5 possible Canucks coaching candidates to replace Willie Desjardins

Apr 13 2017, 3:12 am

After three seasons in Vancouver, Willie Desjardins was let go by the Canucks on Monday. That means we can officially start speculating on who his replacement will be.

“You’re seeing more and more young coaches make the leap to the NHL, they all have good technical skills now,” GM Jim Benning said at Monday’s press conference, in response to what criteria he’ll be looking for. “It seems like communication with the young players is a big part of getting teams to where they need to be, and the development of players, so that’s a couple of the things that we’re going to look at.”

All signs seem to be pointing at Travis Green, the coach of Vancouver’s AHL affiliate in Utica. But if the team doesn’t want to hire another rookie NHL head coach, as they did when they hired Willie Desjardins in 2014, then perhaps they’ll look in another direction.

Here are five strong options for Linden and Benning to choose from.

1. Travis Green

The head coach of the Utica Comets for the past four seasons, Travis Green should be considered the frontrunner to take over behind the bench in Vancouver.

Why you want him:

His teams have over-performed with depleted lineups. The Comets are in a playoff race this season despite having most of their top players called up to Vancouver for much of the season. When he had some talent to work with in 2015, he helped Utica get to the Calder Cup Final.

As a junior coach in Portland, he led his team to the 2013 WHL Championship.

Why you don’t:

He has a lot in common with Willie Desjardins. Like Desjardins, he has zero head coaching experience at the NHL level and has been criticized for not using his young players enough.


He’s been groomed for this. He’s the favourite.

2. Marc Crawford

Former Canucks head coach Marc Crawford has been the subject of some talk on local radio of late. After four years in Switzerland, Crawford is back in the NHL this season as an assistant with the Ottawa Senators.

Why you want him:

He knows the marketplace, he’s got loads of experience, and his teams play an uptempo style of play that’s easy on the eyes. He first came on board with the Canucks as head coach in the late 1990s, when the team was in a similar position to what they’re in today.

Why you don’t:

He’s won just one NHL playoff series since 1997. His teams play an exciting style of play, but they can be too loose defensively.


He’d be a popular pick for nostalgic reasons, and Trevor Linden knows him well. He’s got a chance.

3. Kevin Dineen

An under-talked about candidate, there’s a lot to like about current Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen.

Why you want him:

He checks all the boxes. He played over a thousand games in the NHL, he’s been a coach at the NHL level, he’s paid his dues in the AHL, and he’s currently learning from one of the best in Joel Quenneville.

He coached Florida from 2011 to 2013 and helped them get to the playoffs, which is a rarity with that franchise.

Why you don’t:

He’s never won a playoff series in the NHL. The Panthers finished with a 15-27-6 record during the lockout-shortened season in 2013 under Dineen. They started the next year 3-9-4 and he was promptly let go.


He’s a strong candidate. Many coaches perform better in their second NHL head coaching job, having learned from past failure.

4. Michel Therrien

If you’re looking for experience and a coach that’s won a lot of games at the NHL level, Michel Therrien could be your man.

Why you want him:

He wins. His career coaching record at the NHL level is 469-340-132. He got the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 and Montreal to the Eastern Conference Final in 2014.

Why you don’t:

He’s been let go in bizarre fashion twice in a row, which is a cause for concern. Despite coaching his team to the Final the year previous, he was let go by Pittsburgh midway through the 2008-09 season and they won the Cup without him.

Therrien was let go by Montreal this season despite being in first-place in the Atlantic Division.


Therrien coached Linden briefly in Montreal, so the Canucks’ president knows him well. If he liked him then, there’s no reason not to give him a shot in Vancouver.

5. Darryl Sutter

If winning’s what you want, Darryl Sutter is the best candidate available.

Why you want him:

Sutter has won everywhere he’s gone, including two Stanley Cups with the LA Kings. He took a talent-depleted Flames team to the Final in 2004.

With Chicago and San Jose beginning in the 1990s, he led his teams to the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons.

He’s currently ranked 11th on the all-time coaching wins list.

Why you don’t:

His teams play the game hard, but that can also lead to low-scoring, defensive hockey.


Sutter should have his pick of a few teams this summer and Vancouver is unlikely to be at the top of his list.

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