The rumours are flying as the coach watch continues in Vancouver, Pittsburgh and Florida.
Trevor Linden was on the Team 1040 this morning and he said his interview with Mike Johnston was “very strong,” and he has not yet had a chance to sit down with Willie Desjardins following his AHL Calder Cup run. Linden added he’s had strong interviews with both Dan Bylsma and Marc Crawford.
And just before noon today, Bob McKenzie tweeted this:
Nothing signed yet, but Willie Desjardins will be in VAN this weekend. Assuming all goes as expected, he’ll be introduced as coach next wk.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 20, 2014
The more I read about Desjardins, the more convinced I am the Canucks should grab him if they can. Here’s why.
1. He’s a great communicator
Both Trevor Linden and Jim Benning have said they want a coach who is a good communicator. Linden, on the Team 1040 this morning:
“We’re looking for someone who can recapture our (players) who were so off last year.”
Shaun Clouston, Desjardin’s assistant coach with the Medicine Hat Tigers assistant coach, talks about his committment to communication (from the Globe and Mail):
“The game is over or maybe it’s an off day and we’re travelling to the next city and he calls a guy up from the back of the bus to the front of the bus and they’re just sitting side-by-side in their seats, and then a half an hour might go by, two hours — literally two hours might go by and they’re still talking.”
“I think that he does a great job of individually getting the best out of each player. So it’s not just x’s and o’s with Willie. It’s building relationships with each of his players.”
Steve Marr, who played for Desjardins with the Tigers, wrote an impassioned letter to the Province last summer, encouraging them to hire his former coach. From his letter:
He knows exactly how to deal with his players because he understands that every player needs to be dealt differently based on their character and personality. He knows what buttons to push, and if and when he needs to push them. He knows how to get the best out of each individual so that they can contribute to their team’s success.
2. He’s a winner
The year before Desjardins began coaching the Texas Stars, they went 31-40-5 (in 2011-12). In his first year, 2012-13, the Stars went 43-22-11 and he was the AHL’s coach of the year. In 2013-14 they went 48-18-10 and they won the Calder Cup.
Steve Marr adds this (from his letter to the Province):
Simply put: In my four years in the Western Hockey League, and my four years of professional hockey, I have never come across an individual who loves to win more than Willie Desjardins.
I’m guessing there aren’t many coaches who don’t like to win, but his records as head coach of the Stars (91-40-21) and Tigers (114-75-25) show that he’s not only a big talker (unlike a certain former Canucks coach who was fired after one year), he backs it up too.
3. He employs an exciting style of play
Both Trevor Linden and Jim Benning have talked about bringing the excitement back to Rogers Arena. If the fans see a fun product on the ice, that excitement will come.
From the Dallas News, Stars player Travis Morin (and AHL MVP), says:
“Willie likes to attack and push the pace, and it’s the same with practice.”
“We go short and fast, but when we’re out there, we’re going. We’ve been a fast-paced team since he got here.”
4. Experience in the NHL
One common worry amongst Canucks fans is Desjardins’ lack of experience as an NHL head coach. True, he’s never been in charge of an NHL team, but he was the an assistant head coach for the Dallas Stars under Marc Crawford in 2010-11 and Glen Gulutzan in 2011-12.
His own words on that experience (from the Globe and Mail):
“I think the big thing in the NHL was just to get a chance to work with the players and see how they operate.”
“It was a good experience for me to go up and see exactly how things work at that level.”
He worked in the NHL for two seasons. That’s enough time for him to gain an understanding of how things work in the big league, and to formulate his own ideas on how he’d coach.
Desjardins will definitely be coaching in the NHL this year. Hopefully it’ll be in Vancouver.