Monday, May 19, 2014

Expect the Next Desjardins, Blashill Face Off to Be in the NHL

Willie Desjardins and Jeff Blashill (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
After some time to digest the Stars 4-2 series win, Texas fans should be finding themselves incredibly lucky. Not lucky that they won the series or that they were able to see it happen at home. They should feel lucky that they were witness to a pretty wicked chess match of a series between the two most recent AHL Coach of the Year winners. You should expect that the next time these two matchup, it will be in an NHL arena.

Just for fun, you should do a Google News search for Willie Desjardins or Jeff Blashill. About every third story is trying to connect one or the other to some open NHL coaching job. Desjardins in particular is being paired off with the Vancouver Canucks with alarming regularity.

Both coaches were AHL rookie coaches last year, coming off assistant coaching stints with their new teams respective NHL clubs. Going 43-22-5-6, it was Coach Desjardins winning the Pieri award for coach of the year last season. Blashill was just a few points behind him at 42-26-4-4. This year, Texas claimed the top spot again with a record of 48-18-3-7. Blashill's Griffins went 46-23-2-5 and earned him the Coach of the Year, persevering through a season marred by injuries and callups. Over the past two seasons, Desjardins has a .668 points percentage. Blashill is at .628.

Coach Desjardins had a lot of good things to say about Blashill.

"He had a long year and a lot of injures this year. He's smart and classy and his team is ready every time we play them. He made some adjustments after the first two games, and he's a good coach. I knew that and expected it from him. Not just systems wise, he coaches the right way."

Coach Desjardins was certainly confident in his club rolling into Game 6 but didn't expect the seven goal outburst that ended Blashill's season.

"It's tough for him to lose because he puts so much into the game, but I'd rather have it that way right now."

One memory that strikes me from the second season was from one of the Stars' last games of the regular season. After being beaten by Texas, Rockford's Bill Peters came up to coach Glen Gulutzan and wished him good luck the rest of the way and told him that the Stars were a good team. It was both easy and hard to do, I'm sure, as his club was not destined for the postseason. It was a classy thing to do though, and obviously made an impression on me as I still remember it three years later.

Coaching is such a small fraternity. Everyone runs into each other at some point or another along the path. I'm sure these two coaches will do so again soon. And I'm pretty sure it'll be in the National Hockey League.

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