If Not Gordon, Then Who?

Scott Gordon: Endangered Species?

So now that the losing streak has hit seven and without hyperbole has a good chance to reach double digits against the Ducks, Sharks and Kings, the "Fire Scott Gordon" Crowd's voice (who I'll refer to here as the FSGC) has gotten louder. There have been a few media mentions -- along with one "sourced" denial presumably from the team -- that Gordon's job is on the line. Two of the five media outlets we check for weekly rankings brought up Gordon's job security in their two-sentence comments next to the Isles. There has still been no comment from Wang or Snow about the security of Gordon's job, but the team never officially comments on that subject anyway.

To be clear: I am not advocating for Scott Gordon to be fired nor am I starting rumors about who would replace him. I am merely presenting a list of possible candidates that might be considered if the FSGC got its wish and Charles Wang and Garth Snow decided to "go in a different direction."

And this leads to one of the questions that the FSGC hasn't answered: Who would take over both short term and long term? I will delve a bit deeper into this issue to see if there are any viable candidates that would either come to Long Island and work with Wang or any that Wang would be willing to pay to come work with him.

First let's take a look at the Wang Era coaches to see if there is a hiring pattern.

His fist coach was Butch Goring, who he inherited when he purchased the team in The Year 2000. After firing Goring he hired former Providence Bruins and then current Boston Bruins assistant Peter Laviolette. When Laviolette was fired after the 2002-2003 season, he was replaced by Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Steve Stirling. Stirling coached either side of the lockout until he was fired during the 2005-2006 season with Brad Shaw seeing out the final 40 games of that season.

Then came the only coach with previous NHL experience (albeit with a 9-year absence from the league in between jobs) to be hired by Wang: Ted Nolan. Nolan was shown the door after the 2007-2008 season, ushering in the Scott Gordon era -- the first era to reach a third season.

So now we have the basic profile of the Charles Wang coaching hire: Someone with experience coaching at least at the AHL level who has had success coaching in the minors. I know it's a small sample size but half of his hires have been from the Bruins organization and one from within the Isles organization. If the candidate was a previous head coach at the NHL level, he has to be desperate enough to basically work for anyone just to get back in the game.

So who is out there who would be available and more importantly want to coach the Islanders under the Chinese Early 1980's model of George Steinbrenner?

 

Internal Candidates

Jack Capuano: Capuano is in his third year as Sound Tigers head coach, taking over in 2007. Previously he was an assistant for the Sound Tigers in the 2006-2007 season and was the coach of USA Hockey Developments Program's U-18 Team in the 2005-2006 Season.Capuano is a champion of the new statistical analysis models and loves using video as part of his teaching. As Sound Tigers head coach, he has a record of 130-98-8-14 over his three plus years in charge. He will be given a shot at the NHL level at some point, but will it be here if Gordon is gone? Capuano is highly thought of within the organization and would probably be the leading candidate to immediately take over if Gordon is fired.

Dean Chynoweth: The first of two Gordon assistants on the list. Chynoweth's last head coach job was as General Manager/Head Coach of the WHL's Swift Current Broncos prior to joining the Islanders in 2009. Of the two assistants he has the most recent experience as head coach, so if they go that route and keep Capuano in Bridgeport.

Scott Allen: The other of Gordon's assistants, Allen has no head coaching experience above the ECHL level, which was also over a decade ago. This is only his second season as an assistant at the NHL level. His lack of being the head guy will probably hurt his chances. Probably low on the internal totem pole as a replacement.

There aren't many other internal options beyond these three. In Brian Trottier, the organization did let go in the offseason the one person in the front office with NHL coaching experience.

 

Up and Comers

Mark French (Hershey Bears): Mr. French is in his second year as Hershey Bears head coach and orchestrated the record breaking season Hershey enjoyed last year. French is still relatively new to the head coaching gig as he was an assistant in Hershey under Bob Woods. Hershey of late has produced a good coaching tree with Bruce Boudreau in Washington with Woods his chief lieutenant.

