It’s established wisdom in Vancouver that Canucks’ fans favorite coach is almost always the next one. Even when Alain Vigneault was leading the team to President’s Trophy winning seasons, some fans swore the team was winning despite the coach.
So it’s best to take fans clamoring for a new coach in Vancouver with a grain of salt.
That said, when a wise voice of patience, moderation, and experience like Lee Powell begins entertaining the notion, I start to pay attention.
If this road trip is highly unsatisfactory,eg. fewer than 4 pts, I would make a coaching change.— Lee Powell (@leepowellST) October 30, 2016
Willie Desjardins was hired in 2014 and was perhaps the most sought-after prospective NHL head coach heading into that off-season. In two seasons prior, he coached the AHL Texas Stars to back-to-back first place division finishes. Through the end of last season, Desjardins has a 79-67-18 record behind Vancouver’s bench. Last season was the first season a Desjardins coached team failed to qualify for the playoffs since he became a head coach in 1997.
All of which is to say Willie Desjardins in a high-quality head coach he inherited a tremendously difficult job in coaching the Vancouver Canucks through a retool-on-the-fly. If he were to be fired by the Canucks, I would very strongly hope he gets another NHL head coaching job in a better situation.
That said, the losses are piling up this season and the Canucks are now heading out on a six-game eastern road swing, including the annual Toronto tilt on Hockey Night in Canada. While they are currently in playoff position, it won’t take much to knock them out. No team behind them in the standings has played fewer games than the Canucks. Vancouver also has scored the fewest goals in the NHL. While I think it’s unfair to blame Desjardins for the offensively challenged roster he was given to coach — there are a lot of factors contributing to the state of the franchise — management’s stated goal is to make the playoffs. This team can’t afford a poor early season road trip or they will be out of the running early.
There is also the perception that Desjardins won’t play the kids and continued questions about his line construction and zone deployment decisions. I remain comfortable with his use of the kids and puzzled by some of his line matching. I wonder, though, if I watched another team closely if I would have similar questions about their coach.
A coaching change would be a way to change the negative narrative around the team. While that’s unfair to Willie Desjardins, this management team can’t afford to be perceived to be throwing in the towel on a second straight season less than fifteen games in. I don't think Willie Desjardins deserves to be fired, but I agree will Lee Powell that he might be if the Canucks limp through a poor road trip.