Most of you have given up on this season, and the ones that are still hanging around either don’t have a remote to change the channel or your curiosity for the possible line combinations Michael Chaput could be part of is bordering on dangerous. As this season comes to a close, there is a strong feeling that Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins won’t return to the bench next season.
One could make a strong argument in Desjardins’ favour for finishing this season (and I have), and I’d wager that’s the path management charts. Still, Desjardins’ shortcomings likely belie the job he’s done with what’s available to him — he hasn’t been a huge disappointment. He hasn’t had a playoff calibre roster since his first season, and even then we were all surprised he took them that far.
If Willie is indeed let go, we should really be thankful for all the things he’s given us as fans. After all, it wasn’t his mess, to begin with, and if we’re honest with ourselves for a second, he’s cleaned up some of the loose trash around this dumpster fire.
Here are my top 10 things Willie D gave Canuck Nation:
- He taught us cool words like “must” and “compete”. Sure, his teams never showed any of that but it was a big deal in his pressers, and at the time we thought that it wouldn’t get as bad as it did. It just might’ve.
- Desjardins didn’t believe in Bo Horvat to start his career and slowly gave him responsibility bit by bit. It was beyond frustrating because Horvat answered the call each and every time and in his rookie season he almost had the second line centre spot locked up. Injuries to other players like Brandon Sutter helped that along but Bo developed under Willie, and he’s a pretty responsible player because of it. #neverforget
- One could make the same argument for Troy Stecher and Ben Hutton. Desjardins has been vocal about not wanting to get kids into the lineup and trusting his vets; by his vets, I mean anyone who’s ever played in Medicine Hat.
- Jayson Megna’s existence. That’s actually something Jayson is thankful for, truthfully. As bad as the Canucks have been; as many shots as they’ve continually given up night in and night out — Megna was constant. When there were better options on every line, Megna was trotted out, and it made about as much sense putting Anton Rodin in the lineup and sitting him for 60 straight minutes. One day I will explain to my children why one of the worst statistical players ever for the Vancouver Canucks got more ice time with the Sedins and on the power play than the puck spent on the ice itself.
- His scratching Sven Baertschi. I know what you’re thinking “Why should I be thankful for that? Baertschi was already rolling along, and of all the players that deserved to be scratched, he made no sense”. It fired up Baertschi, and it furthered his development on the team as one of the key goal scorers. What is hilarious is that Desjardins probably thought he was teaching the team a lesson. There is some underlying, profound meaning teaching going on there. Now I’m curious.
- When he called out Nikita Tryamkin. OK, you got me there. I have no idea why this is something we should be thankful for happening. Putting Philip Larsen as a forward is worth calling out. Letting Michael Chaput ride shotgun with the Sedins for more than a game, let alone a shift, is worth calling out. Dressing Alex Biega on defence because he is valuable on the PK is worth calling out. Tryamkin is the least of his worries and if he wants to be a bully, he’ll let you know.
- Since Desjardins arrived on the scene, his Canucks through three seasons have amassed 15 shootout wins, good for a share of 4th in the league. He has taught the Canucks to endure past 65 minutes, 23 times, to get that extra point and only lost 8 in that time. His goalies have backed him up in that same timeframe, allowing only 17 goals against, good for 2nd best.
- He can explain any situation. Willie is the master of the sell. With a team so underwhelming, he made you believe anything was possible. If he told me the Canucks were in the game even when they lost 6-1, he could always explain how something so trivial to us was actually the most important factor in the match. I don’t even think Torts could do that.
- His belief in Luca Sbisa. Much like Megna, Willie had a strange infatuation with Sbisa that no one could explain. Did he have some ultimate plan to get him sent out of town or is he just loyal to the most awful players? This we’ll never know. Statistically, again, Desjardins picks players that have no business getting the opportunities that they do and yet he sits performing players or “saves” them for critical moments. News flash: there aren’t any right now.
- It hasn’t always been bad, there was a time it was “real good“. We defined a game or a player by Willie’s description of how real good or really good someone or something was. We gauged development, the standings or the pace of a game by how real good it was. If Willie is gone, we’ll always have the real good times.
What will Desjardins’ fate be with the Canucks after this season? It’s anyone’s guess. What we do know is that he gave us the beginning of the rebuild and like it or not, he’s made progress.