Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

Canucks Army Roundtable: Willie or Won’t He

Willie Desjardins has had quite a season behind the bench. He hasn’t had the opportunity to play his entire line-up healthy for a majority of the season, has had to balance youth with veterans, and he has often found himself on the wrong side of the coin. The team started off strong, but fell down hard to earth and now sit near the bottom of the league. However, they kept the coach all year long. I asked a few of our writers if they think it was handled well and here is what they said. What do you think?

JD Burke

I think so. It’s not like making a coaching change midway through the season would have made any appreciable difference. Better still, even the most vocal critic of Desjardins has to admit that this club seems to work their asses off for him night in and night out. That has to count for something? He’ll get fired at the end of the season, inevitably, and then everyone can move on without the instability associated with making this change in, say, December.


The Canucks handled him just fine. He didn’t handle the team as well as he could have. We all go over line deployment and the like but he also had injuries and just a really awful team to work with. He is the stepping stone for the next leader here and he did an OK job. Too bad he couldn’t stay as an assistant. Oh well, on to the next one.

Jackson McDonald

I don’t see what a coaching change would have done. This team wasn’t going anywhere regardless of who was behind the bench. Willie’s been a lightning rod this season, but it’s not like he really had the horses to make it out of the cellar.

Taylor Perry

I think management handled the situation about as well as could be reasonably expected. There weren’t really any better options available early on and waiting until the end of the season was probably the correct decision. It will be interesting to see what happens next, as all signs appear to be pointing towards his dismissal this offseason.

Matthew Henderson

I think the Canucks made the right move. A coaching change midway through the season with a young team isn’t ideal, especially when you know winning isn’t going to happen. The players still play for him, even though he is all but gone come the off-season. I think they approached it well though.

  • Locust

    “I think management handled the situation about as well as could be reasonably expected.”

    Never thought I would read this on CA.

    The CA equivalent of LOVE……

  • apr

    I think this is Benning’s stealth tank. The extra 4-5 wins from a new coach in a nothing season would have done nothing. We’re inching to Patrick, Herscheiser territory. That said, I’m getting concerned how often Patrick is hurt – as the Sedins have taught us, staying healthy (and playing through pain) is a skill on to itself.

  • Vanoxy

    The only good reason for firing Willie mid season would have been to give Green an audition period, or to snag one of the fired coaches who were made available mid season.
    Julien wasn’t going to come here. Hitchcock and Gallant are good coaches, but probably not a great fit for this situation.

    Willie has kept the team competing at a solid level. I’m not crazy about his roster management, but he’s been fine, considering the injury situation and the fact that this was never a strong squad to begin with.

    He won’t be back, but there may be some solid options available in a few weeks, with Lindy Ruff on the chopping block in Dallas, plus Green and Jarvis in-house.

    Willie isn’t the coach we hoped he was when he was hired, but he hasn’t been the problem here this season. I wish him the best in the future.

  • Replacing Desjardins with a real NHL coach that knows offense would have helped. I’ve been saying all along that Desjardins doesn’t have a clue how to draw up an NHL offensive strategy and this truth reveals itself through the power play. 13.9%, only 29 goals on 209 opportunities. Even with a man advantage, he can’t draw up a strategy to score so why expect anything better at 5v5?

  • Killer Marmot

    Given the roster he had to work with, Desjardins did a decent enough job. This was, after all, a team that many pundits predicted would finish dead last in the league.

    As mentioned above, he has instilled a work ethic in the club, and made it clear that playing hard defense is not optional. Many of the criticisms of Desjardins may arise from the fact that we are only ever privy to part of the story.

  • I think this situation was handled ok, but there needs to be a change going forward. Finish this season as is, then make a change over the summer.

    I doubt management can sell another year of Willie. Not that Willie deserves to be fired, there just needs to be a change. Coaches are hired to be fired. We need a new voice with fresh ideas.

