On Monday, I penned a letter to Willie Desjardins about his double talk, his coaching, and his bullying of Ilya Kovalchuk. I don’t think he read it (rude!). He should have. In case you missed it, click here. It’s a quick read, less than 1,000 words. You’ll be better off for reading it.
I’m writing to you today in emergency fashion because the entire league is laughing at my beloved Kings, I’m sure it bothers you too. But, I’ve done a deeper dive on Willie Desjardins and the hockey horror reads like a Stephen King novel.
When Willie was hired I was accepting of it. After all, I had been calling, literally, for John Stevens’s dismissal since game 82 of the 2017-18 season. I defended his Vancouver finish (75 points and 69 points in his last two campaign) because he did so well in the Olympics. Seasons change. People change. Coaches adapt. Look at John Tortorella in Columbus. He adapted after Vancouver relived him of his duties and is doing well. Maybe Willie D. could do the same. I mean, the Kings couldn’t look more lost than they did under Stevens. Or could they?
So after looking up Tuesday and seeing a 5-6 record since Willie’s arrival (fool’s gold considering the wins came against Anaheim, Chicago, St. Louis, Edmonton, and Vancouver) and Nate Thompson getting almost twice as many minutes against Edmonton, I decided I need to do some historical analysis of Willie.
Bear with me here, Rob. I know what you’re thinking. Another slug telling me how to do my job and who to hire, blah blah blah. I research things for a living; it’s what I do in the media world. It’s paid off nicely for 32 years, in the same vein that being a great defenseman helped you.
But, Rob, I am not here to tell you what to do. I like you in the GM role and I am here to help protect you. Be an extra set of eyes, if you will. I even offered to be your timeout specialist during the Nashville game and other games. Willie needs a Jiminy Cricket to help him slow things down. Perhaps in your rush to placate the fans and get a quality product on ice, you missed what most of us missed. Maybe you missed the Déjà Vu Experience, aka the Willie D. Experience we are witnessing eleven games into his coaching reign.
Take this Willie Desjardins Coaching Obituary, posted on April 10, 2017 – and, please stop me if any of this already sounds familiar for the Los Angeles Kings:
THE BAD AND UGLY [of Willie D.’s Vancouver coaching tenure]:
Offensive Woes—Simply put, the Canucks struggled to sustain any level of consistent offense during Desjardins’ reign as coach. Vancouver was second-last in offense. Willie’s teams were consistently outshot and outchanced, and this season in particular saw a bizarre phenomenon wherein the Canucks would go for tens of minutes without getting a single shot.
Picking Favorites—Desjardins, like many coaches, had his favorite players, but Willie seemed to play his more than the average bench boss. After these players were removed from the roster, Desjardins found new favorites to inexplicably overplay.
The Power Play: The Canucks have spent the last two seasons with a power play that ranks in the bottom five of the league, and those who watch every game are probably surprised it wasn’t in dead last. Desjardins’ power play setup became all too easily predictable, and its repetitive plays were handled with ease by most opponents. Under Willie, the Canucks often struggled to even get setup.
Rob, I’m here to tell you this is horrifying on a Michael Myers-level. Just when you think you’ve stopped a monster from killing, he rises up and starts murdering your franchise. The All the Kings Men Podcast reports that the Kings are much better on even strength under Willie, but is puzzled how the penalty kills have dipped to nearly last in the NHL. To me, this seems simple. It’s coaching. If even strength has improved that’s good coaching and proves that the Kings aren’t so slow and old. On the PK and PP, the you can be old and slow and still produce. Bad coaching make special teams worse. But, I don’t need to tell you all of this right?
…but there’s more…
Take this excerpt from the Vancouver Courier:
There are some areas where Desjardins isn’t so hot. Just a light, insubstantial sprinkling of shortcomings that have led the Canucks to 26th place in the Sportsnet power rankings. (And I believe that’s generous.)
And then there are the totally inconceivable moves. The head scratchers. A prime example came from Vancouver’s second shutout loss against Ottawa, when late in the third period, down by just a goal and desperate to score, Desjardins pulled the goalie and sent out a grinder and a defensively suspect sixth defenseman to take the ice. How does he come to these decisions? Does his mustache tingle when he sends the right player over the board? Because I would respect that.
Starting Bo Horvat on the fourth line to start the season is bewildering, but Desjardins defended this decision by explaining his theory that young players needed to learn defence before being given those scoring minutes. As an abstract concept that’s somewhat convincing, but Horvat is Vancouver’s leading scorer. He’s been as much of a threat as anyone on the team.
OMG, Rob, do you see this? He’s doing the same thing to Kovalchuk as he did to Horvat. With one exception: Hovat was 21 at the time and Kovalchuk is a career minus player brought in strictly for offense.
I feel like Willie D. read this article (Kings’ Ilya Kovalchuk has improved his play when they have needed it most by Curtis Zupke) and said to himself, “What does this guy know? I’m the Kingmaker. I make scorers defensive specialists. I’m better than Ken Hitchcock. I mean if he can turn Mike Modano, Tyler Sequin and now Connor McDavid into 200-foot players, I can do the same for Kovalchuk.”
So Rob, can you please text Willie and tell him this?: “Hello? Willie? Didn’t you read the news? Kolvachuk is a career minus 129 and was a point-a-game player through 830 games. He was leading the team in points until you decided to try to break him Ivan Drago-style on the 3rd and 4th line.”
I’m over my 1,000-word limit, so I want to wrap this all up and respectfully ask that you get Willie stop reverting to his old ways and get his act together? Is there a Coaching Anonymous meeting in Western Canada?
Or call Coach Q. and remind him that tailgating is really fun in Los Angeles and he doesn’t need to freeze in Chicago anymore.
Better yet, if you hired Willie D. as part of your “Mad Scientist” plan to get Jack Hughes or Vasili Podkolzin to reinvigorate the squad, give me a call and let me know what’s up. Curious minds need to know, because all we want is not to be laughed at.
Thanks for reading, Rob.