Theme: “every good boy does fine”
Anyone who has taken a couple of music theory classes will recognize the phrase, “every good boy does fine.” They are the notes of the lines in the treble clef of a music score. It also conjures the image of the young student, diligently and earnestly going through his exercises to become more proficient. This is where Gordon appears to be in his still young career.
Gordon went the first ten games of the season, of which he played in seven, without having been on the ice for an opposition goal. Oddly enough, the first time he was on the ice for one was in the Caps’ biggest offensive explosion in the 21 games under former coach Glen Hanlon – a 7-1 win over Toronto on October 29th…31 seconds after he scored his own first goal of the year. That was a streak of 128:35 in playing time for Gordon without a goal scored against on his watch. If no one else thrived under Glen Hanlon, Gordon seemed to, at least early-on in his defensive world (no coincidence that, with Hanlon emphasizing the defensive end and little risk-taking more than attacking in the offensive end).
* seven games
But Gordon – like the rest of the Caps – sank into an abyss of unproductive play as time wore on. After that effective start (defensively), he was 0-1-1, -5 for November (in ten games) leading up to Hanlon’s dismissal.
Gordon’s fortunes mirrored the Caps, in a way, after the change behind the bench. He had an empty net goal in his second game under Bruce Boudreau, then suffered a fractured hand against Florida two games later (it did not prevent him from taking a turn and scoring in the shootout of a 2-1 loss). The injury would cause him to miss a dozen games, but when he returned he went 2-4-6, +4, in his first half-dozen games back in the lineup. He will remind no one of Pavel Bure in the offensive end, but he has been a competent offensive player in previous stops along the way, so this kind of performance might be thought of as a peek at things to come.
The thing is, though, the shut-down defensive performance and occasional outbursts of offense do not appear to come concurrently with Gordon, and this is the inexperience in his game. If one looks at his progress in the offensive end (10-12-22-33 goals over four years with Red Deer in juniors, and a similar progression on a goals-per-games-played basis in the AHL), it is apparent that this will be a late-arriving talent for Gordon in the NHL…not unlike that music student mastering E-G-B-D-F before tackling Mozart.
What Gordon has mastered already is the art of the draw. In 49 of 67 games he won at least 50 percent of the faceoffs he took on the way to a 55.8 mark for the season. He finished tenth among centers taking at least 500 draws in this category, and he was consistent. In only one ten game split did he fail to win at least 50 percent of his draws in a majority of the games.
That offensive game does need to pick up, though. Among forwards playing at least 50 games, only Matt Bradley had a worse shooting percentage (6.3 percent) than Gordon’s 7.0 percent. Gordon does not have a classic wrist shot or a booming slap shot, but we perhaps should not take the nickname “Muffin” too literally, either. We think this will be an aspect of his game that will develop and improve as time goes by.
Gordon lacks a fully-assembled game. The pieces are mostly there, at least intermittently, and he is a hard working player. He is, for lack of a better description, a “diligent student,” if not gifted. His skills, though, are of the sort a team needs to be successful. Gordon is a work in progress. He’s made improvements, but there is more to be done (something that can be said for a lot of players on this team). For that, Gordon gets a…