Here We Go Again…
Another early start to the Vancouver Canucks off-season, and yet another coaching search. Somehow, everything is worse this year. The season ended quicker, the coaching staff was worse and depending on who you ask, so is the field of available coaches. It’s a trifecta of Canucks related misery that seems only suiting of this franchise and it’s sordid forty-plus year history.
Somehow, Glen Gulutzan survived the curtain call, but he was the only coach granted any clemency; whether Gulutzan actually makes it to next year, however, is up to the new head coach. Now, whoever that head coach is, is up to newly minted GM Jim Benning and Team President Trevor Linden.
Below I’ve provided a list of some of the names to keep an eye on as the process goes on. There’s familiarity, experience and a lack thereof, all covered below.
1. John Stevens, LA Kings, Assistant Coach
Stevens had a less than stellar career as a player, having spent very little time playing in the NHL during his days as a player. While Stevens enjoyed a successful AHL career, his lumbering stay-at-home style of defensive play limited him to just 53 NHL games in his career as a defenseman.
Shortly after his career as a skater ended, Stevens found himself behind the bench with the Philadelphia Flyers AHL affiliate, the Phantoms. His record as an AHL head coach was 230-181-33-16, which by my reckoning, is none too shabby. In 2004-05, Stevens club won the Calder Cup.
Following his very successful stint with the Philadelphia Phantoms, Stevens was promoted to assistant coach of the parent club Philadelphia Flyers; Stevens worked as a member of Ken Hitchcock‘s staff. When Hitchcock was fired in that same season, Stevens was handed the reigns of the Flyers.
It was tough sledding for the first season, but in just his second as the coach of the Flyers, Stevens guided them to an Eastern Conference Finals berth. In total, over Stevens’ four seasons as the Flyers head coach, he went 120-110-34. Not exactly jaw dropping numbers.
Since then, Stevens has caught on with Darryl Sutter as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Kings. Stevens has watched under one of the games greatest coaches in Sutter, and that in itself is an asset.
Stevens has also been given much of the credit in LA for developing young defenseman like Jake Muzzin, Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov. Stevens is considered the frontrunner, and with good reason.
2. Willie Desjardins, Texas Stars, Head Coach
Not entirely sure how, but at 57-years old, Willie Desjardins has yet to crack the NHL as a head coach. The closest he came was during Glen Gulutzan’s tenure as the head coach with the Dallas Stars; Desjardins was an associate coach during that time.
Leading up to his inclusion in the Stars coaching staff from 2010-12, Desjardins spent a great deal of time as the head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers. In the WHL, Desjardins was wildly successful. In his eight years as the Tigers head coach, they went 333-182-61.
The Tigers also won a WHL Championship under Desjardins’ stewardship and a Memorial Cup appearance.
In his current position, Desjardins is leading the Texas Stars to a Calder Cup appearance as their head coach. In the two previous regular seasons, Desjardins has guided the club to a 91-40-21 record. Desjardins is best known as a motivator who manages to get that extra push out of his players.
3. Marc Crawford, ZSC Lions, Head Coach
How’s this for a little good old fashioned familiarity? Emphasis on the old fashioned. I can’t say I’m all that bullish on Crawford as a coaching candidate, but his name is one that has emerged of late as a dark horse candidate for the Canucks coaching vacancy.
It’s been a while since Crawford was coaching in the NHL, but during his long and storied career as a coach in the NHL, he won a Stanley Cup in only his second year behind the bench.
Crawford’s NHL record as a head coach is a whopping 549-421-103-78.
Crawford will best be remembered for being the bench boss that oversaw the glory days of the West Coast Express. Whether he could recapture some of that offensive glory is yet to be seen.