The future of Willie Desjardins as coach of the Vancouver Canucks has been in doubt at various points during a tumultuous season, and that uncertainty will carry into the off-season.
“We’re going to take our time and look at our options at the end of the season,” Canucks president Trevor Linden told a Vancouver sports radio station Tuesday, regarding the head coach (via Pro Hockey Talk). “I’ll have to do a full assessment of our organization, as I always do, and we’ll move forward from that point.”
Linden said Desjardins, who was hired in June 2014, has done a good job with a team that is making a transition toward youth and speed.
The Canucks qualified for the post-season in their first campaign under Desjardins but are on track to miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year. The 60-year-old bench boss still has one more season remaining on his contract.
"Willie’s concern is one thing—that’s winning," Linden told us as hot-seat rumours surrounded the coach earlier this winter.
"In professional sports, people look to point the finger. The easiest one to point the finger at is the coach. He went to work every day and worked hard at getting our group better. It’s a tough spot to be in, and we talked a lot through it."
Due to a rash of mid-season firings, plenty of experienced NHL coaches — Gerard Gallant, Michel Therrien, Jack Capuano — could be seeking work this summer.
Desjardins, 60, has often been criticized for how he uses his roster, and vocal members of the Vancouver fan base were upset that the newly acquired Nikolay Goldobin spent so much time on the bench during the Canucks' 4-3 win over Los Angeles Saturday.
Acquired in the Jannik Hansen trade, Goldobin scored in his Vancouver debut but skated just 5:51.
“We have a passionate market. I think at times we can overreact to certain things. This is one 60-minute game out of many games that Nikolay will play with us," Linden explained on-air Tuesday.
He pointed out that Goldobin was unfamiliar with Desjardins' system and there were plenty of penalties in that game.
“Let’s not forget, Nikolay is a 21-year-old player who still has some work to do on his overall game and growing,” Linden said. “That’s the thing we have to be careful with. Young players have to earn their time.”
In his radio interview, Linden reiterated that RFA-in-waiting Bo Horvat will be part of the team for a long time and that Daniel and Henrik Sedin (UFAs in 2018) will be Canucks for as long as they wish to be.
What about re-signing No. 1 goalie Ryan Miller, who was not moved at the trade deadline but is on an expiring contract?
"It's definitely an option on the table," Linden said. "We value what he's done for us."
So, with Hansen and Alexandre Burrows traded for youth and picks, is it now safe to say the Canucks are in the midst of a rebuild?
"I think you can use whatever word you want," Linden said. "It maybe hasn't happened as fast as some people have wanted... but I'm really excited about where we're going."