One day after finishing the 2016-17 season with the 29th-best record in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks have announced that they have fired their head coach and two of his assistants.
The Canucks have let go head coach Willie Desjardins, along with assistants Doug Lidster and Perry Pearn. Assistant coach Doug Jarvis appears to have kept his job.
“We made a very difficult decision to relieve Willie Desjardins of his duties as head coach today,” said Canucks GM Jim Benning. “It’s been a challenging season and we all share responsibility for the results however, we felt this change was necessary as we continue to develop a young team and look ahead to the future. We’re grateful to Willie, Doug, Perry and each of their families for their dedication and hard work and wish them every success.”
“We have a great deal of respect for Willie, Doug, and Perry as coaches and as people and wish them nothing but success with their future endeavors,” president Trevor Linden said in an email to season ticket members. “It has been a very challenging few seasons and each one of us shares responsibility for the results. However, we felt this change was necessary as we continue to develop this young team and look ahead to the future.
“We will take the next several weeks to review our coaching options. I anticipate we will have our new staff in place before the NHL Entry Draft in June.”
Desjardins was the first coaching hire by the Trevor Linden-Benning regime in June of 2014. Hiring the career-coach from Climax, Saskatchewan was seen as a real win for the organization at the time, having outbid the Pittsburgh Penguins for his services.
And in year one, Willie seemed to push all the right buttons, leading the Canucks to a surprising 101-point season and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
After a tumultuous season under John Tortorella, Daniel and Henrik Sedin flourished again under Desjardins, scoring 76 and 73 points respectively.
The turning point for Desjardins was the 2015 playoffs, where the Canucks were ousted in six games in the first round by the Calgary Flames. The Canucks were pushed around and beaten up on the scoreboard too, by a less experienced and inferior team. Desjardins made some curious decisions, underplaying the Sedins. By all accounts, he was out-coached by Flames bench boss Bob Hartley.
In years two and three, Desjardins had much less to work with roster-wise, and the team plummeted. The Canucks finished in 28th-place with 75 points in 2015-16, and 29th this season with 69 points.
To be fair to Willie, his already talent-starved lineup was also decimated by injury for much of the past two seasons.
Still, lineup decisions and in-game player deployment were head scratching to say the least. It’s hard to make a case for a coach with any roster when the team loses as many games as it did.
In the end, the Canucks made the obvious choice to not bring back a coach that failed to get his team to a respectable level for two straight seasons.