Scott Gordon is a little more than four months removed from his last coaching gig, when he was replaced as New York Islanders coach during an 0-9-1 skid that turned into a 1-17-3 slide after Jack Capuano took over.
He certainly has heard and read about his old players' enjoyment of Capuano's style, of having more freedom to be creative, of the interim coach perhaps not being as tough on their miscues as the former coach.
Even Gordon can see where it went wrong in November, how a 4-1-3 start turned into a 10-game stretch in which his team allowed 39 goals and looked as though it simply had stopped listening.
"When you're going through something like that, you don't even feel like yourself," Gordon told Newsday this past week. "You look back and think, 'That wasn't me.' We were trying to tighten up a lot of holes in our game, missing a bunch of key guys, and I think we just got too tight.
"Looking back, I'd definitely do it differently."
He will unpack his whistle and skates next month, having been named this past week to coach the U.S. team in the World Championships for a second straight year.
The difference is that, after a season with the Islanders and an assistant coaching spot at the Olympics in Vancouver, he was a bit weary when he got to Germany for the Worlds a year ago. When he gets to Slovakia with his team next month, he'll be fresh.
He's been doing some scouting for the Islanders in Atlanta, where he lives -- he's under contract until June -- but he's been laying relatively low. "Aside from coaching my kids' teams on occasion, I've really been away from it," he said. "It's great to get back to coaching."
From the time he was hired in the summer of 2008 to the time he was fired, the deck was stacked against him. The Islanders went from nagging groin pulls in Gordon's first training camp to complete physical breakdowns, from being forced to use untested goaltenders for all of 2008-09 to a decimated defense last season and, finally, to losing Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo to shoulder injuries before camp broke this season.
Gordon was tough on the Islanders in his 181 games, especially the young core. Josh Bailey and John Tavares, to name two, had to learn how to play defense before they could work on their offense, and both struggled to master Gordon's system. Some veterans openly bristled and were traded.
"He did what he had to do, especially with so many young guys," Streit said. "You have to learn the right way to do things here after being in juniors or in college. And sometimes you have to screw up 10 times, or 50 times, before you get it right. Scott made sure everyone knew what they needed to do, and he was pretty tough doing it."
Gordon tried to lay the foundation for Tavares, Bailey and the others. Of course, the coach who lays the foundation doesn't always get to stick around to see the finished house.
Despite the obvious improvement under Capuano, the Islanders will miss the playoffs for a third straight season. But Gordon is happy for his old players and his old assistants, Dean Chynoweth and Scott Allen, that the Islanders have experienced some success.
"Fans in New York should be excited by what's happening there," he said. "It's huge for them to have some depth now, to have the forward lines show some chemistry for the future. It's great to see them do well."
Some of the current Islanders remember Gordon a bit more fondly than others. "He's the one who made me believe I could play here," Frans Nielsen said. "When I signed (in 2008), I wasn't so sure, but Scott believed in me and thought I could help the team. He said he saw the same things in me that he saw in (David) Krejci (with the Bruins' Providence farm team). I have him to thank for that."
Gordon hopes coaching at the Worlds will help push him back into the minds of some NHL general managers who may be making changes.
Ottawa, New Jersey, Florida and Colorado could be looking for new coaches. Gordon hasn't ruled out taking an assistant job in the NHL, either.
"He'll get another shot. He's a good coach," Streit said. "You know, this was his first NHL job, too, and you have to learn at that job just as you do being a player."