Old faces in new places in NLL

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 1:43 PM ET

There's always a transition period any time a team brings in a new head coach.

But Derek Keenan expects it to be a smooth one as he has taken the reins of the Edmonton Rush for the upcoming National Lacrosse League season.

He started by bringing in players he has worked with previously, such as Brodie Merrill and Pat Jones from the Colorado Mammoth.

"I have a good number of guys now on our team that are familiar with my systems, my style, my expectations, how I like to do things and how my coaching staff likes to do things, so there's a familiarity there," said Keenan, pointing specifically to his defence.

"Even guys from previous (teams), like Chris McElroy, who played for me years ago in Anaheim. So did Rory Glaves.

"It's not like I'm this new guy coming in and they have no idea."

Offensively, however, there were no previous Rush players who have played in Keenan's system before.

"That was the final part of the decision to try to get Ryan Powell -- and we did," Keenan said.

"Ryan played for me for five years. Now we have a floor- general type guy who understands our offence and is also a tremendous team guy."

But the changes are far from wholesale.

"They've had the right core of guys, it's just bringing in secondary players like myself and Brodie and a few of the guys they picked up in the dispersal draft," said forward Gavin Prout.

"Coach Keenan has traded for some guys he's particularly familiar with or has faith in.

"We all have to have faith in each other right now in our capabilities and it's looking bright for the future of Edmonton. It's definitely a new facelift.

"We have a lot of great off-ball guys and a lot of good on-ball guys. It's a great mixture of guys and we're looking forward to working with each other."

Or working with each other again, in many cases.

"Coming into a new situation like this there's always going to be an adjustment. I think it's getting out and trying to get familiar with your new teammates," Merrill said.

"There's certainly some familiar faces. I have a history with the coaching staff here so that makes things a lot more comfortable."

Then there are his former Portland LumberJax teammates, Scott Stewart and Pat Jones, and old teammates from other clubs, like Powell and Prout, who are now here.

"I think it's an exciting year for us here and they made a lot of positive changes, but so did the rest of the league," Merrill said.

"It's a little bit of a weird feeling because there's been such a big turnover from last year.

"I think a lot of us are in a similar situation so we're all trying to get our feet wet here and get familiar with the organization.

"With that being said, we're all in it together so it's a new experience for all of us and it's easier to go through when other people are experiencing that."

GERRY.MODDEJONGE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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