Desjardins defends benching of Canucks kids


The same coach who came under fire for not playing his stars enough in the playoffs is now being forced to defend the ice time he’s giving the kids.

Last night at Rogers Arena, Canucks coach Willie Desjardins shortened his bench in a close game with Washington, barely playing youngsters Sven Baertschi, Jared McCann, and Jake Virtanen in the third period.

The move did not pay off, as the Capitals scored twice in the third and won 3-2, leaving Desjardins to explain his decision-making this morning.

“I know you will look at it like these guys didn’t get that much ice time in the third or they didn’t get that,” he said, per The Province. “But you have to develop guys from junior to the NHL. There’s a growing phase. Usually, the growing phase is the [AHL]. But we’re trying to miss that phase.”

Indeed, if it were as simple as sending Baertschi, McCann and Virtanen to the AHL, all three of them might be there right now.

But it’s not that simple. Baertschi would have to be exposed to waivers; McCann and Virtanen are only eligible to be sent back to junior.

Desjardins — who’s been accused of being scared to play his youngsters — actually sees it quite differently.

It’s not him that’s scared. It’s the kids.

“They don’t want to get beat,” he said. “So, they back off and they give the other guy time. The guy doesn’t beat them but he has time to make a great play and that beats us. We have to get them more confident where they can be aggressive.”

The Canucks host the Red Wings tomorrow night. Vancouver (3-2-2) is winless in four tries at home this season.