The Vancouver Canucks announced today that Willie Desjardins has been named the 18th head coach in club history.
Desjardins, 57, joins the Canucks less than a week after guiding the Texas Stars to the 2014 Calder Cup championship. The Climax, Sask., native led the Stars to two division titles and the top seed in the Western Conference in each of his two seasons in Texas, and the club finished first overall in 2013-14 before capturing its first Calder Cup. Desjardins posted a regular-season record of 91-48-13 (.641) with the Stars, and in 2012-13 was named the winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach.
“Willie Desjardins has won at every level and we believe he’ll be an excellent fit as we strive to return to the playoffs and build with youth for long-term success,” said Jim Benning, General Manager, Canucks Sports & Entertainment. “Willie is a great teacher, motivator and communicator; his teams have competed with a style of play we believe will help us compete in our division and in the playoffs. With Willie’s leadership behind the bench we look forward to bringing back this team’s winning qualities and our fans’ passion and excitement for the Canucks.”
Prior to his tenure in the AHL, Desjardins spent two seasons as an associate coach with the Dallas Stars from 2010-12. He also served as head coach (2002-10) and General Manager (2005-10) of the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers, where he led the team to two Memorial Cup Tournaments and to the Memorial Cup Final in 2007. Desjardins won the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy as WHL Coach of the Year for the 2005-06 season and was also the recipient of the Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award as the top coach in the Canadian Hockey League in 2006. His first stint in the WHL was as Head Coach of the Saskatoon Blades in 1997-98.
On the international stage, Desjardins has represented Canada as head coach in 2010 (silver) and assistant coach in 2009 (gold) at the World Junior Championships. He was an assistant coach for the Canadian national men’s team in 1998-99, when the team finished fourth at the 1999 IIHF World Championship in Norway.
Desjardins becomes the seventh current NHL head coach to have won a Calder Cup as an AHL coach, joining Washington’s Barry Trotz (Portland, 1994), Calgary’s Bob Hartley (Hershey, 1997), Nashville’s Peter Laviolette (Providence, 1999), San Jose’s Todd McLellan (Houston, 2003), Anaheim’s Bruce Boudreau (Hershey, 2006) and Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (Norfolk, 2012).