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Klepper’s Korner w/Jason McKee – Part 2

Part 2 – Jason McKee’s Plans for the Season

Jason McKee’s coaching style and philosophy have been consistent, at both the Junior A and Major Junior levels. McKee-led teams play fast, they play hard, and they compete.

In his view, “your coaching style largely depends on the players you have at your disposal. In the WHL, the coach gets what the team has selected in the bantam draft. If some of those selections don’t pan out, it can take a while to turn the ship around. The BCHL has an advantage; you can quickly build a very competitive team through solid recruiting.”

He says that he prefers to have “a mix of players with different skill sets and sizes and attributes, but all my players have to be competitive and willing to work hard. They have to be able to make quick decisions in all three zones because the game is so fast now.”

He continues, “Size is always an added bonus for a player, but competitive drive is more important. If a player skates well and competes hard, especially in the tough areas in front of the net, in the corners, and along the boards, the BCHL is a good league for that player. Of course, we’re looking for skill and I think we have skill, not only in our returning players, but also those players who have committed for next year.”

“There will also be opportunities for other players to come to our fall camp and make this club. We’re going to have a very competitive training camp.”

Coach McKee believes that “you build your team from the goalie out to the defence and then to the centres, with the wingers providing grit and scoring. Our current needs are to find a second goalie and to replace the openings left by the graduation of last year’s top three centres. A couple of returning centres could step in to fill the role and we’ve recruited skilled centres.”

He adds, “We have a lot of good defencemen coming to camp. All of our D-men will need to be mobile and contribute offensively. They’ll need to be calculated on offence, not reckless, but they’ll need to ready to go when the time is right to jump in.”

This year, the Vipers will play a “pro style system,” says McKee. “In our D-zone, we’ll overload and outnumber the opposition. We’ll keep pucks on the wall as much as possible. In the neutral zone we’ll play quickly and make good, quick decisions with the puck. We want our defencemen to be actively involved in the breakouts and through the neutral zone. Then in the offensive zone, I want our guys to make plays. But if there’s no time or space, they’ll just have to chip it by the blue line and go get the puck.”

“I view the O-zone as an opportunity for five-man offence, which means that the forwards will have to be ready to provide coverage when defencemen pinch or join the rush. I think the kids will relate to that style; they see it on the NHL television coverage.”

He says that “A big part of our success this year will come from being prepared to adjust during the game. At the start of games, there won’t be a lot of secrets because of all the video that’s available to us, but we’ll need to train our players to recognize when we need to adjust our approach. Part of our game preparation and mid-week practices will focus on that aspect.”

Larry Draper will be one of the two assistant coaches who will help build game awareness. Coach McKee is currently searching for a second coach. He is also the General Manager, but he believes in a collaborative approach to recruiting players: “It’s my job to take a lead in identifying future Vipers, but all the scouts and coaches will have important contributions.”

He concludes, “The players we choose will have to be disciplined, both in sticking to our structures and in staying out of the box. We can’t take unnecessary penalties. We also expect our players to be model citizens off the ice.”