The winds of change that are expected to blow through the Philadelphia Flyers organization this summer started to gust this week in Allentown.
On Tuesday, general manager Chuck Fletcher announced that the organization had decided to mutually part ways with their AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms coach Scott Gordon. Assistant Kerry Huffman has also decided to step down from his role.
Goodbye To Gordon, Huffman
“We appreciate the positive impact Scott has had on the organization in his six years here in Lehigh Valley,” said Phantoms co-owner Jim Brooks in a statement. “Together with Scott and Kerry, we had many special moments including our trip to the AHL Conference Finals during the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs. We are grateful for their dedication.”
The move was seen as something of a surprise.
Gordon predated Fletcher’s arrival in Philadelphia, but he acquitted himself well. His most impressive work came as the Flyers’ interim head coach, when Fletcher dismissed Dave Hakstol two weeks after becoming general manager in December of 2018.
When Hakstol was let go, the club was 12-15-4 that year. Gordon guided them to a 25-22-4 record the rest of the way. He got the team back to .500, but they still finished short of a playoff spot.
With the Phantoms, the high watermark during Gordon’s tenure was the team’s run to the Eastern Conference Final in 2018. That roster included present-day Flyers Oskar Lindblom, Philippe Myers, Travis Sanheim, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Sam Morin and Carsen Twarynski.
Under Gordon’s watch, the Phantoms have been a fertile training ground for young players ready on their way to the NHL.
This season, Gordon guided the Phantoms to an impressive record of 18-7-4-2. He also delivered a long list of call-ups to the big club, including Tanner Laczynski, Wade Allison, Egor Zamula and Cam York. In addition, Gordon watched over teenagers Tyson Foerster, Zayde Wisdom and Mason Millman while their junior-level OHL season was cancelled due to Covid-19.
Huffman The First Domino
Fletcher told Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer that the impetus for the change was Huffman’s decision to move on.
am excited about the next challenge. #seeyouattherink
— Kerry Huffman (@Khuffman5) May 18, 2021
“We were going to have to look for an assistant coach this summer,” Fletcher said. “And Gordo was going into the last year of his contract next year.”
No Ill Will From Gordon
When Fletcher and Gordon spoke on Monday, the general manager expressed reluctance to offer Gordon an immediate contract extension.
“We just started talking about it,” Fletcher said. “I’m not sure he would really want to be a lame duck, and I’m not sure it makes sense for us to be hiring an assistant coach if our head guy is a lame duck.”
Thus, the two sides chose to go their separate ways.
“This gives him time to find the next step. And he doesn’t have to be a lame duck, which I don’t think is good for either him or us,” Fletcher said.
Gordon appeared to bear Fletcher no ill will when Carchidi caught up with him on Tuesday. He was making the drive to his offseason home in Atlanta.
“I loved being there and had a great six years,” Gordon said. “I don’t think I could have envisioned how great it was. You coach in the minors for as many years as I’ve coached, and you get to Lehigh Valley and see the facilities and the owners and how passionate they are, and the sold-out building. Everything far exceeded my expectations.”
Gordon, 58, amassed a record of 186-121-40-1 with the Phantoms. His AHL head-coaching resume that stretches back to the year 2000. His 407 career wins in the league rank him sixth all-time.
A goaltender during the height of firewagon hockey, Gordon also spent most of his playing days in the minor leagues. His NHL career was limited to 23 games for the Quebec Nordiques between 1989 and 1991.
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Will Laperriere, Murray Be Next?
What’s next for the Phantoms? Tony Androckitis of InsideAHLhockey.com reported Tuesday that the leading candidate to replace Gordon is former Flyer Ian Laperriere.
The 47-year-old has served as an assistant coach with the Flyers for the last eight seasons. He’s known for his ability to connect with younger players.
Androckitis also reports that the Phantoms are looking at a veteran presence to fill Huffman’s AHL assistant position. Terry Murray spent three seasons as the head coach of the Flyers between 1995 and 1997, when the club reached the Stanley Cup Final. After a brief foray in Florida, he returned as a scout during the 2000-01 season. He eventually spent another four season behind the Flyers bench as an assistant, starting in 2003.
Now 70, Murray’s last NHL head-coaching job was with the Los Angeles Kings. He was replaced by Darryl Sutter midway through the season before the Kings’ run to the 2012 Stanley Cup. After that, he spent three seasons as head coach of the Adirondack/Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He then returned to the NHL as an assistant with the Buffalo Sabres, but hasn’t coached since the end of the 2016-17 season.