At the introductory presser following the announcement that he would be the eighteenth head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, Willie Desjardins was asked to put into words a whirlwind seven days in which he went from hoisting the AHL's Calder Cup to having the troublesome Vancouver Canucks roster placed on his back.
"I guess it's been my lucky week," he beamed.
Suffice it to say, Desjardins arrived at the Vancouver Canucks' media room with an optimism that the men and women for whom the room is named no longer have. After watching the Canucks hit a high point in 2011, then quickly, jaw-droppingly quickly, come crashing back to earth -- so much so that two head coaches and a General Manager failed to survive re-entry -- it's hard to look at this roster any longer and be inspired.
But then again, we're jaded. And how can you be anything but bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when you finally break into the NHL after 25 years?
Desjardins has been coaching hockey all over since the mid-1980s -- in Calgary, in Saskatoon, in Texas, in Japan -- but this is his first time doing it in the big leagues. Which is why, despite looking a lot like a 57-year-old, what with the salt-and-pepper cookie duster and the white hair, his eyes glowed with youthful hope.
Heck, the Canucks' whole front-office is doing that right now, and that -- along with the quiet return of PR whiz TC Carling, who is now Trevor Linden's Vice President of Hockey Administration -- is helping to make this team exciting again. If the Canucks of the past few years have left everyone involved with them a bit dour, the three greenhorns running the club now, all rookies in their current positions, come with none of that baggage.
"I think the greenest one is the one talking right now," Trevor Linden said. "When I think about Jim [Benning] and his 23-years in the game, and eight years with Boston running in that shotgun seat, he's got a tremendous amount iof experience, and what I've seen in the last six weeks ... has reinforced that." Then to his coach:
"The thing about Willie: he's coached at every level, and been successful, and loves to coach, and loves his players, and has the ability to connect with players. I think that whether it's at the AHL level or the WHL level or the NHL level, players are players and they want to win."
Even moreso now, since they haven't been recently, but Desjardins seems convinced that there are still winning seasons to be wrung out of this group.
"They're still elite," he said of the Sedins. "They're just too good."
It will help that he plans to install a system more conducive to their offensive skills. All the way along, Linden and Benning have promised a more up-tempo, hard-skating type of game, and sure enough, this is what Desjardins plans to coach.
"I want to attack," he said. "I want to get the puck to the net."
Maybe even in it? That would be a welcome change of pace. But again, that's me, a jaded Vancouverite, speaking. Back to sunny Desjardins.
"I think I have a really good group of players," he said, "and as a coach, what more can you ask for?"