Ken Gernander (Hartford Wolfpack/The Connecticut Whale*): Would a guy who has been with the Rangers organization as a player and coach since the 1994-1995 season really leave for the Islanders? He might leave for whichever team gives him the opportunity to be a head coach at the NHL level. The Ranger's AHL Messier (The Appearance is uncanny and they both wore 11) has been head coach in Hartford since 2007 and has long been groomed as a future head coach in the NHL. But the Rangers passed him over in favor of John Tortorella in 2008 and is seemingly roadblocked in the only organization he 's known in the past decade and a half. Maybe its a time for a change of scenery?

Rob Murray (Providence Bruins): Why not go back to the Baby B's well? Murray is in his third year as head coach of the Baby B's and has been in the Bruins organization since his retirement from pro hockey in 2003. Murray was a bit of a pugilist in his day (He's second on the AHL's all time PIMs list, only Dennis the Menace Bonvie has more.) and even though he comes from the same organization as Gordon has a different view on the game than the Go-Go Gordon style.

 

Retreads

Craig MacTavish: Before he lost the room in Edmonton, he did take them to a Stanley Cup final and probably would have had something special there if Chris Pronger wasn't a petulant little child and demanded a trade to Anaheim. Honestly, I wouldn't be opposed to giving the last player to skate without a helmet a chance with this team. Of the retreads, my top choice.

Guy Carbonneau: From Jack Adams candidate to being shown the door in Montreal, Guy got a taste of the roller coaster life of an NHL coach. He should get another chance at being an NHL coach and wouldn't be the worst decision in the world (Those will come later).

Ken Hitchcock: For those who want a fiery coach, here's your guy. But Hitchcock is also a perfect example of why long term those types of coaches don't work. First he takes Columbus to their first ever playoffs only to totally loose the locker room the next season and loose his job. Guys like Hitchcock are great quick fixes but in the long run never work out.

Bob Hartley: Would the Stanley Cup winning coach yet flame-out with the Thrashers be willing to give up his sweet broadcasting gig for RDS? I doubt it.

Tony Granato: Never really did much with the Avs prior to his firing in 2009. Currently and assistant in Pittsburgh. Working his way back, but after two unsuccessful chances with the Avs, who would be willing to give him another shot?

Ed Olczyk: Got to suffer the initial growing pains of the now-powerhouse Penguins. Like Hartley, would he seriously consider giving up his cushy broadcasting job for the Isles? Probably not.

Denis Savard: Simlar to Olczyk, endured the growing pains of Toews, Kane and the pre-Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks only to get fired 4 games into to 2008-2009 season. Will probably get another shot at some point, but will it be on Long Island?

 

No Chance in Hell (Or when Pigs Fly)

Butch Goring: Been fired once from the job already. Doesn't seem to have the desire to go back into coaching, otherwise he probably would have caught on as an assistant after his dismissal a decade ago.

Ted Nolan: Only if you're ready for media to focus on GM-coach rifts and salacious rumors again.

Barry Melrose: It's just a little airborne, It's still good! It's still good!

Mike Keenan: Only if hell freezes over.

Mike Milbury: Hey Satan, it's getting chilly down here... Hey! When did that pig grow wings?!?

 

So basically right now the pickings are slim for a new coach. Between that and the Regier/Ruff or Poile/Trotz relationship Snow wants to build with Gordon, he isn't going anywhere any time soon. If Snow didn't think this could work, he wouldn't have brought Gordon back for his third season in charge.

Gordon is the best bet for the job right now and into the future. It's not his fault he's been given a team that needs Alexei Yashin's contract to clear the salary cap floor. So SGC members, before going for the "someone needs to be canned" platform, take a step back and look at the possibilities... Gordon is the best man available for the job. And if Snow and Wang didn't think he was, he wouldn't be here right now.

I've presented a few options here but I'm sure if Gordon goes, at that point Garth Snow will have a plan in place for his long-term replacement.

Any other candidates you would like considered that I missed? With this relatively weak replacement field, is firing Gordon the right move even if the streak does hit 10?

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