Willie Desjardins is taking some heat for his handling of ice time for prospects in Austin. Does he deserve criticism or praise?
White Board Willie is rustling some jimmies in Austin. Jack Campbell is splitting time with Christopher Nilstorp. Scott Glennie has been scratched several times. Alex Chiasson has been playing on the third line. Austin Smith was banished to Idaho. The Stars top prospects, in general, aren't getting the ice time they need to develop because they haven't met the expectations set by Desjardins to get more ice time.
And why is that his fault?
His goal as a leader is to set goals for his subordinates to reach. He needs to lay out a clear path for them to follow to meet said goals. We have no evidence to suggest that this hasn't been done, so why should he be blamed for the fact that they aren't getting the ice time they need? The players are the ones apparently not meeting his expectations. At what point do they take the responsibility for furthering their own careers?
The fact of the matter is that most of the time in these situations the person in charge is going to take the heat for the actions of his subordinates. When a student fails a class where does the parent usually place the initial blame? The teacher is almost always the initial target, but in fact upon closer examination the student has usually failed to meet their responsibilities.
There is a reason Glennie couldn't even suit up. We may never know what that is, but assuming that the benching was unprovoked is insulting to an experienced player developer like Willie Desjardins. These players that we're expecting to get ice time are just kids. Inexperienced kids, at that. Sometimes kids need external motivation.
Desjardins is clearly letting the Stars prospects know that if they aren't meeting his standards they aren't going to get the ice time they covet. He has presumably set high bars for his proteges with the expectation being that they will do whatever they have to do to meet his expectations. This serves a two-fold purpose. First, it teaches the kids how to function in a professional atmosphere, and it works to eliminate any sense of entitlement that may or may not be present.
Professionalism is more than just signing that first entry level contract. Young players have to get into the routines of professionals and learn to take responsibility for their careers. Time and again we've seen that the most skilled players aren't always the most successful. The players who can combine talent, work ethic, and teamwork generally carry the day.
In recent years we've also seen a sense of entitlement creep into the Stars locker room. The "key" guys always knew they were going to get their ice time. Lethargy seemed to set in. No one was willing or able to make the necessary lineup changes to break the entitlement seal until it was too late. What Willie seems to be doing is getting ahead of that issue instead of waiting for it to come to him.
Some might argue that it's unfair to target the higher profile prospects in such a way. They're probably right to a degree, but fairness is relative. Fairness is doing what is right for the individual. Ultimately, missing a few games early in the first year of your development is going to be meaningless to your development. However, the professional lessons learned could have a lasting impact.
Under no circumstances should you consider this a ripping of the Stars prospects. It's far from it. The Stars need these players to be on the ice and producing so they can get into the NHL as quickly as possible. However, for the long term, the Stars need the best professional hockey players they can find. They need talented players with the drive to meet both external and internal expectations. They need leaders. They need their young players to step up to meet the expectations of their well respected head coach.
The management tactics currently employed by Willie Desjardins may seem unfair, but for those willing to look beyond the surface issues a picture becomes very clear. He's teaching this group of kids how to be men. Not only should Desjardins not be taking heat, he should be commended for taking on the thankless job of developing the Stars prospects from amateur hockey players into professionals with the work ethic and drive to make the Stars back into Stanley Cup champions.