VANCOUVER, B.C. – Willie Desjardins has guided teams to championships in the Western Hockey League and the American Hockey League.

The 57-year-old will get a chance to see how he fares at the sport’s top level.

Desjardins was hired as coach of the Vancouver Canucks on Monday.

He will join Trevor Linden, the recently hired president of hockey operations, and first-time NHL general manager Jim Benning as the Canucks rebuild after a disappointing 2013-14 season.

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“I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time,” Desjardins said.

Desjardins becomes the 18th coach in team history and succeeds John Tortorella, who was fired after one season behind the Canucks’ bench. Vancouver missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Desjardins said he thinks the Canucks can be a playoff contender again.

“We have so many great leaders on this team, and to get to be part of that group, I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “They’ve won in the past; they’ll win again.”

Desjardins won the WHL title with the Medicine Hat Tigers in 2004 and 2007. He guided the AHL Texas Stars to the Calder Cup this year.

Desjardins earlier was thought to be a candidate to coach Pittsburgh, where the Penguins have a roster that includes superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

“Sidney Crosby’s a heck of a hockey player, obviously, but for me, when I looked at what was here — I looked at the two guys who are leading this (Benning and Linden), I looked at the quality of the players … Canadian market, Vancouver fans — it was the right choice to come here.”


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