Following a total of 10 seasons split between the WHL and AHL ranks as a head coach, Willie Desjardins will take his coaching talents to the Vancouver Canucks.
Desjardins spoke about the opportunity to take over the struggling franchise, per Derek Jory of the Canucks' official website:
It’s a big challenge and if I thought I had to do it by myself, it’d be overwhelming. There’s lots of good people involved, we all have the same goal and when you know that, it’s not overwhelming, it’s exciting. [...]
Every time we play, we play to win; we go out, we’re looking for a way and maybe it has to be a little different every night, the opposition is different, but we’ll have an underlying theme that we’re here to play, we’re here to win and that’s how we’re going to approach every game.
Though he doesn't have any experience at the NHL level, Desjardins has put together a successful coaching career thus far. Since 2002, the 57-year-old has won championships with both the Medicine Hat Tigers and Texas Stars in the WHL and AHL, respectively.
Darren Dreger of TSN alluded to the interest Desjardins was receiving and believed the former AHL coach would land with the Pittsburgh Penguins last week:
It's believed Willie Desjardins has made his way to Pittsburgh. He's the frontrunner for the coaching job but a deal needs to be finalized.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 20, 2014
Desjardins is coming off a season with the Stars where he led the team to the Calder Cup title in only his second year. While he likely had an opportunity to take over for the Penguins, Harrison Mooney of The Vancouver Sun points out why the Canucks job makes more sense:
With the Canucks, Desjardins will be part of a turnaround that’s expected to take a couple years. There isn’t a single Canucks fan that looks at the current team and says, if Desjardins doesn’t have these guys hoisting the Cup next June, he should go. That means he’s got a little more time to manage a culture change, feel his team out, and grow alongside of them.
While the job may appear to be comfy, Fox Sports Live notes the tenure for the previous head man in Vancouver:
The @VanCanucks announce they've named Willie Desjardins their new head coach. He takes over for John Tortorella who was fired after 1 yr.— FOX Sports Live (@FOXSportsLive) June 23, 2014
Oh, and John Tortorella spent 10 full seasons in the NHL before taking over last year, so he had plenty of experience coming in.
Desjardins might not be expected to turn around the Canucks immediately, but he has proven he can groom franchises into a great product on the ice. After taking the Stars to the Calder Cup title in just two years and doing the same with Medicine Hat, he has experience in producing rapidly.
How will Willie Desjardins fare in Vancouver?
With several notable players like Ryan Kesler, Henrik and Daniel Sedin on the top lines, Desjardins certainly has the pieces to build a franchise. The three players notched over 40 points during the 2013-14 season, with Kesler tallying 25 goals for the fourth time in his career.
If the Canucks can find a way to keep Kesler around rather than trading him away, the franchise might be in good hands. After one unsuccessful season, the roster looks like one Desjardins can thrive with in the coming years.
But the Stanley Cup is a completely different beast. The Canucks have shown flashes of greatness over the last several seasons, but failed to make the postseason last year.
Desjardins will need much more consistency from his team to return to the Stanley Cup Final, which they lost during the 2010-11 season. If he can get the most out of this roster, much like he did in the WHL and AHL, this might be the perfect hire for Vancouver.
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