The Leafs have missed the playoffs all three seasons with Ron Wilson at the helm. Wilson, who is in the final year of his contract, and general manager Brian Burke hired Gordon knowing full well that an assistant with NHL head-coaching experience is a perfect candidate to take over a struggling team.
"Some change was needed here and I was not content with the direction it was going," Burke said in a news conference Monday.
The Islanders fired Gordon Nov. 15 with the team in the midst of a 1-17-3 skid. He stayed on as a scout to finish his contract but was given permission to find a new job. He interviewed last month for the head-coaching position with the Florida Panthers, who hired Kevin Dineen.
"I've been a head coach the last eight years, so this will be different," Gordon told Newsday by phone from Toronto. "It's a chance to be able to study the game and different styles with a little less on my plate, not being the one who makes every decision."
Gordon and Greg Cronin, the former Islanders assistant (1999-2003) and Bridgeport coach (2003-05), were hired to replace longtime Leafs assistants Tim Hunter and Keith Acton.