British Columbia·Analysis

Canucks make fall guy out of Willie Desjardins

Head coaches are always first under the guillotine when a team goes off the rails, so it was no surprise when the Canucks fired head coach Willie Desjardins.

Aging stars, too-young talent and injuries: is the terrible season really all Willie's fault?

You'd be sour too if the Vancouver Canucks just fired you. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Coaches are always first under the guillotine when a team goes off the rails so it was no surprise that just 12 hours after a miserable exclamation point — a 5-2 loss in Edmonton — was put on a miserable 69 point season, news emerged that the Canucks had fired head coach Willie Desjardins.

Free Willie, as some fans categorized the canning.

Free indeed, from the impossible task of turning an injury-plagued team with questionable depth and talent into a winner. 

Canucks fan sums up the entire season. (Shutterstock / Sergei Bachlakov)

Considering some of the pre-season predictions, including a USA Today writer picking a healthy Canucks team to finish dead last in the league with only 65 points, 69 points and 29th place could be considered a victory.

From the start, the 2016-17 Canucks were a playoff team only in an alternate reality where two goals a game, a brutal power play and weak defence wins the Stanley Cup.

No miracle worker

The only thing this season revealed about Desjardins is that he is no miracle worker.

With 4 goals in his first 9 NHL games Brock Boeser is part the Canucks promised brighter future. (

He couldn't heal the injured.

He couldn't turn back the clock to make the Sedins five years younger and Alex Edler — well, Alex Edler again.

And, most critically, he couldn't time warp to an imagined future where the Goldobins and Boesers and Tryamkins of the team have turned raw potential into every night performance. 

Did I mention the future looks bright?

President Trevor Linden and General Manager Jim Benning spent a lot of time during the coach-firing press conference speaking about how things are starting to looking up for Canucks fans.

"I'm more encouraged today than I was as any point in the last three years," said Linden, twice. 

"We have a future in kids [the fans] have never seen play."

That includes, presumably, the player Vancouver takes in June's rookie draft with the high pick earned by being so bad. 

Benning said the club will draft an NHL-ready playmaking centre, or true power play defenceman.

"In the top five we'll get that," he promised. 

Yes, the future looks brighter for the Canucks. How long it takes to get here is the real question.

The new coach can only hope he has better timing than the old coach.

About the Author

Karin Larsen


Karin Larsen is a former Olympian and award winning sports broadcaster who covers news and sports for CBC Vancouver.