The former Islanders coach said he barely spoke to either Leafs GM Brian Burke or coach Ron Wilson before being offered an assistant's job that was announced today. But that's because Gordon, Wilson and Burke are U.S. hockey veterans and this seems to be an ideal situation for Gordon to jump back into the NHL.
“It’s not just because it’s a job,” Gordon said, “it’s working with people I’m familiar with, people that have a passion for the game. Everyone knows what Brian Burke brings, and it’s exciting to be part of a team with a passionate fan base and a front office that wants to bring those fans a championship.”
I talked with Gordon as he sat in Pearson International Airport, on his way back home to Atlanta. That's where he spent the last six months working as a scout for the Islanders, finishing out his contract after Garth Snow let Gordon go on Nov. 15, with the team in the midst of a 1-17-3 slide.
Gordon said he will relish his first time as an NHL assistant.
"I’ve been a head coach the last eight years, so this will be different,” he said. “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.”
With Gordon and Greg Cronin, the former Isles assistant under Butch Goring and Peter Laviolette and former Bridgeport coach, replacing long-time Leafs assistants Tim Hunter and Keith Acton, the coaching staff of Canada's signature franchise now has an all-American front office and coaching staff.
"It's basically what Brian said last night, when someone mentioned that would be the first question in the press conference today," Gordon said. "He just said, 'We don't look at passports.' You don't evaluate a player or a coach based on where they're from. And if we can win here, I'm sure no one will care where we're from."
Left unsaid was what happens if the Leafs, who have missed the playoffs six straight seasons -- the last three under Wilson -- start off 2011-12 slowly. Burke pointed out how loyal he's been to Wilson and felt that the coach deserved to return for this season, but without a contract beyond 2011-12; that means a slow start will force a change, and Gordon is the logical one to take over midseason.
That's not the plan, of course. But it had to make this assistant's job more attractive.