Gordon returns to face Islanders

Head coach Scott Gordon of the New York

Head coach Scott Gordon of the New York Islanders conducts practice during a training camp session at Iceworks. (Sept. 19, 2010) (Credit: Getty Images)

Scott Gordon's dry, biting humor is often evident. On this, though, he seemed serious.

"This is the spot where I want to be."

Gordon now is an assistant coach with the Maple Leafs, who visit the Coliseum Friday. It is his first job since being dismissed as the Islanders' coach on Nov. 15, 2010. He turned down a couple of interviews for minor-league head-coaching jobs last summer before getting an opportunity to join Ron Wilson's staff in Toronto.

"I didn't have to think too much about this offer," Gordon said recently. "I got a chance to work with Ron at the World Championships and the [2010] Olympics. It's a chance to see how someone else runs a team. You can always learn more as a coach."

When general manager Brian Burke and Wilson dismissed longtime Leafs assistants Tim Hunter and Keith Acton and brought in Gordon and former Islanders assistant coach Greg Cronin, it seemed that Toronto, which hasn't made the playoffs since before the NHL lockout, was in desperation mode.

Gordon, 48, could have been viewed as a possible interim successor to Wilson if the Leafs got off to a poor start. But the Leafs have been solid, good enough to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race through 33 games entering Thursday, and the all-American coaching staff appears to be stable.

For Gordon, there is no ill will toward the Islanders after last season's dismissal in the midst of a 1-17-3 slide.

"You can end up doing a lot of second-guessing yourself after something like that happens," Gordon said.

In addition to the losing skid, Gordon was thought to be too tough at times with the young, developing Islanders core, though not all of his former players would agree.

"He definitely meant a lot to me," Frans Nielsen said before the game against the Rangers. "I have a lot to thank him for. He gave me some key ice time when he first started and gave me the opportunity to play a lot of minutes. . . Last year, it really came down to the way we played, not anything to do with him, I think. It just didn't work and we left Garth [Snow] with no choice. But speaking for myself, he did a lot for me. It will be good to see him."

"Since I've been here," Gordon said, "some of the things I've done have been reaffirmed, which is good. And I've learned some new things.

"But every coach has his own style, and you have to do what comes naturally. You can modify your behavior but you can't try to be somebody else."

Gordon has kept an eye on his old team. "I'm sure it's different, because the expectations are higher, as they should be," he said. "They're certainly healthier than we were last year."

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