The Vancouver Canucks have fired coach Willie Desjardins on Monday.
In three seasons with the Canucks, Desjardins went 109-110-27 for a .498 points percentage. This past year, the Canucks finished with 69 points and a 30-43-9 record – a steep drop-off from Desjardins’ first season with Vancouver where he went 48-29-5 and guided his team to a second-place finish in the Pacific Division.
Over the past two seasons the Canucks have accrued second-fewest points in the NHL while their goals per-game ranked 29th over that stretch at 2.22. They also allowed 2.93 goals per-game over that timespan, which ranked 26th in the league
“We made a very difficult decision to relieve Willie Desjardins of his duties as head coach today,” general manager Jim Benning said in a statement released by the team. “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, (assistant coaches) Doug (Lidster), Perry (Pearn) and each of their families for their dedication and hard work and wish them every success.”
Desjardins was hired by Jim Benning before the 2014-15 season to replace John Tortorella and up to that point, Desjardins had achieved a high amount of success at every level where he was a head coach.
He made the playoffs eight straight seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL and then made the postseason two straight years as the Texas Stars head coach. He was hired by the Canucks shortly after he had won the Calder Cup with Texas. Desjardins’ stint with the Seibu Bears in the 90s was the last time he missed the postseason as a head coach.
But as Canucks beat reporter Be Kuzma noted in a recent story – Desjardins had a tough task in Vancouver and he simply didn’t win enough.
Desjardins was handed the awkward dual mandate of striving to make the playoffs while transitioning to youth, but in a bottom-line business he didn’t get the job done. He did display patience and had a plan to accelerate the development of Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund and thrust them into bigger roles when he deemed them ready. That was impressive.
The next coach of the Canucks will be given with the same type mission that was presented for Desjardins, to stay competitive with an aging core while developing the team’s younger players.
There were some bright spots this season with 2013 first-round pick Bo Horvat turning into a two-way force at center with 20 goals and 53 points, but many of the team’s veterans saw production drops.
Henrik Sedin’s 51 points were his worst full-season total since 2003-04 and same with Daniel Sedin’s 44 points. Both players are 36 years old and likely won’t see better numbers next year.
Forward Loui Eriksson struggled in his first seasn with the Canucks with 11 goals and 24 points in 65 games. The Canucks have some decent young assets but none are considered high-end prospects, which means a return to competitiveness could still be a few years away.
Vancouver already has a coach in their minor league system in Travis Green of the Utica Comets who has drawn some interest as a potential NHL bench boss. Last season Green was mentioned as a possibility for the Anaheim Ducks job, but that position ended up going to Randy Carlyle.
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