National Hockey League
Trip Back to Dallas a Welcome One for Canucks' Desjardins
National Hockey League

Trip Back to Dallas a Welcome One for Canucks' Desjardins

Published Oct. 21, 2014 6:06 p.m. ET

DALLAS -- Even if it is only a short trip, Willie Desjardins is happy to be back in Dallas.

Of course, that's understandable since the first-year head coach of the Vancouver Canucks spent the past four years in the Stars organization, first as an assistant coach to Marc Crawford and then to Glen Gulutzan before coaching Dallas' top minor league affiliate, the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League, a team he led to the 2014 Calder Cup title, the past two seasons.

Desjardins and the Canucks, who are unbeaten on the road thus far, are in town to face the Stars at American Airlines Center and he couldn't be happier about making such an early return to Big D.

"Yeah, it's a special game for me," Desjardins said after morning skate. "This is a good organization and I know a lot of guys in the organization, so it is a special place. So right from the start, I knew when this game was going to be."


Some 15 current members of the Stars roster played for Desjardins at one time or another and even though he'll be on the opposing bench on Tuesday evening, the respect his former players in the Dallas organization have for him will never wane.

"I got nothing but good things to say about Willie. He helped me out a lot. Obviously, he proved himself down there (in the AHL)," Stars defenseman Jordie Benn said. "He came in there and did an amazing job. He's a players' coach. He likes to have a few meetings every now and then and make sure everybody's happy. All he expects from you is just to come and work every day and work as hard as you can. He's just a great coach."

Another of those former players, winger Curtis McKenzie, the 2014 AHL Rookie of the Year while playing for Desjardins, made his NHL debut on Saturday night in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and as always, Desjardins is always happy to see his former players succeed at the top level.

"He worked so hard," Desjardins said of McKenzie. "One time, I didn't know how he was going to make it in the American League, if he was a fourth-line guy. He just worked so hard to get here."

Earlier this week, the Stars recalled another youngster Desjardins knows fairly well in Finnish defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka, who was brought up on Sunday to provide Dallas some defensive depth in the wake of Patrik Nemeth's season-ending arm injury on Saturday night.

But no matter whether they played for him in the Stars organization or at any of the other successful stops he's had throughout his impressive coaching career, Desjardins always has and will continue to take great pride whenever he sees one of his former players do well.

"It's always great. You always hope when you coach players that they give you the best and if it's (at) that level, they become better players at that level," Desjardins said. "So it's really rewarding when you see how well they've done and how hard they've worked to get there."


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