Desjardins moves into Top 5 in Canucks coaching wins

Of the 18 men to serve as head coach
of the Vancouver Canucks in nearly 50-years of existence, Willie Desjardins now
trails just four of them on the franchise’s all-time regular season wins list.
With Wednesday’s 3-2 triumph over the Colorado Avalanche in Denver, Desjardins
joined Bob McCammon with 102 coaching victories moving him into a tie for fifth
in franchise history. Alain Vigneault leads the way with 313 followed by Marc
Crawford (246), Harry Neale (142) and Pat Quinn (141).


Desjardins won 48 games in his
first season on the job and followed that with a 31-win campaign. The victory
over the Avalanche gives Desjardins and the Canucks 23 wins this season.
All-time, now in his third season behind the bench, his coaching record stands
at 102-87-24.

Despite questionable player
deployment, unwavering faith in a floundering power play and a reluctance to
tamper with a line-up that struggles to score most nights, Desjardins has
designed and implemented a system that works for his group. Perhaps his
greatest quality has been his ability to get complete buy-in from everyone on the
roster to commit to a defensive structure designed to limit opponents’ quality
scoring chances.

While the Canucks languish near
the bottom of the National Hockey League in offense (25th), shots on
goal (28th), power play percentage (28th) and as a bottom
third team in the league in controlling 48.5% of shot attempts, they continue
to find ways to grind out points playing low-event hockey. It isn’t often art
on ice, but it has allowed Desjardins and the Canucks to claw their way back
from the depths of a nine-game losing streak in late October and early November
and has put them in position with a win in Arizona tonight to spend the All
Star break above the playoff bar in the Western Conference.

Considering Desjardins spent much
of the past two months on the hot seat and seemingly coaching for his continued
employment on a nightly basis, the fact he reached 100 career coaching wins
last week against Nashville and has continued adding to his total represents a
victory in and of itself. Like the team he coaches, Desjardins has proven to be
a survivor this season and he’s done so while overseeing the development of
young players like Bo Horvat, Markus Granlund, Brendan Gaunce, Troy Stecher and
Nikita Tryamkin – all of whom are under 23 years of age.

While he now has a share of fifth
spot in victories, in terms of winning percentage, Desjardins sits fourth in
franchise history at .533. His Canucks teams have amassed 228 of the 426 points
available to them. He reached his 102 wins in 82 fewer games than McCammon who
guided the team for parts of four seasons in the late 1980s and early 1990s.


While Desjardins continues to
work his way up the regular season wins list, his playoff track record doesn’t
measure up. Vigneault, Quinn and Roger Nielson all guided the Canucks to
Stanley Cup Final berths however Desjardins has just two post-season victories
to his name leaving him eighth in franchise history in that regard. His Canucks
bowed out as the higher seed to the Calgary Flames in six games in 2015 leaving
Desjardins eighth in franchise playoff wins. It’s a long shot, but the
possibility exists he could add to his post-season win total this spring. First,
the Canucks have to find their way into a playoff spot at season’s end and then
as an underdog and lower-seed would have their work cut out for them against
one of the top teams in the conference.

Desjardins has taken heat
throughout his time at the helm of the Canucks, but he continues to plug away
making the most with the group he’s got – and it’s far from the most-talented
team in franchise history. The Canucks will certainly be challenged with an
arduous road schedule following the All-Star break. If Desjardins, who turns 60
on February 11th, is able to guide his team to a post-season berth
for the second time in his three years as coach, it seems likely he’ll continue
in that post into next season giving him a chance to continue working his way
up the organization’s wins list. With 33 games left on this year’s schedule and
another season left on his current contract, he’ll surely have Pat Quinn, Harry
Neale and third place in franchise history squarely in his sights.

  • wojohowitz

    Willie is only 1142 wins behind all time leader Scotty Somebody so if Willie can put together 23 seasons of 50 wins he will be the winningest coach in NHL history.

  • Killer Marmot

    Going into this season, the Canucks were widely rated as one of the least talented squads in the NHL, and many analysts predicted they would end up last in their division, and perhaps the entire league.

    Now at the all-star break, the Canucks have a good shot at making the playoffs. There are many teams with more talent, but few that play as hard game after game.

    If good coaching means making the most with what you have then Desjardins is one of the better coaches in the NHL.

    • Problem is that Desjardins isn’t making the most of what he has. The PP stinks and he won’t change it. Last year’s theme of playing fourth liners in the dying minutes of a game when you need a goal (Dorsett and Sbisa over the Sedins?) has been replaced with play AHL depth players ALL THE TIME (i.e. how is Megna better than Eriksson with the Sedins?). As with Subban, inviting prospects for pressbox hotdogs and popcorn continues. Did I mention the PP stinks and Desjardins refuses to make changes? Other than the Sedin cycle game and Horvat driving to the net (which I argue are individual efforts, not the result of a system), can *anyone* name a single characteristic of a Desjardin offense? “Forecheck hard and when you get it, durrr, do something with it.”

      • crofton

        Defense wins championships and this team is much more committed to it than last year. Playoff games are usually low scoring affairs with timely goals winning games. Sound familiar? Pretty much how this team is built so far.

        • Yeah, they better be better defensively this year because last year, they were crap. Worst GF/GA differential, 29th in GF and 24th in GA. So this year, they brought in Doug Jarvis to overhaul their defence because Desjardin’s aggressive forecheck defence did not work. Kudos. Did they fix the offense? Hells, no. Are they going to fix it, starting with the power play? According to Desjardins, DOUBLE HELLS NO.

          Desjardins is unable to design and implement a system for sustained offensive pressure. It’s a north-south entry (e.g. Horvat or Sutter), shot with possible rebound and that’s it. The only sustained pressure comes from the Sedins doing their usual incredible cycle game. There’s no shootout victories in the playoffs, we’re dead when we get there unless Desjardins admits his weakness and get some damn coaching help.

  • tyhee

    Looking at the pts% and total wins list brings out the effect of the current NHL points system. Most of the guys ahead of WD coached before the days of shootouts and in some before the days of overtime, before you could get a second point after completing the game with a tie.

    It allows getting wins more quickly (before 2005 a tie was a tie and teams couldn’t get “wins” for them) and increases the points%.

    That being said, WD has had remarkable success considering the rosters he’s had and the amount of fan and media discontent over some of his decisions.

  • Jabs

    Looking and the legendary Pat Quinn’s numbers, one would think that if he coached at a time when there was 3 on 3 overtime and shootouts (i.e. no ties) then he may be closer to 200.

    • Steamer

      Great point! Like scoring stats, current ‘wins’ for a coach and/or team should have an asterisk attached to denote the difference. For Quinn & Co. it was either win,lose, or draw. No gimmicky crap, no 3 on 3, no B.S. shoot-outs.

    • Dan B

      Well, no. He had 28 ties. 3 on 3 OT and shootouts would mean he would have no ties and about half of those 28 ties would have been wins. Taking him from 141 to somewhere in the 150/160s But thats still a long way from 200.

      Unless you mean that statement in a very vague way. Like I have zero NHL coaching wins. If I were to somehow get one, I would be closer to 200. Technically true, but a confusing way to put it.