GM Talks week 3- The guy with two hats, Derek Keenan from the Edmonton Rush joins the Off the Crossebar Podcast

Derek Keenan
Derek Keenan

Coming off the best year in franchise history, there are very high hopes in the City of Champions. While the 2012 championship game didn’t quite go as they had hoped, getting there showed everyone involved with the Edmonton Rush organization that their hard work and patience is finally starting to pay off. The team seems to have taken a turn for the better ever since current head coach and GM Derek Keenan took over, changing the culture both on and off the floor.

Unlike Mike Board, GM of the Calgary Roughnecks who we spoke with last week, Keenan isn’t new to the life of being an NLL General Manager. This is actually Keenan’s 4th stint as team leader and with every new venture, he gains more experience and gets that much closer to lifting the Champions cup. Mind you, he has lifted it before, just never as a GM. Keenan has deep roots in the NLL as he got his start back in the early 90s when he suited up for arguably the best-ever NLL team, the 1992 Bandits who went on an insane 22-game winning streak.

Edmonton was on a three-game winning streak when they were given a week off so, like some of his players, Keenan enjoyed a little vacation and time away from the rink. But even when he’s not on duty, he’s always thinking about how he can improve his team and help them become league champions.

This week on the Off the Crossebar podcast, we continue our nine-week NLL GM series with Edmonton Rush GM and Head Coach, Derek Keenan.

Imagine if your team came within one game of winning of their first ever NLL title and as a reward you were basically handed Mark Matthews. Would you be OK with that? Well, that was the fortunate break for the Edmonton Rush after the 2012 season. Since coming into the NLL back in 2006, the Rush haven’t had the immediate success they had hoped to have, missing the play-offs in five of seven seasons. But those two years they did make the post-season, they’ve had some decent success, albeit not the desired result.

In 2010, they lost on a crushing, heartbreaking OT goal from Paul Rabil and the Washinton Stealth in the Western Finals (FWD to 1:34 of the video and don’t mind the guy yelling as Rabil sends the Rush packing). Then last year they came into the post-season with a losing record but dominated the Calgary Roughnecks in the first round, then handled the Minnesota Swarm with ease as they cruised to their first ever NLL title game, but that’s where the Cinderella run came to an end.

Being a GM isn’t easy. It can be quite stressful, actually. Like many GMs, Keenan has developed some very strong relationships with his players and when you have to trade one of your players, it’s never easy. Especially when you’ve been coaching that player for his entire NLL career on two different teams. When the Portland Lumberjax entered the NLL, the same year as the Rush, they got the great fortune to gain the first pick in the Anaheim dispersal draft as well as the entry draft. Keenan, who was the GM and coach of the Jax, selected a young Brodie Merrill first over-all and not only launched his NLL career but also helped the plaid warriors become instant contenders.

So when the Jax closed their doors in 2009, Keenen and Merrill were essentially out of work but neither would be for too long. Keenan was quickly snatched up by the Rush to replace his long-time friend and former teammate in Buffalo, Bob Hamley, and as fate would have it, the Rush had first pick in the dispersal draft and it was a no-brainer for Keenan to pick up the top two-way player in the game, Merrill.

The Rush were starting to build a great group of youth and talent but then Keenan had to make one of the hardest decisions in his career when he shipped Merrill to Philadelphia for the rights to Athan Iannucci. But that trade started the slow building wheels in motion that allowed the Rush to do the happy dance as they selected Matthews in the 2013 NLL entry draft.

Iannucci failed to report so after many hours on the phone, Keenan flipped Nooch to the Stealth for Rabil who immediately said he wouldn’t play in Edmonton. So with another big name hold-out on their hands, Rush fans had to wonder if they were ever going to catch a break. Well, within that trade for Rabil was a first round pick which at the time most people would think to be a late first round pick. Finally the Rush caught a break. The Stealth finished dead last in the nine team NLL last year and handed Keenan the keys to the prized rookie that every GM was salivating over.

Have the tides turned in Edmonton? Well Derek Keenan would like to think so.

The rush get back to action Saturday in a rematch of last year’s Championship game as they look to make the playoffs in back to back season for the first time, host a playoff game for the first time and ring that championship bell!

It’s all this week on the Off the Crossebar Podcast with Edmonton Rush GM and Head Coach Derek “Jammer” Keenan.

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This past Tuesday on the Off the Crosebar Radio show on TEAM 1410 in Vancouver, we broke down Week 10 in the NLL plus a heavy discussion on the Colorado-Buffalo line-brawl. One of the players involved in that fight, was Mammoth transition player Ilija Gajic and he joined me as well we set up Week 11 and give you the OTCB Power Rankings.

Teddy Jenner is one the leading sources for lacrosse information. He comes by his love of lax honestly with a lifetime of experience, two Mann Cup championships and six years of play in the NLL. Email him at ted.jenner@ilindoor.com, follow him on Twitter @OffTheCrosseBar or catch him on Team 1410 radio in Vancouver, B.C., as the host and producer of the Off the Crosse-Bar Radio Show In 2012, he was awarded the BCLA's Norm Wright Merit Award- handed out to a member of the media deemed to have have contributed to the promotion of lacrosse.

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