Not only are the Ice struggling with a young roster this year, they’re dealing with a new coaching staff.
Well, sort of new, at least.
McGill is back in his second tenure as head coach, after spending some time manning the bench in professional hockey in the AHL and the NHL.
Running the show alongside McGill is a familiar face in Chad Kletzel, who played under his boss in 1996/97 when the Ice still called Edmonton home.
It is Kletzel’s first season coaching in the WHL, coming in from Alberta, where he coached with the Lethbridge Athletic Association by leading the Midget AAA team.
“I think there’s a lot of learning moments and time to evaluate different guys at different times and see what the league’s all about.
“Obviously it’s a well-respected league with lots of high-end coaching and teams doing things at a higher level than where I came from.”
Kletzel, like fellow assistant Jerry Bancks and his predecessor Todd Johnson, is a teacher by trade and holds an education degree from the University of Lethbridge.
Working alongside McGill, who has played and coached professional hockey, has given Kletzel opportunities to learn the little things that can make a difference at the highest levels.
“A lot of positional play stuff and just within systems,” Kletzel said, on what he’s picked up while working alongside McGill. “How to change and manipulate those systems to do different things. Not making big adjustments, just small adjustments all the time, during games.”
It’s been a baptism by fire for both McGill and Kletzel this season, who are part of a coaching changeover (save Bancks) that is working with the youngest roster in the WHL.
McGill said the two tackled everything together at the beginning of the season, which has enabled them to delegate responsibilities more effectively down the stretch.
“It’s been one of those transitions where he kind of knows now what I’m looking for and what we need to do as a group,” said McGill. “I think that the delegation part has been good for the last three weeks to a month, where we’re both on the same page.
“…He’s got a real good demeanour with the kids, he’s very patient with them. He really is an intense person, but doesn’t outwardly show it, and that’s a good thing.”