Keenan Optimistic with Rush’s Future

Apr 29, 2024

With the Saskatchewan Rush hitting their stride late in the season, General Manager Derek Keenan is feeling optimistic heading into next season and the future. 

To finish off the year, the green machine faced a daunting task in taking on Christian Del Bianco, Chris Origlieri and Nick Rose, needing to take all three if they were to make the playoffs. 

The run was stopped shut in game 18 of the season, but that doesn’t mean the season was a failure. 

“It's an entirely different feel than the previous two seasons, just because of how we played and the fact that we were playing meaningful games the last couple weeks of the season, whereas previous two seasons, we were out of it,” said GM Derek Keenan. “A year ago, I said we needed to do four or five things to turn this thing around and I think we did them. The goal obviously every year is to make playoffs and win a championship, but the future for this team is really good.”

Now the process isn’t a straight path, but for only the fourth time in team history, the Saskatchewan Rush didn’t lose more than two games in a row during the season. 

“I saw it 12 years ago with the Edmonton Rush. It doesn't happen overnight, I mean even in 2014 we had a 16-2 regular season and lost in the first round of the playoffs in the semifinals and then you know, we then figured out how to win those games,” commented Keenan. 

Offensively, five of eight forwards set career highs during the 2023/2024 season, but there were two specifically who stood out to the GM. 

“Mike Triolo. Although we kind of thought we were getting a bit of a diamond in the rough there, but it was great to see him have some success,” mentioned Derek Keenan. “Zach Manns really took his game to another level. He’s 25-years-old and he's just going to keep getting better. Sometimes he tends to defer a little bit too much and we just want him to be aggressive all the time and shoot the ball as much as he can.”

It can’t be all sunshine and rainbows though on a team that finished tied for the final playoff spot. Achieving the ultimate goal will take everyone reaching their potential, including Patrick Dodds who was acquired in the offseason. 

“We think his ceiling is huge. Now, his performance did not match that. He has tremendous skills, he's an athlete, big, strong, smart, but he seems to have confidence issues and I can't really explain why,” said Derek Keenan. “But we will get to the bottom of it. Let's put it that way. His rookie year, he was Panther City's best player. When you consider when he was in Junior A, he would take 20-25 shots a game and then with us, he was deferring. But he's not a guy that you give up on that's for sure, because he’s a tremendous talent.”

With the potential to return the bulk of the roster, plus the additions of Levi Anderson and Josh Zawada, the future remains bright, and the goal is simple. 

“This core can win a championship,” ended Derek Keenan. 

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