As he continues his lessons post All-Star with Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey and the rest of the kid Islanders, Scott Gordon is well-represented in the league by several young players who credit the coach for bringing them along.
Prior to his breakout this season, David Krejci developed under Gordon for a year and a half with Providence of the American Hockey League. The 22-year old Krejci spoke to Point Blank last week of the major impact Gordon had in his preparation for the NHL.
“Scott was my first professional coach,” said the Czech Republic native, “and he helped me so much with the transition from junior (Gatineau of the Quebec League) to the pros. He taught me the importance of taking care of our own end on defense. We had a lot of one-on-one meetings where we looked at video and he helped me understand all the little details that can make you a great player.”
For an offensive whiz like Krejci – 17 goals and 35 assists in 47 games with the Bruins this season – it was surprising to hear the kid talk of how he was aided by Gordon’s psychological approach to the game.
“Confidence is a big deal for me,” Krejci said. “That’s important for a scorer and I think Scott realized that early on. Right from the beginning, he trusted me and believed in me. He told me what he expected from me, which was a lot. I appreciated that.
“It’s nice to see so many of his young players from Providence doing so well in the NHL. I’m glad Coach made it. He deserved it. If the Islanders give him the time, he will get the job done.”
In an interview with the Boston Globe, Chicago Blackhawks Young Star Kris Versteeg said his year-plus with Gordon in Providence was invaluable.
“I really enjoyed playing for Flash,” said Versteeg, traded by Boston to Chicago for Brandon Bochenski and now flourishing in an up-tempo system. “He’s unbelievable. I think he almost kick-started my career again. He put me out there in situations that, in my first year of pro hockey, I never thought I’d get to play in. I wish him all the best.”
But sometimes you can get an even better read on a teacher not from Grade A stars like Krejci but from an overachieving B-level student. That’s why when the Bruins were in town last week it was important to hunt down 5-11, 190-pound defenseman Matt Hunwick, a former 7th round pick.
“One of the biggest reasons I’m here is Gordo’s hands-on approach,” Hunwick (with his hands on Kyle Okposo, left) said in the Bruins’ locker room at Nassau Coliseum. “There’s a whole bunch of guys in this room who will tell you that, starting with a star like Dave Krejci.
“Especially for the Islanders’ young players like Okposo and everyone else coming through the ranks, he’s going to be so good. He’ll stop practice and explain everything. He’ll break it down for you one-on-one with video. He’ll teach. Assuming he gets the time to bring their young players along, you’ll see the benefits.”
But the big question is, can Gordon’s go-go approach work in the NHL?
“Of course it can. It does,” said Hunwick. “Although we’re not mirroring Gordo’s system here, we’re playing much more up-tempo now. And one of the great things about what he preaches is that you really learn how to play as a team. That’s how it worked in Providence and I’m sure will work again for Scott at the next level.”
ETC: The Islanders returned to practice today at Iceworks. Four players who missed games prior to the All-Star break practiced today: Doug Weight, Trent Hunter, Andy Hilbert and Chris Campoli. The team practices tomorrow morning at Iceworks with returning All-Star Mark Streit. With the Islanders’ next game not until Thursday in Atlanta, it’s unlikely the lineup – who stays in Bridgeport, who goes – will come into shape until at least Wednesday.