Willie Desjardins, after two years as Associate Coach of the Dallas Stars, has been named as the new Head Coach of the Texas Stars in Austin. The Texas Stars suffered through an overall disappointing season last year and while departed coach Jeff Pyle was certainly well-respected by those that knew him, there was an obvious disconnect between Dallas and Austin when it came to prospect development, organizational systems and overall success at the AHL level in general.
Desjardins represents not only a strong step forward for the Texas Stars, but the continuing effort by the Dallas Stars to create better alignment between the team and its affiliates. Desjardins brings experience as a successful junior hockey coach who knows exactly what it takes to develop young players. With two years of NHL experience under his belt, Desjardins should become a very good coach at the AHL level for both the young prospects coming to Austin and the veterans the team will need in order to win.
"We believe that Willie's track record as a teacher of the game and his ability to develop young players is a perfect fit for the Texas Stars," Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said. "His knowledge of Glen Gulutzan's system and his familiarity with our prospects will continue to improve player development between Dallas and the Texas Stars."
The were rumors of discontent in the locker room last season in Austin and supposedly the departed coaching staff was a big part of the problems. With Desjardins taking over behind the bench, the Dallas Stars ensure not only quality control over the development of the prospects coming to the AHL next season but also that a positive work environment exists -- one that helps the transition between the Texas Stars and the Dallas Stars.
Desjardins' name was mentioned a few times last summer as a possible replacement for Marc Crawford, yet the Stars decided to go with Glen Gulutzan -- who then brought Paul Jerrard with him from Austin. By all accounts the coaches worked well together (although there were certainly some struggles), but this gives Desjardins a big step up for his career as well as giving the Stars a big boost to the alignment they are seeking between the AHL and NHL teams.
Press release after the jump:
FRISCO, TX - Dallas Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk announced today that the club has named Willie Desjardins head coach of the Texas Stars, Dallas' primary affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).
"We believe that Willie's track record as a teacher of the game and his ability to develop young players is a perfect fit for the Texas Stars," Nieuwendyk said. "His knowledge of Glen Gulutzan's system and his familiarity with our prospects will continue to improve player development between Dallas and the Texas Stars."
Desjardins, 55, spent the last two seasons as the Stars' associate head coach, during which the club went 84-64-16.
"I'm extremely excited for the opportunity to become head coach of the Texas Stars," said Desjardins. "I feel one of my strengths has always been in coaching younger players and this is a fantastic opportunity to do just that. The Stars organization has a group of very talented prospects coming through the system and I look forward to helping them develop."
Previous to his stint in Dallas, Desjardins was the head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League from 2002-2010, leading the club to the WHL Championship in 2004 and 2007. He coached Medicine Hat at the Memorial Cup Tournament in those two seasons, and was runner-up at the 2007 tournament. He was awarded the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy as WHL Coach of the Year for the 2005-06 season.
During his eight years in Medicine Hat, Desjardins compiled a regular season record of 333-182-61 and a playoff mark of 65-43. His teams qualified for the playoffs each season he coached the club, and finished in the top three in goals scored in six of those eight years.
The native of Climax, Saskatchewan, served as an assistant coach for gold medal-winning Team Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championships. He was the head coach for Canada at the 2010 World Junior Championships, earning the silver medal.
Desjardins was head coach of the WHL's Saskatoon Blades during the 1997-98 season, after working as bench boss for the Seibu Bears in Japan from 1994-96. Previously, he served as head coach at the University of Calgary from 1989-1994, leading the Dinosaurs to two Canada West University Athletic Association (CWUAA) championships. He was an assistant coach at the university from 1985-89.