In farewell to Vancouver, Desjardins defends his approach to young players

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Willie Desjardins had one last press conference this morning in Vancouver. He spoke about his three years as head coach of the Canucks, a tenure that ended with his dismissal after a 29th overall finish in 2016-17.

For Desjardins, the one thing he kept coming back to was injuries. The Canucks have been decimated the past two years. For a retooling team already short on talent, it was simply too much to overcome.

“Over 450 man games lost. That’s a lot to lose,” said Desjardins. “It’s nobody’s fault. Our roster was thin. … When you have a thin roster to start, you just can’t afford to have injuries and guys missing. You can’t. And that’s not a cop out. It’s just a fact.”

He did not blame the general manager.

“Jim Benning was outstanding,” said Desjardins. “It was a good relationship. Jim and I, we didn’t have one fight. There wasn’t once we blew up at each other. Not once. There’s always a little difference with management and coaches. There just is. Coaches are a little more short term, management’s a little more long term. But it would’ve been hard to have a better relationship with a general manager than I had with Jim.”

Desjardins did take issue with one thing, and that was the notion that he didn’t trust young players.

“There is a misconception,” he said. “I’ve never had a problem playing young guys. You look at (Bo) Horvat, you look at (Brock) Boeser. Boeser’s a young guy, came in, played all the time, played power play. That wasn’t ever an issue with me.

“I knew where the organization was and where we had to go. I have my beliefs in how you develop young guys, and maybe that was a little different than the media thought. I’ve developed a lot of young players in my coaching career, and a lot of my guys have turned out.”

The next coach of the Canucks, whether it’s Travis Green or someone else, will have similar challenges going forward.

“We’re going to be young,” president of hockey ops Trevor Linden said earlier this week, per The Globe and Mail. “Young players make mistakes. There’s going to be some growing pains. We need a coach that understands exactly where we are.”

Related: Desjardins calls out Goldobin, says he needs to work harder