Looking back on this past summer, there was at least one handsome hockey blogger who thought Willie Desjardins would be crazy to pass up the opportunity to coach Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the opportunity to coach the Vancouver Canucks, arguably the NHL’s most dysfunctional team of 2013-14, with an aging core and not a whole heck of a lot in the way of blue-chip prospects.
While Desjardins — a 57-year-old who had never been a head coach in the NHL prior to this season — did, in fact, reject the Penguins for the Canucks, he fully admits he was intrigued by the Pittsburgh job.
“When you look at what was there and the opportunity, it’s unbelievable,” Desjardins told the Vancouver Sun. “You look at where they are in the standings, so that’s what type of team they are. And to have an opportunity to coach that kind of team is pretty special. That’s a special group. Not just Crosby. They have so much talent there and it’s a great city, too.”
So far, both teams are enjoying success in 2014-15, the rejuvenated Canucks with Desjardins behind the bench, the Penguins with Mike Johnston, who, chances are, would’ve been hired by Vancouver had Desjardins chosen Pittsburgh.
“I think [the Pens] are really lucky that Mike’s here and if they had a choice to make again, they’d take Mike every time now,” Desjardins said. “I think it turned out the way it should. I can say honestly that I think Mike Johnston is the best guy for this job.”
If you’re curious why Desjardins used the word “here,” it’s because the Penguins and Canucks meet tonight in Pittsburgh.