JamesB Posted March 18, 2015 Share Posted March 18, 2015 Ed Willes in the Province posted the following article today. Hard to disagree. See http://www.theprovince.com/sports/hockey/canucks-hockey/Willes+Coaching+style+Willie+Desjardins/10900395/story.html Ed Willes: Willie Desjardins' coaching style a major reason for Canucks’ transformation. Alex Burrows says it would be easy if he could point to one thing and say, definitively, here’s the reason the Canucks have turned things around this season. In Burrows’ own case, it’s a question of health. In the team’s case, it’s improved seasons from virtually everyone in the lineup who struggled year. Then there’s the emergence of Bo Horvat as an impact player; Zack Kassian and Ronalds Kenins as reliable contributors; and, lest we forget, the eternal Eddie Lack. “There are a lot of factors,” says Burrows. “It’s tough to pinpoint one thing. I’d have to do a PhD study to find the root of the problem.” Yes, sometimes we want simple answers to complex problems and that’s not the way the world works. But when you ask why the Canucks are nine wins and 12 points better than they were at this point last season, why they’re solidly entrenched in a playoff spot after last season’s Dumpster fire, it comes back to the same place. Last year John Tortorella was the head coach. This year it’s Willy Desjardins. Maybe, as the noble Burrows avers, there are other factors behind the turnaround. But with just 13 games left on their schedule and a sense of normalcy returned to the team, Desjardins is the biggest reason. “Obviously, it’s two different worlds,” says Jannik Hansen. “John was my way or the highway. The player-coach relationship was different. Willie is a lot more down-to-earth. I don’t think I’ve heard him chew out a player yet.” Or, as Kevin Bieksa puts it: “He’s gotten the most out of most of the guys on the team.” There have, in fact, been a number of first-class coaching jobs in the NHL this season, and if you were going to compile a short list for the Adams Trophy it would include Peter Laviolette in Nashville, Jack Capuano on Long Island, old friend Alain Vigneault in New York, Bob Hartley in Calgary and Barry Trotz in Washington. This means that unless the Canucks do something crazy over the final three weeks of the schedule, Desjardins will be hard pressed just to make it as a finalist. But that doesn’t diminish his work with the Canucks one iota. Since the start of the season, the Canucks have played with a renewed sense of commitment and enthusiasm that’s been reflected in the standings. They haven’t been out of a playoff spot since the third week in the season and that was for one day. Their longest losing streak in regulation is three games. They’ve also done this through the collective. True, everyone from the Sedins to Burrows to Alex Edler to Hansen have enjoyed bounce-back seasons, but look up and down the Canucks’ lineup and there isn’t one individual who’s having a career year. So how has Desjardins done it? How has he taken a group that was broken and dispirited at the end of last season and remade them into a playoff team? Couple of things. The mere fact the Canucks were broken and dispirited was a starting point. As Bieksa says, there’s a considerable amount of pride in the dressing room and there were more than a few guilty consciences from last season. “We wanted to prove everybody wrong,” the veteran defenceman says. But, unlike Torts, Desjardins has implemented a system that plays to the team’s strengths. Last season, the Canucks looked slow and unimaginative. The emphasis was on defence and blocking shots. Their best players were also used to the point of exhaustion and the fourth line was an afterthought. This season the Canucks are a true four-line, six-D team. Every regular averages at least 11:49 of ice time and in the last two games, when their full lineup has been restored, playing time has been further compressed. The result? The Canucks have nine forwards in double digits in goals, two more at nine and another at eight, meaning they could have 12 forwards with at least 10 goals by the end of the season. You don’t think of the Canucks as an offensive juggernaut, but they’ve already scored more goals this season (197) than they did all of last season (196). “It’s the four lines,” Hansen says. “(Desjardins) wants us to be a deep team. John’s thing was we have to win this game, then we’ll worry about the next game. He played some guys too much and didn’t trust the fourth line as much.” “Maybe last year guys felt they didn’t need to show up because they were going to play for seven minutes,” says Henrik Sedin. “You can’t win that way.” When they’re at their best, the Canucks also play with a speed and creativity that were completely missing last season. Bieksa says there’s more freedom this season. Desjardins also coaches with a lighter hand than his predecessor. “He’s able to relate to guys in different ways,” Bieksa says. “He has a feel for the team.” Which isn’t to say it’s Club Med around the Canucks. Desjardins doesn’t practise a lot but, when he does, he means business. The Canucks’ sessions are fast and demanding. Last season under Torts, not so much and the players believe that’s honed the team’s edge. “The first day of camp was one of the hardest practices I’ve ever had,” Hansen says. “We’re not out there a lot but we practise hard for 45, 50 minutes We didn’t practise a lot last year.” So add it all up and Burrows is right. There are a lot of factors behind the Canucks’ turnaround this season — everything from the guilty consciences to the new faces to the bounce-back veterans to a more stable, productive goaltending position. But somewhere in all that looms the considerable figure of Desjardins. To borrow a term he’s fond of, he’s been real good. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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