Canada’s Offence Getting It Done


 From Canadian Men’s Indoor Lacrosse Team

 Wednesday, May 25, 2011


     PRAGUE _ Derek Keenan has worked with some great forwards during his days as a lacrosse coach but never with so many on one team.

     “This is without doubt the most skilled and talented group I’ve ever worked with,’’ says the man in charge of the offence as assistant coach of Canada’s team at the world indoor championship. “The skill level is beyond anything I’ve seen before.

     “We have the whole package. We have a perimeter presence, we have great inside players, we have athleticism, size, quickness _ the whole package is there. When you have all of that, it becomes a matter of building chemistry and I think that’s already evident to some degree because there is some familiarity between guys who play with one another in the NLL or in the summer or who have played together in the past.’’

     It’s not just that they are highly skilled. There is another factor in play, too.

     “The lacrosse IQ of the group is amazing,’’ says Keenan. “It’s a very easy group to work with.’’

     Keenan has been a busy man. Besides his coaching duties, the Oshawa, Ont., resident who is GM-coach of the NLL’s Edmonton Rush has been pulling on the pads himself to play with an Alberta team in the masters tournament being held in conjunction with the main tournament.

     He sat down to talk about Team Canada’s forwards and here’s his take on each player:


     “The thing I’ve always thought about Colin, and we spent a lot of time together in Toronto back when I was part of that NLL organization, is that he is a fearless player. He’s not afraid to get to the dirty areas at any time. You combine that with his size and skill and his heads-up play _ he’s a very, very good playmaker and passer _ and the fact he involves everyone on the floor, well, he’s the complete package. He’s a good on-floor leader, a good off-floor leader, and just great to have on the roster.’’


     “I was lucky to have Dan for a year in Portland. He’s the consummate professional. He’s a self-made player. He continues to get better all the time because he’s never satisfied with where he’s at. He’s tremendously fit. He’s a great team guy. Then you add the fact that he’s a phenomenal player with all the tools. He shoots the ball well from the outside, goes to the net hard and has great feet and really moves well. If I was going to put together a video on how to play offence with the ball, he’d be the guy because of his footwork and the way he can spin off checks. He’s so creative with the ball.’’


     “I just love watching the guy play. People don’t understand how athletic he is. He obviously has great skills. He shoots the ball well from the outside and he’s not afraid to get to the dirty areas. And he’s also very athletic, really fast, really quick. He can run the floor and go back and play defence if he has to. He can even take faceoffs. He’s just a multitalented kid, and a smart, smart player.’’


     “When you talk about Junior, you talk first about his unbelievable shooting ability. And, again, another guy who is a great playmaker.  If you’re on defence and try to double team him, you’re going to get scored on because he’s going to find sticks. He’ll find them in many different ways _ backhand, reverse backhand _ and that’s all created because he draws so much attention because of his tremendous shooting skills. He’s never been without a stick in his hands his whole life and you can tell. His skill level is beyond anybody else.’’


      “Grit _ he’s a gritty player. He works hard. He’s a great recovery guy on loose balls. He creates plays because he works so hard and he’s quick, and he shoots the ball well. He’s strong for a smaller guy and he’s a fearless player. He’s not afraid to do whatever it takes to win.’’


      “He’s an impressive person and an impressive player. He’s another guy who will go inside and be fearless. He knows he’s going to get hit but he’s all about putting the ball in the net. He’s a great finisher in tight. He understands how to get himself and others open. He’s really benefitted from playing with Colin in Toronto for two years but I think he was a pretty damn good player before he got to that level. And great skills, too. He can catch the ball in traffic, finish . . . he’s very good.


    “Athletic _ he’s an athlete. When you talk about guys you want to break down defences with their 1-on-1 ability, he’s the guy in our lineup probably along with Duch and Dawson who are going to be those guys that break down defences because they are going to draw attention because of their athleticism. For him, it’s one step and, boom, he’s to the net. Very fast, very versatile. He can play defence, run the floor, play special teams . . . He’s a Brodie Merrill type guy with a little more offensive skill. He’s just a real, real good athlete.’’


     “I’ve only been working with him a short while and I just love the guy. Here’s a veteran guy who probably should have been here a couple of other times. He wants to do the little things really well. He pays attention to details. He obviously thinks the game better than anybody. Also, and I’ve watched Josh play for a lot of years, my admiration for him grows every year because here’s this little guy who is gutsy, smart and makes plays consistently. You look at the numbers he’s put up over the years and you look at the guy and you go, `How does he do it?’ Well, because he’s gutsy, he’s smart and he’s a skilled guy who plays with a lot of passion for the game.’ He’s just a great guy to have on the team.’’


     “Jeff has an uncanny ability to score goals from areas around the crease that you think there’s no way he’s going to put the ball in the net. He has great body control. He can leave his feet to gain the crease area yet not lose control of his body and his stick and be able to put a ball in the net even from bad angles. He’s a tremendous finisher.’’


     Who will have to sit out the semifinal on Friday because of tournament lineup limits will be an agonizingly tough call for the coaching staff.

     “It’s going to be unbelievably tough,’’ says Keenan. “We’re probably going to go with seven so two guys will have to sit. It’s going to be hard. They all deserve to play. We could easily have another team here that could compete. It’s going to be tough, that’s for sure.’’


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