Since the April hiring of Trevor Linden as the President of the Vancouver Canucks, the team has faced some major changes. Some of these changes included the firing of the General Manager Mike Gillis, as well as the firing of the head coach John Tortorella. In May, Trevor Linden hired Jim Benning as the new General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks, but the team remained without a coach. With the draft coming up later this week, Vancouver Canucks announced that the management team would be complete by then. On Monday morning it was announced that Willie Desjardins was the new head coach of the Vancouver Canucks.
Willie Desjardins has had an extensive career as a head coach in the minor leagues. At first he worked with the Medicine Hat Tigers, and then later on was hired by the Texas Stars. During his two years as the head coach of the Texas Stars, an American Hockey League (AHL) team, Desjardins led the team twice to the post-season, leading the team to the Calder Cup earlier this month. During the press conference with the Vancouver Canucks, Desjardins congratulated his players for winning the cup and apologized for being unable to celebrate their win with them.
As the head coach for Medicine Hat Tigers in the Western Hockey League (WHL), Desjardins was one of the key players responsible for ending the five-year-long playoff drought. During his eight seasons with the team, the Tigers appeared in the playoffs every single year and won the Championship twice. Much of the credit went to the style of coaching Desjardins uses with his players.
57-year-old Willie Desjardins was also an associate head coach of the Dallas Stars between the years of 2010-2012 and has even been awarded the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy for the Coach of the Year in the WHL and the Canadian Hockey League.
During the press conference on Monday, Trevor Linden announced that after interviewing five different candidates, Willie Desjardins was chosen as his views aligned with the goals of Trevor Linden and Jim Benning for the future of the team. Linden praised Desjardins for his work with the Medicine Hat Tigers and Texas Stars, describing Desjardins as a coach whose players “play fast paced hockey.” Meanwhile, Willie Desjardins praised the Canucks hockey players, showing some visible excitement as the new head coach. Vancouver Canucks announced that Willie Desjardins is the new head coach earlier that morning, and the decision to hire him as a coach seems well thought out.
“I’ve looked forward to this day for a really long time.” Desjardins said during the press conference. Willie Desjardins declined an offer from Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday, leaving the Penguins as the only team in the NHL without a head coach. “I can’t say enough how fortunate I am to have this chance.” he stated, thanking the city and the fans. Willie Desjardins also thanked his family, the Dallas organization and Medicine Hat Tigers, as well as the different coaches and players he had worked with throughout the years.
The press conference could not be complete without the mention of the upcoming draft and the saga of the potential Ryan Kesler trade. Throughout the press conference it was became more apparent that the Canucks are intending to use their position in the draft to gain some young players. “Willie is excellent at working with young players.” Benning said, hinting at the excepted rebuilding of the team. Meanwhile, Trevor Linden also made hints at the further changes that await the team, telling the media that while Willie is great at working with players, it was Linden’s goal to provide him with as much talent as possible.
Linden and Benning agreed that there is no timetable with regards towards a potential trade of a Vancouver Canucks forward, Ryan Kesler. However, both admitted that the talks are ongoing.
Willie Desjardins is now relishing in the position of the new head coach for the Vancouver Canucks as the organization finally announced that all management positions have been filled. With more changes on the way for the club, the team slowly rebuilds itself.
Commentary by Ivelina Kunina