock is not strong enough to describe how I'd feel if the Islanders kept the 18-year-old from returning to juniors to continue his development.
Anyway, each day reveals a little more about new coach Scott Gordon. Today, Greg Logan dropped lots of early impressions from vets new and old, like Doug Weight and Brendan Witt. With the all-important caveat that it's early, and everyone wants to embrace a fresh start, the quoted vets like Gordon's get-down-to-business approach.
For example, is it really OK that Gordon is focusing on teaching, drilling, learning, and not scrimmaging? Witt thinks so:
"I like it better that we practice because we’re working systems. The last couple years, my first time on ice was the intrasquad game. It’s kind of nice to get to practice and learn the system before you even go in any exhibition games."What of the "overspeed" concept. Is Gordon really trying to make players become "faster"? Weight clarifies:
"He’s not talking about the way you skate as a style," Weight said. "He’s saying, ‘You’ve got to move your feet more and move them more often.’ We’ve talked about it, and I’m a guy that slows the game down. But when I’m at my best, I’m playing my fastest while slowing the game down. You get more room the faster you are, and you can still make your snowplows and still make your fakes and buy yourself room.
The other salient point is Gordon's desire for the defensemen on breakouts to consider hitting the center more rather than sending it up the boards to the wings.
That should be fun to watch. Look for some unsightly early turnovers as they adjust, and -- maybe, just maybe -- some pretty breakouts if the Isles' D rise to the challenge of bringing more options and zip to the proceedings.