Stars’ Desjardins honored as Coach of the Year

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Willie Desjardins of the Texas Stars has been named the winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach for the 2012-13 season, as voted by fellow coaches and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.

In his first season as a head coach in the professional ranks, Desjardins has led the Stars to the South Division championship – the franchise’s first-ever division title – and has them on the brink of clinching the top seed in the Western Conference for the upcoming Calder Cup Playoffs. Under Desjardins’ development watch, 15 Texas players have been called up to play a total of 251 games with the parent Dallas Stars in the National Hockey League this season, including Second Team AHL All-Star Matt Fraser and standout rookies Reilly Smith, Alex Chiasson and Jamie Oleksiak. The Stars, whose 24 road wins are tied for the most in the AHL, rank sixth in the league in offense (3.10 goals per game) and seventh in defense (2.60 goals per game).

Desjardins, 56, joined Texas this season after two years serving as associate coach of the parent Dallas Stars. Prior to that, he was the head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League from 2002-10, winning league championships in 2004 and 2007 and earning WHL Coach of the Year honors in 2005-06. A native of Climax, Sask., Desjardins has also served as coach in Saskatoon (WHL) and at the University of Calgary, and served as both assistant coach (2009, gold) and head coach (2010, silver) for Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championships.

The Louis A.R. Pieri Award, which was first presented in 1968, honors the late Mr. Pieri, a long-time contributor to the AHL as the owner and general manager of the Providence Reds and a member of the American Hockey League Hall of Fame. Previous winners of the award include Frank Mathers (1969), Fred Shero (1970), Al MacNeil (1972, ’77), John Muckler (1975), Jacques Demers (1983), Larry Pleau (1987), Mike Milbury (1988), John Paddock (1988), Marc Crawford (1993), Barry Trotz (1994), Robbie Ftorek (1995, ’96), Peter Laviolette (1999), Claude Julien and Geoff Ward (2003), Claude Noel (2004), Randy Cunneyworth (2005), Kevin Dineen (2006), Mike Haviland (2007), Scott Gordon (2008), Scott Arniel (2009), Guy Boucher (2010), John Hynes (2011) and Jon Cooper (2012).

In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 percent of all players competing in the NHL are AHL graduates, and through the years the American Hockey League has been home to more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 2012-13 regular season ends on Sunday, and then 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway next week.