After spending much of the offseason courting the season ticketholders, the Vancouver Canucks finally did something this week for another important section of their fanbase, the puerile Internet commenters, by reportedly landing Willie Desjardins.
Think about it: they just hired a guy named Willie, who comes from an organization based in “The Big D” and was raised in the small-town of Climax, Saskatchewan. Climax! That sound you hear is hundreds of childish Canuck fans tittering while they Twitter (and then Twitter-tittering again upon hearing the word “titter”). I mean, come on. A Willie from Climax? That’s almost too good to be true. (Granted, the other way around, it’s usually too good to be true, too.)
This is also a dream come true for those of us that cater to the puerile Internet commenters. While coachspeak already tends to lend itself to double entendres, having a guy named Willie behind the bench — hopefully coaxing a bigger PP out of his team and helping his scorers rediscover their stroke — provides a whole new tool, as it were.
But the Canucks almost failed to get their hands on Willie. Reports as recently as Thursday night had him going to Pittsburgh before something changed. What was it? Did the Penguins pull a boner? Or did Willie simply feel Vancouver was a better city in which to show his stuff? Here are seven potential explanations for why he might have chosen Vancouver over Pittsburgh:
1 | Great expectations
Anybody with an ounce of hockey knowledge can tell you the Penguins are closer to being a Cup team than the Canucks are. But that means the margin for success in Pittsburgh is razor-thin. Fail to win the Stanley Cup — like, right away — and you have indeed failed. For a coach making his NHL debut, being dropped into a “win the hardest trophy in sports to win on your first try or go home” scenario is hardly ideal, especially when your group is likely to remain problematically top-heavy and the Boston Bruins are still perfectly-designed to smother you to death.
With the Canucks, Desjardins will be part of a turnaround that’s expected to take a couple years. There isn’t a single Canucks fan that looks at the current team and says, if Desjardins doesn’t have these guys hoisting the Cup next June, he should go. That means he’s got a little more time to manage a culture change, feel his team out, and grow alongside of them.
2 | Regime change
In fact, Desjardins isn’t just growing alongside the players — he’s growing alongside the management group. Jim Benning is a first-year GM. Trevor Linden is a first-year president. There’s going to be room to make some mistakes, and to settle into a good working relationship on the fly.
Pittsburgh doesn’t look quite as cozy. The ownership group just badly bungled the firing of Dan Bylsma, letting him wait around for weeks after firing GM Ray Shero before giving him the axe too. Do you really want to be the next guy they screw around? Furthermore, Jim Rutherford is an interim GM in everything but name, and in two to three years, one of the AGMs is going to take over — will he want to hire his own guy? Again, everything in Pittsburgh screams short-term, and for a guy breaking into the NHL for his first rodeo, the longer-term project situation in Vancouver might seem a great deal more appealing.
3 | Term and salary
Further speaking to the seemingly short-term nature of the gig in Pittsburgh: the team was reportedly only willing to offer Desjardins a two-year contract. That screams “ephemeral”, and doesn’t bode well for a new, young coach under insane expectations to survive the coming GM changeover. The Canucks appear to be offering three years, which is a little more stability and commitment.
4 | Mediocre predecessors
Plus if you win a Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh, you’re just the latest guy to do that. Win a Stanley Cup in Vancouver and you’re the first ever. You’re definitely getting a statue. Heck, one previous coach got a statue for literally surrendering. It shouldn’t be too hard to get a statue.
And honestly, how difficult will it be to seem like an improvement on John Tortorella? All you have to do is live near the stadium. Plus you’re inheriting a team that is desperate to practice. You’ll schedule a practice on a day off and they’ll be like, “Oh wow, this is so great!”
5 | Canucks are closer to Climax
The city. Don’t be immature. (Although the city itself is pretty immature. The backside of the “Welcome to Climax sign reads “Come again!”, and I’m dead serious.)
I’m not suggesting, mind you, that Vancouver is that close to Climax. (It’s still going to take awhile to get there, and you really should take your time, try to enjoy yourself along the way, and if you’re traveling with someone else, be sure to listen to your partner.) But it’s still closer than Pittsburgh, both geographically and in spirit, since it’s in the same country. Desjardins may very well have been enticed by the prospect of returning to Canada.
6 | Stanley Park is the best park in the world.
I saw it on the news, so it has to be true. Say, how many cities have coaching vacancies AND the best park in the world? OH RIGHT, JUST ONE.
7 | The Beagle Boys
It’s possible that Desjardins has Pittsburgh confused with Duckburg, and doesn’t want to have to deal with The Beagle Boys constantly trying to break into his money bin. Again: this is a possible explanation.