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Scott Gordon hired to coach Lehigh Valley Phantoms; Riley Cote remains as assistant

He's been an NHL head coach, an NHL assistant coach, and a successful AHL head coach in the past.

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The Phantoms have hired former New York Islanders head coach Scott Gordon as their next head coach, the team announced on Monday morning.

The hiring comes after former head coach Terry Murray left for an assistant job with the Buffalo Sabres earlier this offseason. There was talk that Phantoms assistant coach and former Flyers enforcer Riley Cote could have a shot at the job, but Ron Hextall and Co. decided to go this different route. Cote will remain an assistant for his sixth season.

"We are extremely pleased to add Scott to our organization as head coach of our top affiliate in the Lehigh Valley," said Hextal in a press release. "He brings in a proven track record of success and knowledge as a coach at all levels, and we are confident he can help develop our prospects through our system, as well as lead the Phantoms back to the Calder Cup playoffs."

Gordon was the head coach of the Islanders from 2008 to 2010, fired 17 games into the 2010-11 season. He obviously didn't have much of a team to work with on the Island back in those years, and the results show: the team won just 64 of the 181 games they played while Gordon was behind the bench. It's probably not fair to judge him on those Isles teams, because they were terrible regardless of coach.

From 2002 until taking the Islanders job in 2008, Gordon was the head coach of the AHL's Providence Bruins. His teams qualified for the Conference Finals once, and never finished with a regular season record below .500. In 2007-08, his Bruins finished with the best regular season record in the AHL.

Most recently, Gordon was the assistant coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. While that might not be comforting at first, he was in charge of the power play there, and it wasn't too bad. Despite all of that team's other issues, that power play finished sixth in the NHL -- about even with the Flyers -- in 2013-14.

He was fired in May 2014 in Year 1 of a much-needed house cleaning in Toronto, and after his dismissal he gave a lengthy interview to The Globe & Mail about the Leafs' woes. It provides some insight into his thinking, although it should be noted that he was extremely loyal to now-former Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, which could cloud what's being said in the interview. Here's a portion:

Q. One aspect of your year that became highly controversial was the analytics movement and its evaluation of your team. Were you aware of that at all and how do you weigh in on it?

"I don't think anybody likes to get outshot. And no matter if we won the games, there was always this feeling [among the coaches] of what do we have to do to cut this down? That was obviously an ongoing conversation that we had throughout the year.

"But it doesn't mean that you're a good team or a bad team if you get outshot half the time. There are teams that get 20 shots in [some] games and they get outshot but they still win.

"The reason why teams get outshot is it's not so much about defensive play as it is about offensive play. If you're spending more time in the offensive zone, it's harder for the other team to get more shots. It's a simple concept but that's the truth of it. The best team I ever coached in the American League, we led the league in shots for and shots against was probably top 10. It wasn't because we were a great defensive team; we didn't play in our zone.

"If you can commit yourself to being diligent in the neutral zone and making good decisions in the offensive zone, you're going to get more offensive opportunities. When Dan Bylsma took over [in Pittsburgh], they were a perfect example of D up to the wing and chip and go get it. D to D, up to the wing and go get it. Obviously offensively we scored goals but there was an opportunity to score more goals if you're consistently getting the puck in the offensive zone."

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