Vancouver Canucks: Line Deployment and the Hockey Night Sideshow

Feb 10, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins looks on during the first period against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 10, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Vancouver Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins looks on during the first period against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

In a rather boring Vancouver Canucks season, a story came out in the media that lifts the curtain on what is really going on behind the scenes.

After what Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin called an “embarrassing” loss to a depleted Toronto Maple Leafs roster Saturday night, the story of the game ended up being off the ice entirely — way up in the press box.

Thanks to the internet, it’s become a national story.

Online viewers of Hockey Night in Canada were treated to a sideshow of candid remarks by Hockey Night’s play-by-play announcers, unaware their conversation was still being recorded between commercial breaks. The main subject that kept coming up? Willie Desjardins’ line deployment.

“That’s where Willie would drive me nuts as a star player, and look who is out there after the TV timeout, Linden Vey.”

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The idea that Willy has a problem making changes in his lineup dates back to his first year at the helm. Remember that strong start the season? The Sedins and Radim Vrbata were lighting it up? A rookie by the name of Bo Horvat was making waves as a face-off master on the fourth line and some guy named Nick Bonino was some kind of lethal wrist-shot-from-the-dot-post-and-in king?

Seems like a while ago now, but yes, things were looking good back then. Oh… and Derek Dorsett was putting up points. Remember when that was a thing?

It wasnt until January rolled around that the team struggled to keep up. Linden Vey’s strong start to the season faded, but his ice team didn’t. The Sedins and Vrbata were broken up in an effort to spread the scoring, which lead to… well… not very much.

“You’re losing at home cause your coach isn’t coaching.”

Now you gotta feel for a guy like Vey. With Alexander Edler sidelined, Vey takes back the reigns as a fan favourite scapegoat, and it’s not entirely based on performance.

Since the acquisition of Emerson Etem, the Line of Etem/Vey/Burrows was an unlikely highlight. A nice combo of speed and skill with a heavy forecheck. Sure, they weren’t scoring all that much, but who was? That’s not supposed to be their number one job (can you hear me, Vrbata?).

It’s hard to think of another Canucks rookie who has been handed the keys like Vey has. I mean, what other Canucks forward has been called up from the minors and put in a position to eat up more minutes than your top-line centre game in and game out? That’s the coach’s call, and when you choose to leave your franchise leader on the bench, there’s gotta be a method to the madness. At least… that’s the hope, right?

“This is just gonna be a heart breaking loss, this might start the tear down.”

Perhaps the bigger concern here isn’t that the guys at Hockey Night are telling it like it is, it’s that they might be right. Has Willie’s reputation as a good “developmental” coach started to lose its shine? Willie was the coach Linden and Benning wanted right out the gate, and they got him. His first season at the helm was a success. The concern here being that if the Canucks miss the playoffs this year, what will that mean for the coach if his reputation is publicly under fire?

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At the end of the day, he’s a rookie NHL coach in his second full season with a roster that’s going through some major changes. Regardless of what happens with the team at the deadline, the question remains: is Willie Desjardins learning fast enough to take control of his team, or will the Canucks be looking at another coaching change for the second time in three seasons?

Personally, I think he deserves at least another season. Coaching changes on teams with a lot of youth can devastate their development. Just look at how that’s worked out for the Oilers over the years. I say we see it through. The sense around the team is that the players have really bought into what he’s preaching and if the players were executing, would this even be a story?

If you want to listen to any of the above commentary from the Hockey Night broadcast, Reddit user PhenomenonYT was nice enough to compile the audio. You can find it Here.

Next: Radim Vrbata to Philadelphia?

What do you think about the remarks that were made? Let us know in the comments!