VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks have fired head coach Willie Desjardins after a miserable 2016-17 season.
The team announced the move today, less than 24 hours after losing its eighth straight game in regulation.
The Canucks finish 29th in the NHL’s overall standings.
In three seasons with Vancouver, Desjardins compiled a 109-110-27 record.
The 60-year-old led the club to the playoffs as a rookie NHL head coach in 2014-15, but the rebuilding Canucks took a big step backwards last season and things actually got worse in 2016-17.
The team also let go assistants Doug Lidster and Perry Pearn.
A news conference is scheduled for Monday afternoon.
“It’s been a challenging season and we all share responsibility for the results,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said in a statement. “However, we felt this change was necessary as we continue to develop a young team and look ahead to the future.”
Named the 18th head coach in franchise history in June 2014, Desjardins looked to have things back on track early this fall when Vancouver was perfect through its first four games. But the fast start was a mostly smoke and mirrors as the Canucks became first team in NHL history to win its first three games of a season while never leading in regulation.
Vancouver committed to a defensive system this season under Desjardins that sacrificed offence. After their 4-0-0 start, the Canucks went on a nine-game losing streak (0-8-1) that included getting shut out four times in five games.
While rumours concerning his job security swirled, Desjardins seemed to have righted the ship by mid-season — the Canucks were 23-20-6 on Jan. 25 and occupied the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot — before things cratered in spectacular fashion.
A 3-0 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 26 where Vancouver didn’t register a shot until just before the midway point of the second period started a downward spiral that would see the club go an NHL-worst 7-23-3 over its final 33 games — a 42-point pace over 82 games.
All told, the Canucks wound up 30-43-9 in 2016-17, including 10-25-6 over their final 41 games.
During his time in Vancouver, Desjardins’ deployment of superstar twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin, along with host of other players, was a lightning rod for criticism.
This season, a lot of the questions surrounded his loyalty to certain members of Vancouver’s veteran core — he leaned heavily on the likes of Brandon Sutter, Luca Sbisa and Alexander Edler — as well as fringe NHLers like Michael Chaput and Jayson Megna.
The power play and penalty-kill were also disasters, ranked 29th and tied for 28th, respectively.
Vancouver dealt veterans Jannik Hansen and Alexandre Burrows prior to the trade deadline for assets as the rebuild finally got into full swing, but things went from bad to worse for the injury-riddled club that has now missed the playoffs three of the last four years.
The Canucks scored just 178 goals this season to set a new franchise low (not including lockout-shortened campaigns), eclipsing the 186 goals of 2015-16.
Their 12 straight games without a victory at Rogers Arena (0-9-3) dating back to an overtime win on Feb. 18 to close out the schedule also broke a franchise mark previously set during the team’s inaugural 1970-71 campaign.
Just 2-13-2 over their final 17 games overall, the Canucks’ last victory in regulation in Vancouver came all the way back on Jan. 20.
As the 2016-17 season wore on, Desjardins became more candid with the media, especially regarding his expectations of some of the team’s younger players.
While there weren’t many highlights, Desjardins can be credited with helping develop Bo Horvat, who led Vancouver in scoring this season, Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund into legitimate offensive contributors.
In his first year with the Canucks in 2014-15, Desjardins steered the team to a 101-point campaign and second place in the Pacific Division before falling to Calgary in a tough six-game first-round playoff series.
Already in the process of dismantling the aging core that got to within a game of winning the 2011 Stanley Cup, Vancouver continued down that course the following season with younger players taking on bigger roles in an attempt to rebuild on the fly while still trying to stay competitive.
The plan didn’t come close to providing the desired results, and Desjardins was eventually the one to pay the price.
The team stumbled to 31-38-13 mark in 2015-16, good for just 75 points and a 28th-place finish, and he managed to survive 2016-17 despite a couple of instances where his dismissal looked likely before the hammer finally fell after Game 82.
Desjardins replaced John Tortorella after his one tumultuous season in 2013-14 that saw Vancouver miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
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