  • Holly Wood

    when your # 1 centre is a few years past his prime and your 2 is still developing into probably a good #2, and your 3 is probably a 4 and your 4 is an AHLer, what are you really expecting from the coach. Be realistic folks, the canucks at this point belong in the lower tier of the league. Note I have been a Canuck fan since they drafted Smyl, so been there done that

  • wojohowitz

    As for management there are reasons to not replace the coach in mid-season like it smells like panic or incompetence – like who hired that guy. Then there is the possibility of the team doing worse and if that happened what do they do then. Replacing the coach with the GM – like Florida – sends the message of who is really responsible and who`s going to fix it and that`s a last resort if the consensus is the team is under-performing or just viewed that way.

    As for Willie I can`t accept the excuses – like injuries or a weak roster. Just fixing the PP and the PK would be worth an extra 10-15 points and that problem has been there all season and to this day it is still a problem so who`s responsible. Of course I`m not happy with the roster as I assume none of us are. Here`s one way to cut down on injuries; Put out a big tough team that sends a message; You cheap shot us and you will pay. Who`s going to protect the small players now? The rookie Tryamkin. Get Archibald in there and Pedan and play Labate. Before you know it the cheap shots disappear and injuries stop happening. That`s why Gudbranson was brought in. That`s why Montreal brought in Steve Ott – he protects his team mates. This roster needs only minor adjustments for next season – bigger, meaner, tougher.

  • Dirty30

    WD has obviously made some great connections with the players and that’s a great asset. And he has won some games with a rather depleted team.

    However, nothing excuses a PP that sits in the basement three years in a row — not because of the players but because it doesn’t change strategy by an inch! Deployment of players is at times worse than random, matchups have at time been nonexistent, playing Miller into infinity and others who shouldn’t even be on the ice just defies description.

    So was that handled well? No. Not until JB said play the kids and then it’s too little too late. What games are this organization watching every night? Because futility should not be its own reward. And neither should blind loyalty.

  • Donald's Hat Trick

    Didn’t like Willie from day 1, the moment I heard that he passed on coaching the Penguins and a likely trip to the finals for the Canucks.

    I don’t think he gets let go in the off-season unless a top-tier coach is available or Management needs a new narrative to boost season tickets sale because he’s a great lackey. Benning has been both head scout and head coach, and Willie has been following orders all season long based on how players are deployed — it’s as if he has been reading from a script.

    Anyone remember what Vigneault would do during a game when it was clear that something wasn’t working? You could clearly see him experimenting and trying to spark something. Willie? Not so much.

    • Killer Marmot

      Benning has been both head scout and head coach, and Willie has been following orders all season long based on how players are deployed — it’s as if he has been reading from a script.

      How could you possibly know something like that? Do you sit in their management meetings?

      • Donald's Hat Trick

        Womanly intuition.
        1. He gets a foundational player, a center, and immediately plays him as a winger (and keeps his job).
        2. The GM trades for Guddy and immediately announces he picked him up to play with Hutton, and guess what, he plays with Hutton, and keeps playing with Hutton even when all the other pairings had been split up and the GH pairing wasn’t producing.
        3. Nth game in a row where the playoff-destined team struggles to produce offence, but the lines stay the same as if being patient for long enough will suddenly pay off (and keeps his job).

        Need more? Willie’s a big puppy dog.

        • Killer Marmot

          All that you have shown is that coach and manager work together. The idea to combine Gudbranson and Hutton could have been decided between Desjardins and Benning, or it could even have been Desjardins’ idea and Benning simply announced what was decided.

          You don’t now the management team functions. You are guessing from too little evidence.

          • Donald's Hat Trick

            Are you seriously gonna argue with a woman?

            If it had been Willie’s idea to put G&H together he would have ended the experiment after he started smelling burning rubber — the instinct for self preservation is generally quite strong.

            As GM Benning is the top dog. No doubt he works together with his team, just like we’ve seen him work together with his scouting team. He throws the stick and the puppies go chase it.

            Why else did Desjardins still have a job after it became clear that Benning’s playoff bound team was going to hover around the 65 point mark?