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The Kesler Departure And The Coach Search


I never doubted the Ryan Kesler rumors out of Sochi and you laughed at me and said I was I fool. And when new GM Jim Benning said he was going to talk to Kesler this week and listen to him, I speculated that the convo wasn't going to be about hot eats and cool treats, and still you laughed.

Well now the TSN / ESPN heavyweights have stepped up to the plate to deliver the knockout punches:

Darren Dreger:

Ryan Kesler hasn't changed his mind. He wants a fresh start and to move on from Vancouver; he met with Benning earlier this week to talk about that. It's believed that Kesler still has six teams on his list that he's willing to be traded to. And we think that Philadelphia and Anaheim are among those.

The original trade-to list Kesler reportedly gave Mike Gillis back at the trade deadline was apparently: Anaheim, Chicago, Colorado, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.

Pierre Lebrun:

The asking price remains high, as it should for a guy that only has a $5 million cap hit for two more years. The Canucks don't just want futures here, they want a player that can help them now, preferably a centre.

Yea, I mean, if Kesler is flogged for draft picks and prospects where does that leave the Canucks? Rebuild mode? Yes. And I don't think ownership wants that. Let's get a bonafide NHL center in return to play behind Henrik Sedin. Will that happen at the Draft? It could very well be, as picks can be exchanged as part of the deal.

The last thing we want though is for him not to be dealt prior to next season. We don't need anymore soap opera bullshit here. Sure, the asking price is high, but it has to be. Let's see how Benning pulls this one off. He has plenty of time.


Bob McKenzie:

There's been no news coming out of Vancouver on the coaching front for an obvious reason. We believe the top candidates are still coaching and not available to be interviewed. That'd be Stevens with the Kings, and Willie Desjardins, who's currently coaching in the American Hockey League Championship and is another strong candidate in Vancouver.

Remember, it's not just a head coach the Canucks need. It's an assistant to go along with Glen Gulutzan, who both Linden and Benning like. Linden has made it clear that the new head coach has to be pretty-much on the exact same page as him and Benning. Linden said:

"We’re going to have a comprehensive list of questions and dig into those areas that we need to dig into. Ultimately, that alignment between Jim, myself and the coach has to be completely in line or it’s going to be problematic."

And Sir Linden and Lord Bennington (as vancitydan calls them) want a more up-tempo, fast-skating skill game. They also want a coach that's good with the kids, as the Canucks will get younger. Gulutzan is that guy. So is Willie Desjardins, apparently.


-Age: 57

-Assistant and then head coach at the University Of Calgary between 1985-89.

-coached the Seibu Bears in Japan (interesting)

-returned to Canada to become head coach of the Saskatoon Blades (WHL) in 1997.

-He led the Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) to resurgence as a head coach in the early 2000's including a Memorial Cup win in 2004. He later became GM of the team.

-Was associate coach with the Dallas Stars from 2010-12 (next to some guy named Gulutzan)

-Was named head coach of the Texas Stars (AHL) in 2012. The Texas Stars are about to begin the Calder Cup Finals against the St. John's Ice Caps. Interestingly enough, one of Desjardins' assistant coaches in Texas is former Canuck Doug Lidster.

Vern Fiddler pumped Desjardins' tires recently:

"One of the biggest things I noticed is that he really cares about everybody and he knows that everybody is different. I was in the league for six or seven years and he still found a way to get more out of you. Even as an assistant coach, he was a guy who would push you to different levels and I definitely found that guys respected him for that."

"He respected our opinions, and when he was running our penalty kill, he would definitely consider them. He didn’t have an ego that it was going to be his way or no way. It was always the collective of what can we do to be better? He did what was best and wants to be an NHL head coach. You’ve seen what he’s done with that (AHL) team. He’s taken them from the bottom of the barrel to the top now — and he’s getting the success he deserves."

Here is Willie talking to the media when he became coach of the Texas Stars:

Did he say he wants the team to be fast-skating? Ding ding! Love working with the kids? Ding ding!

Willie playing and coaching stats can be seen here at the Internet Hockey Database.

Sploosh. Not much NHL experience? Jim Benning doesn't care. Benning wants a proven winner. Desjardins could be the top dog.


-Age: 48

-Drafted 47th overall by the Flyers in 1984 (defenceman).

-Played in only 53 NHL games with the Flyers and Hartford Whalers, scoring no goals and 10 assists.

-Played 834 games in the AHL. Was captain in Springfield and Philadelphia. He won 3 Calder Cups as a player ('88, '91, '98) and 1 as a coach (2005). He had a 230-181-33-25 record as coach in the AHL.

-Stevens became head coach of the Flyers in October of 2006, after Ken Hitchcock was fired. The Flyers were sucking early that season (1-6-1) and not even Stevens could stop the bleeding. The end result? TWO franchise records were set...and they weren't good ones: (10 consecutive losses... and 56 points total.) The Flyers had 101 points the previous season, so 101 down to 56 points is an NHL record for biggest drop-off in points for a team.

Wooo! Oh right, they had Peter Forsberg and his crappy foot as captain that season, I forgot. He was traded to Nashville for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent and 1st and 3rd round picks. Zhitnik was traded for Coburn. Even Bobby Clarke said that Stevens "inherited a mess."

