After entering the 2016-17 season on the hot seat, Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins may earn some votes for the Jack Adams Award.
The Vancouver Canucks went from 101 points one season to the NHL’s third-worst team with 75 points the next.
In most cases, when that happens a head coaching change takes place. But the Canucks opted to retain Willie Desjardins for at least the beginning of 2016-17, hoping he would right the ship and take this team back to the playoffs.
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Vancouver opened the season with four consecutive wins, but then proceeded to lose nine in a row. They entered January with a mere 17-18-3 record, and they looked far from capable of reaching the playoffs.
Three weeks into the new year, and things have changed quickly. The Canucks are 4-1-3 in 2017, picking up valuable wins and crucial loser points. That has them right on the Los Angeles Kings’ tail for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
With all due respect to the emergence of Bo Horvat, 13 goals and 30 points through 46 games basically tells the story of a team that doesn’t score enough. Henrik and Daniel are both on pace for their worst seasons since the lockout ended, with 29 and 25 points, respectively.
The defence and goaltending have also been lackluster at best, allowing 2.78 goals per game (13th-worst in the NHL). Ben Hutton is out three-to-six weeks, Chris Tanev missed 24 games, Erik Gudbranson‘s season is in jeopardy with a wrist injury and Alexander Edler missed 14 games.
Desjardins has done a lot with a little
Yet, this Canucks team that lacks a true superstar, has scoring woes and faced so many injuries on defence finds themselves in the playoff race.
That’s a huge pat on the back for Desjardins, who has somehow gotten this team to work hard and earn every inch of ice out there. This Canucks team has found ways to hang in against the league’s best teams. They have wins against the Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings.
The Canucks also came close to beating the Chicago Blackhawks at home, except they blew a 3-0 third period lead before falling in overtime. They even ended a 10-game losing streak against the Dallas Stars.
Tough to explain how this team is behind the Los Angeles Kings, who have a 23-goal scorer in Jeff Carter, perennial superstar Anze Kopitar and game-changer in defenceman Drew Doughty. But somehow, Desjardins has his Canucks trying to dethrone the Kings.