Willie Desjardins (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Canucks’ playoff hopes are slim, but coach Willie Desjardins and his staff don’t have to worry about their job security. Vancouver’s president of hockey operations, Trevor Linden, said Desjardins’ job is safe, and the staff will be brought back to try to turn things around in 2016-17.
After making the post-season in 2014-15 under first-year NHL coach Willie Desjardins, the hope was the Canucks would again challenge for a playoff berth this season. Things haven’t quite gone that way in Vancouver, however.
The Canucks may not be mathematically eliminated from sneaking in as a wild-card team quite yet, but with 18 games remaining in their season they trail the Minnesota Wild by 10 points for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The likelihood of Vancouver making a run to get into a wild-card spot, per SportsClubStats.com, is 1.5 percent.
Even with the Canucks taking a step back, though, there’s no reason for coach Willie Desjardins to worry about his position with the team, and the same goes for the rest of the coaching staff. Vancouver’s president of hockey operations, Trevor Linden, told The Province’s Ben Kuzma that Desjardins has done well given how young the roster has been.
“We expected to be very young this year — which we are — and we’ve handed Willie a real challenge with several rookies on any given night and I think he has performed well,” Linden told Kuzma. “I’m not making any excuses, but there’s no reason for us to consider a change. The rookies have made steps. Nothing is perfect.”
Linden is right in saying Vancouver is one of the youngest teams in the league. Per EliteProspects.com, the Canucks currently boast the ninth-youngest roster in the league, and this season has seen the debuts of nine rookies, including long stints by Ben Hutton, Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen. During the off-season, the Canucks lost a number of veteran players, including moving out veteran blueliner Kevin Bieksa to the Anaheim Ducks.
But things have been difficult beyond that. After notching 31 goals in his first season as a Canuck, Radim Vrbata will be lucky to reach the 20-goal mark this campaign. That’s not to mention the aging Sedin twins are both set to post fewer points this season than they did in 2014-15, and the Canucks as a whole are scoring at a half-goal less per game rate this season.
Linden said, though, that management believes Desjardins has gotten the most out of his players this season. Of course, it’s been a trying season with Vancouver spending the bulk of the campaign outside of a playoff season, but Linden said Desjardins has handled the situation well.
“In Vancouver, it’s tough,” Linden told Kuzma. “You’re scrutinized in everything you do and people want to place blame wherever they can. He’s done a good job and work hard. He’s got the fire and wants to win.”
And it appears he’ll get that chance. Desjardins has two years left on his deal, Kuzma reported, and Linden and the Canucks seem willing to let the coaching staff have at least one more go at turning Vancouver into a playoff team.