-Stevens kept his job, a Clarke saw some improvement along the way amidst the turmoil, and the Flyers rebounded the following season with 95 points and a 3rd round loss to the Penguins. The team under Stevens achieved 99 points the season after that but lost in the first round to the Penguins again. After a 13-12-1 start to the 2009-10 season, Stevens was axed. The team had one win in it's last 7 games and had just been shut out twice (one of those games was against the Canucks).

-The following summer (2010), the Los Angeles Kings signed Stevens to a 3 year contract as assistant coach. In early 2012, the Kings fired head coach Terry Murray and Stevens took over as interim head coach for 4 games until LA hired Darryl Sutter as new bench boss. The Kings went on to win the Stanley Cup.

-Stevens' playing and coaching stats can be seen here.


-Stevens drops the gloves, TWICE:

Stevens talks about his eye injury, and then coaching opportunity:

John likes p---.....kitties.


When the Penguins finally fired head coach Bylsma on Friday, many were calling him the new frontrunner for a Canucks' coaching job. Jim Benning told The Vancouver Sun's Iain MacIntyre:

".......he’s an interesting name, for sure."

With Desjardins and Stevens the likely top 2, and then for Bylsma to become Benning said, the Canucks are going to do their due diligence in the coach search.

-Age: 43

-Drafted 109th overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 1989 (Right wing)

-Played 429 games in the NHL with the Kings and Ducks, scoring 19 goals and 62 points as a defensive forward.

-Was an alternate captain for the Ducks in 2000.

-He retired from playing in 2004 after a bad knee injury and inability to play at the NHL level became factors.

-He immediately went into coaching with the AHL's Cincinnati Mighty Ducks (2004-05) and the Islanders (2005-06). He then did a 2-year stint as assistant coach of the W-B / Scranton Penguins the following two seasons and became head coach of the team after that. No Calder Cups were won under his tenures in the AHL. The team had a 35-16-1-2 record in 2009 when Pittsburgh fired head coach Michel Therrien and made Bylsma interim head coach. I believe the Penguins had 59 points in 57 games at the time. They finished the season with an 18-3-4 record under Bylsma and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

-The next 5 seasons leading up to now, the Penguins finished strong in the regular season, but not in the Playoffs:

47-28-7 (Lost in Round 2)

49-25-8 (Lost in Round 1)

51-25-6 (Lost in Round 1)

36-12-0 (lockout) (Lost in Round 3)

51-24-7 (Lost in Round 2)

Ownership decided it was time for a change. The Penguins fired GM Fred Shero, then hired Jim Rutherford and canned Bylsma on Friday.

-Bylsma won the Jack Adams trophy as NHL coach of the year in 2010-11. The team was plagued by injuries (Malkin and Crosby played half the season) but the team still managed 49 wins and 106 points.

-Sure, some say he inherited the 2009 Stanley Cup, but there's no denying the turnaround of the team as soon as he took over.

-He has the most wins in franchise history.

-Coached the men's hockey team at the Sochi Olympics.


Check out this beauty goal:

Shanahan beats up Bylsma:

A Day With Dan Bylsma 1:

A Day With Dan Bylsma 2:


3 guys and who knows, there could be other candidates, like Mike Johnson, see below. The 3 I have mentioned have all different levels of coaching at the NHL level. Desjardins with next to nothing, Stevens with some, and Bylsma with more. No, NHL experience doesn't necessarily matter in the eyes of Benning. These are 3 solid coaches that seemingly do fit the mold of what Linden and Benning want for the Canucks. At least, I think it's safe to say that all 3 preach up-tempo hockey and all 3 can coach kids properly as all of them have experience at it.


Thanks to YouppiKiYay for pointing this out in the comments section:

Mike Johnston

I’d like to throw his name out there as the 3/4 guy on the coaching contenders list. A notch below Desjardins and Stevens. I’ve seen his name listed in a couple of stories in the Province and Sun, though certainly not as often as the top two contenders (or Marc Crawford, who seems to be lobbying hard for the Canucks opening).

He was born in 1957 in Dartmouth, NS and has a master’s degree in coaching science.
He played Canadian University hockey and started coaching at age 23 at Camrose College and University of Calgary, before becoming head coach at the University of New Brunswick from 1989-1994.
In 1994 he became associate coach and GM of the Canadian men’s national team, and head coach in 1998. He coached on teams that won bronze in 1995 and silver in 1996 at the world championships, and gold in 1994 and 1995 at the world junior championships.
In 1999, he joined Marc Crawford as assistant coach in Vancouver and spent six seasons here, following Crow to LA as associate coach for two years. While serving as an NHL assistant, he coached in a number of international tournaments, winning gold at the 1997 and the 2007 world championships.
In 2008, he became coach and GM of Portland Winterhawks. He led the 2009-10 Winterhawks to a 48 point improvement over the previous season. He was suspended in November 2012 for the balance of the season, after the WHL found him guilty of providing improper benefits to his players. In seasons he’s coached, he’s lost in the second round once, and in three WHL finals. In 2013 the Winterhawks won the WHL, but was the year he was suspended and Travis Green was interim head coach.

Linden said he wanted a career coach who has been successful at many levels, and Johnston certainly is that.

Mike Johnston turned the Winterhawks around: