As expected, the Canucks announced on Monday they have named Willie Desjardins as the team's new head coach. Desjardins is fresh off leading the AHL's Texas Stars to their first championship in franchise history. The Stars defeated the St. John's IceCaps to claim the 2014 Calder Cup Championship.
Desjardins began his coaching career back in 1985 as an assistant coach for the University of Calgary. He was named the program's head coach in 1989, a role he held until 1994. Desjardins also had a stint coaching the Seibu Bears of the Japan Hockey League.
After spending eight years with the junior hockey Medicine Hat Tigers, where he led the team to a pair of championships in 2004 and 2007. Desjardins joined the Dallas Stars as an assistant/associate coach from 2010-2012. He also won a silver medal as the coach of Team Canada at the 2010 world junior championships. After his time in Dallas, Desjardins was moved to the club's minor league affiliate in 2012 to become the head coach. In his two years with the Texas Stars, Desjardins led the team to 91 wins and the AHL's top seed in the playoffs during his first year at the helm.
The lone team left without a coach is the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins had Desjardins targeted as their top candidate but will now have to look elsewhere. New GM Jim Rutherford said he'd like to have a coach in place before this weekend's draft.
The pros and cons here of this hire are pretty obvious. The pros being, even if it is just in the minors, Desjardins has proven he has what it takes to lead his team to a championship. He hasn't had a losing season since his first year with the Tigers back in the 2002-03 season. The obvious con however is that he has no experience as a head coach in the NHL. I think people might read into that a little much, though. At a point in every coach's career, he once had no NHL experience as a head coach. The important part is he's a proven winner at the level he has coached at.
Desjardins knows how to work with young players, which could be vital as guys like Henrik and Daniel, Burrows and Kesler (if he sticks around), aren't exactly young pups anymore. The Canucks need a guy who can work with and develop those younger players as time goes on and Vancouver's core players keep aging. In an interview with Team 1040, Trevor Linden said the Canucks needed a guy who could "get the players excited about what they're doing and excited about the style of play." Translation: Everything the Tortorella couldn't do in his season from Hell with the Canucks.
Just about any change is a good change for the Canucks after Tortorella. The way I look back on that season will always be dating someone new who seems fun and exciting at first, but then you realize they are bat-shit crazy and you question why you ever thought it was a good idea in the first place. Desjardins should be a refreshing change of pace, and I do believe he is a guy that the Canucks can get excited about working with. He should fit right in with the younger guys on the team, which I do think is crucial with this team and where they are at right now. It'll just be interesting to see how he handles working with the veterans.
And that 'stache. How can you not get behind a guy that rocks one for the other 11 months of the year outside of November?
You can watch the introductory press conference here.