Door might be ajar for Des­jardins

Canucks’ strug­gles have put coach at top of league’s most-likely-to-be-fired list


It’s not easy to be Wil­lie Des­jardins these days.

The head coach of the un­der­achiev­ing Van­cou­ver Canucks ac­knowl­edged he feels he is on the hot seat, with his team hav­ing lost eight straight games be­fore vis­it­ing the New York Is­lan­ders on Mon­day night.

“When losses pile up, ev­ery­one is on the hot seat,” Des­jardins said. “It’s not un­fair. Es­pe­cially when you’re not scor­ing. If we get some goals, we can get a bit of life and that can change things.”

Des­jardins is in a no-win sit­u­a­tion and the most likely can­di­date to be the first coach fired this sea­son. He is sad­dled with an ag­ing, slow team that doesn’t have a crop of young­sters ready to take over due to bad drafts.

Nonethe­less, own­er­ship and man­age­ment be­lieve the Canucks are a play­off-qual­ity team.

“The good thing is, for the most part, we’ve been in every game,” said Des­jardins. “Last four min­utes, we’ve been within a goal. It’s a mat­ter of stay­ing with it. I be­lieve in our play­ers. I like their char­ac­ter. That gives you hope that things will turn around.”

Des­jardins re­placed John Tor­torella in Van­cou­ver in the sum­mer of 2014. And if his time is com­ing, for­mer Leaf Travis Green is a likely can­di­date to re­place Des­jardins. Green is the head coach of Van­cou­ver’s top farm team in Utica, N.Y., and has in­ter­viewed at least three times for head coach­ing jobs, re­cently in Colorado.

Colum­bus and Pitts­burgh re­placed their coaches mid-sea­son last year, to vastly dif­fer­ent re­sults.

Un­der Mike Sul­li­van, the Pen­guins had an awak­en­ing and won the Stan­ley Cup, open­ing eyes to the pos­si­bil- ities of the com­bi­na­tion of skill and speed.

Tor­torella, who took over in Colum­bus, is prob­a­bly a los­ing streak away from join­ing Des­jardins on the watch list. Tor­torella was an odds-on favourite (13-4, ac­cord­ing to Bodog) to be the first coach fired but, hav­ing passed the 82-game mark with the Blue Jack­ets, he seems rel­a­tively safe. In fact, the Jack­ets are be­lieved to be look­ing at adding tal­ent to make the play­offs.

Sec­ond on the watch list is Nashville’s Peter Lavi­o­lette. A Stan­ley Cup-win­ning coach with Carolina 10 years ago, Lavi­o­lette is over­see­ing a 3-5-3 team that has ev­ery­thing it ever wanted in terms of of­fence, added scor­ing de­fence­men P.K. Sub­ban and has had his­tor­i­cally strong goal­tend­ing (un­less that’s at­trib­ut­able to Shea We­ber). And still, it’s not work­ing. They just lost to Carolina, a can­di­date for worst team in the league.

“There are ex­pec­ta­tions in Nashville, and the Sub­ban-for-We­ber trade looks hor­ri­ble for Nashville right now,” said a source within the coach­ing world. “There’s a lot of tal­ent there, but some­thing’s not work­ing.”

Still on the hot seat — be­cause he al­ways sits there — is Bos­ton’s Claude Julien. The Bru­ins are 6-5-0. Not bad, but bet­ter was ex­pected. Like the Canucks whom the Bru­ins beat for the 2011 Stan­ley Cup, their win­dow for win­ning is clos­ing.

Drop­ping off the watch list is Cana- di­ens bench boss Michel Ther­rien, the lat­est ev­i­dence of the adage: Show me a good goalie, and I’ll show you a good coach. (Although, again, We­ber’s pres­ence might have some­thing to do with it.) Over the sum­mer, new coaches were in­stalled in Ana­heim (Randy Car­lyle), Calgary (Glen Gu­lutzan), Colorado (Jared Bed­nar), Min­nesota (Bruce Boudreau) and Ot­tawa (Guy Boucher). Of the group, only Bed­nar had no NHL head coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

That leaves the likes of Bob Hart­ley, Todd Richards, Dal­las Eakins, John Torchetti, Dave Cameron — even Ron Wil­son — as coaches with NHL ex­pe­ri­ence who might get the tap should a job open up.


Van­cou­ver head coach Wil­lie Des­jardins, left, with GM Jim Ben­ning, un­der­stands losses could lead to a loss of job. “It’s not un­fair,” he said.

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