New coach Willie Desjardins is all ears, but his eyes are fixed on the end result

 

Players appreciate being able to offer their opinions as new coach aims to get squad back on winning track

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins is described by players as firm, friendly and fair and more than willing to hear feedback from his athletes. 'He's open and honest and respectful to you. It's everything you can really ask for from a coach,' says new Canuck winger Derek Dorsett.
 

Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins is described by players as firm, friendly and fair and more than willing to hear feedback from his athletes. 'He's open and honest and respectful to you. It's everything you can really ask for from a coach,' says new Canuck winger Derek Dorsett.

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG Files, Vancouver Sun

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VANCOUVER — Communication between the Vancouver Canucks' coaches and their players is no longer a one-way street.

The players are encouraged to ask questions and even offer opinions to new head coach Willie Desjardins and his staff. Somewhere, John (my way or the highway) Tortorella must be shaking his head.

Ask the Canucks to identify the one thing that stands out about Desjardins and you hear the word communication.

"He wants our feedback and how we see things. I think that is probably the biggest thing right off the get-go," says winger Alex Burrows. "He wants to be successful and he utilizes all his assets to make sure we are going to be successful as a team, instead of in the last year it was maybe more of a one-way street and you had to listen and follow.

"I don't know if one is better than the other, but I think as a player you like to say what you think a little bit, even if the coach doesn't agree. At least he listens to it and at the end of the day he makes the decision and you just have to go with it."

Desjardins, a rookie National Hockey League bench boss at age 57, has a reputation as a coach who gets to know his players, cares about them and never misleads them.

"He is a guy that is going to let you know where you stand at all times," says new Canucks winger Derek Dorsett, who played junior hockey for Desjardins with the Medicine Hat Tigers.

Dorsett credits Desjardins with helping him make it as a pro.

"He is the guy who helped me cool my temper down a little bit. In junior I was a little bit more wound up and he worked with me a lot on that. He is open and honest and respectful to you. It's everything you can really ask for from a coach."

That's not to say Desjardins is soft. Far from it. He demands an unfailing work ethic from his team. But in a nice way, says defenceman Kevin Bieksa.

"He is intense, but he is calm," Bieksa says. "He's patient but he wants things done the right way, right now. It's different. He is a unique coach, I think. He has an uncanny way of getting across his point and making you want to work harder without all the yelling in your face.

"He makes you want to work hard for him, but he explains things, too. He explains why we're going to be working hard and that he is going to push us and guys just accept it and guys just want to work hard for him."

The Canucks are a more relaxed bunch - perhaps less uptight is a better way to put it - under Desjardins. And team captain Henrik Sedin thinks that will translate into more creativity on the ice.

"I think we were too tense last year, we didn't make the plays we needed to be successful," Henrik says.

"I don't think you can win in this league just skating up and down the boards as a leftwinger and shooting slappers from the top of the circle and hoping for a bounce here and there. You have to make plays and so far this year I think we have shown it is a different feeling."

New Vancouver centre Linden Vey also played for Desjardins in Medicine Hat and says he made a lasting impact on his career. Vey also says Desjardins' ability to connect to his players is one of the keys to his success as a coach.

"I think one of the best things about him is he's such a great communicator," Vey says. "It doesn't matter whether you have played 10 years or one year, whether you're a young guy or an old guy, it doesn't matter. He treats everybody the same way."

Canucks assistant coach Doug Lidster spent the past two years working on Desjardins' staff with the AHL's Texas Stars, where they won the Calder Cup last season.

He thinks Desjardins' success as a coach can be simply explained: "Everybody wants to be part of a winning organization and pretty much every decision that he makes is what's best for the team and what's best for the team works out to be what's best for the individual."

bziemer@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/bradziemer

5 things Willie needs this season to succeed:

An improved power play: The Canucks were 26th in the NHL with the man advantage last season. They'll need to be middleof-the-pack or better this season to make the playoffs.

Bounce-back seasons from key players: Last season, nearly everyone underperformed. The Sedins, Alex Burrows and Alex Edler must rebound.

Four productive lines: The Canucks like to think they have better depth this season and will be able to play their fourth line more than just five or six minutes a night.

A better record in their own division: The Canucks had a losing record of 12-13-4 against Pacific Division opponents last season. That has to change.

More offence from the defence: The Canucks got 147 points from their D last season. That was down from 181 in the previous full season of 2011-12.

5 notable Canucks coaches:

Alain Vigneault: Some Canucks fans were delighted to see Vigneault go, until they experienced the John Tortorella era. All Vigneault did during his seven seasons as head coach was win a franchise-record 313 games, six division titles and two Presidents' Trophies.

Marc Crawford: Like all the other Canucks coaches, Crawford never won the big one. But he might have with a franchise goalie. Crow had the Canucks playing an exciting brand of run-and-gun hockey for many of his six full seasons as coach. His winning percentage of .554 is second only to Vigneault's .632.

Pat Quinn: This guy did it all for the Canucks as a player, coach and general manager. The team came back to life during his tenure, and Quinn took them to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 1994. His winning percentage of .553 trails only Vigneault and Crawford.

Harry Neale: He makes our list because of one of the all-time great Canucks quotes from the 1981-82 season: "Last season, we couldn't win at home," Neale said after a loss. "This season, we can't win on the road. My failure as a coach is I can't think of any place else to play."

Bill LaForge: Who can forget Mr. PhD (Pride, Hustle, Desire). Under LaForge, the Canucks didn't show much of that. Laforge lasted just 20 games in 1984, compiling a record of 4-14-2. His team was outscored 119-67 in those 20 games.

Canucks By the Numbers through 40-plus years here

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins is described by players as firm, friendly and fair and more than willing to hear feedback from his athletes. 'He's open and honest and respectful to you. It's everything you can really ask for from a coach,' says new Canuck winger Derek Dorsett.
 

Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins is described by players as firm, friendly and fair and more than willing to hear feedback from his athletes. 'He's open and honest and respectful to you. It's everything you can really ask for from a coach,' says new Canuck winger Derek Dorsett.

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG Files, Vancouver Sun

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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