May 11th, 2021

Willie Desjardins reported to return to Tigers after Clouston and team part ways

By Ryan McCracken on May 30, 2019.

Medicine Hat Tigers coach Willie Desjardins speaks at the year-end banquet in 2004. Speculation is swirling on May 30, 2019 that Desjardins will return to the Tigers after the team parted ways with head coach and GM Shaun Clouston earlier in the day.

The Medicine Hat Tigers have parted ways with long-time head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston, and discussion is now swirling around the notion that former bench boss Willie Desjardins may be returning to the club.

Tigers media services manager Adam Jones said at a Thursday press conference that the club mutually reached the decision with Clouston and will now look at finding someone who can take the team in a new direction.

Kamloops-based journalist Gregg Drinnan announced via Twitter Thursday that Desjardins — currently coaching down the road at the South Alberta Hockey Academy in Dunmore — has agreed to return to the Tigers as head coach and general manager, though Jones could not comment on whether the team has been in touch with him regarding the position.

“I have no information on that whatsoever,” said Jones, adding the Tigers will hold another press conference Friday morning at 10 a.m. to discuss future changes with the club.

“I think it really is a case of going a different direction. We’ve been doing the same thing for a lot of years and it’s time to try something new.”

Clouston — who spent 16 seasons with the club in various roles behind the bench — joined the Tigers in 2003-04 after spending the previous year as head coach of the Tri-City Americans. The Viking product went on to serve as assistant coach under Desjardins for two years before earning a promotion to associate coach in 2005. When Desjardins parted ways with the team in 2010 — moving on to coach the AHL’s Texas Stars, then the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings — Clouston took over behind the bench.

Over the course of the next eight seasons, Clouston broke Desjardins’ regular season coaching record with his 324th career victory in a 4-3 win over the Red Deer Rebels on Dec. 30, 2017. Clouston accomplished the feat in 559 games with a 324-201-34 record — one win ahead of his predecessor’s 323-176-60 in the exact same number of games — before moving on to close out his head coaching tenure in Medicine Hat at 375-241-46.

Clouston also added general manager to his duties in 2012 and went on to secure a number of blockbuster deals in the years to come.

“Shaun’s fingerprints are going to be on this team for a long time, probably for at least the next five or six years,” said Jones. “He’s done a great job as a general manager for us in acquiring draft picks and acquiring players throughout the years.”

Clouston took the Tigers to the playoffs in eight of his nine seasons as head coach, making it past the first round six times — including trips to the Eastern Conference final in 2011 and 2014 — and only missing out in 2015-16 through a Game 73 tiebreaker loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings.

“We would like to thank Shaun for his hard work, dedication and time with the Medicine Hat Tigers and we do wish him very well in his future endeavours,” said Jones. “He leaves the franchise as the winningest head coach of all time, so we really are grateful for everything that he did for us and our organization.”

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