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The rumors concerning Willie Desjardins heading to Vancouver to coach the Western Conference NHL team turned out to be true. The Canucks confirmed June 23 that he’s been named the club’s new head coach. The 57-year-old spent the last two years with the Dallas Stars organization as the bench boss of the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Texas Stars. Desjardins enjoyed a highly-successful season with Texas in 2013/14 as he led them to the Calder Cup championship. His 2012/13 campaign wasn’t too shabby either as he was named the AHL’s coach of the year after its conclusion. Desjardins leaves Texas and the AHL with a record of 91-40-21 after two years.
Various media outlets reported that the Pittsburgh Penguins were also after his services since new general manager Jim Rutherford recently fired head coach Dan Bylsma, but Desjardins preferred to head to western Canada to work with new Canucks boss Trevor Linden. Desjardins said coaching in the NHL is going to be a huge challenge for him and it might be too overwhelming if he was on his own. However, he remarked that the Canucks have a lot of experienced hockey people in place on their staff and everybody has the same goal, which will make things a little easier for him.
Desjardins becomes the 18th head coach in Vancouver’s history and was introduced to the press by the club several hours after being hired. While he may not have any head coaching experience in the NHL, Desjardins did serve as an assistant coach with Dallas in the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons. Before getting his feet wet in the pro game he spent nine years in the Western Hockey League (WHL) as the coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Canadian province of Alberta. I addition, he was also behind the bench for Canada when they won a silver medal at the IIHF World Junior Championships in 2010.
Linden, who was hired as the Canucks new president after the 2013/14 season ended, said Desjardins really impressed him during the interview process since they both share the same ideas on how a hockey team should be run. Linden stated that Desjardins has been successful everywhere he’s coached because the players all buy into his system and philosophy. Linden added that players perform hard for Desjardins and that’s the type of coach the Canucks were looking for.
Tortorella joined the Canucks from the New York Rangers while former Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault basically swapped positions with him by heading to New York last season. Desjardins said the Canucks need to play hard every single shift if they hope to turn things around and return to the postseason next year. The Canucks finished the recent campaign with 83 points on a record of 36-35-11. They finished in 12th place in the West and missed the playoffs by eight points.