CJHL coach’s perspective: Martin Dagenais, Ottawa Jr. A Senators (CCHL)

Photo credit: icelevel.com

CALGARY, Alta. One of the more successful franchises throughout the Canadian Junior Hockey League over the past number seasons are the Ottawa Jr. A Senators (CCHL).

A large portion of the credit of the Jr. A Senators success should go to the club’s head coach and general manager, Martin Dagenais.

After a few seasons as an assistant coach with Ottawa and a one-year sting as coach and GM of fellow CCHL-side, the Hawkesbury Hawks, Dagenais became bench boss and GM of the Senators back in 2014-15.

During the past six campaigns, the Jr. A Sens have produced a solid regular season win mark of 248-95-14-15.

Playoff success has also been achieved by the squad, having won the CCHL’s Bogart Cup league championship in both 2018 and 2019.

They also had a run of four straight appearances in the finals prior to the 2020 postseason being called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under Dagenais’ guidance, Ottawa also won back-to-back Fred Page Cup, Eastern Canadian Jr. A titles in 2018 and ’19.

Those crowns saw them advance to the Canadian Jr. A championship in consecutive years.

Internationally, Dagenais helped guide Canada East to a silver-medal-winning finish at last year’s World Junior A Challenge and had earlier been named to the 2020 version of the team prior to that event also being called off due to COVID.

He was also on the Canada East staff in 2016 and 2017 as an assistant, collecting a silver with the latter team.

Here’s a further look at Dagenais as well as some insight on one of his more favourable practice drills along with his insight to those looking to compete in the CJHL.

BIO: The 2020-21 season would be Dagenais’ seventh as head coach and GM of the Jr. A Senators. … His club has won nearly 250 times and averaged over 40 wins per season the last six years while boasting a winning percentage of .706%. … Ottawa won back-to-back league and Fred Page Cup championships in 2018 and 2019 and advanced to two straight national Jr. A events. … He was also named the CCHL’s General Manager of the Year back in 2014-15.

FAVOURITE PRACTICE DRILL: I don’t think I have a favourite drill that I like to do at practice, but there’s one that I run once or twice a month that I find very effective. It’s called the ‘3-on-3 Track.’

Forwards will line up in the two corners on the same side of the ice while the defencemen will line up along the boards in the neutral zone. Before the drill starts, the two D will skate towards the blue line and stop just inside the zone. The coach will then blow the whistle to signal the start of the drill.

Before skating around the circle and going to the net, the first forward in line (F1) will pass the puck to the strong side defenceman (D1), who will then move it to his partner (D2) for a pass/shot on net.

On the first shot, we’re actually looking for a tip-in play as F1 is attacking the net.

After the pass/shot, F1 will stay in front of net and wait for a second shot as the first forward in the other corner (F2) will make a pass to the defenceman on his side of the ice (D2), who will then move it to his partner (D1) for a shot on net. This time, the task of F1 will be to screen the goalie and jump on the rebound.

Once the play is over, F1 will skate around the net, and while he does, the coach will blow the whistle for a second time.

When he does, F2 and two more forwards (F3 & F4) will attack the two defencemen 3-on-2 while F1 back-checks and tracks the puck carrier.

F3 will come from the same corner of the ice as F1, while F4 would coming from the same side as F2.

As he back-checks, F1 will have to decide which forward he’ll pick up in the neutral zone and this is where communication between the forward and the two D-men is important.

They must all be on the same page in order to make sure everyone picks up a different man.

We always ask our first forward back to pursue the puck carrier until he reaches the centre red line.

At that point, if he can’t get to him, we usually want him to pick up the trailer.

The 3-on-2 almost becomes a 3-on-3 and while the goal of the attacking forwards is to score on the rush, we do let all six players play 3-on-3 down low for another 20-30 seconds after the initial shot.

We have a coach ready to send a second puck to the attacking forwards if they lose puck possession right away once they enter the offensive zone.

I really like that drill because it incorporates different situations that you will often see in a game.

You’re also forcing your players to make important decisions at full speed.

When we run that drill at practice, we always emphasize on communicating on the back check.

We want to make sure the three defending players understand where they need to be on the ice and for that, they need to be talking to each other.

ADVICE ON PLAYING IN THE CJHL: The best advice I can give a player who wants to play in the CJHL is make sure you understand what makes you the player you are.

Don’t try to be something you’re not.

Great coaches will make sure every player on the team as a role.

Embrace that role and once you achieve success with it, then the sky is the limit.

As a coach, I also appreciate a player that gives a full effort in everything he does.

Whether it’s a game, practice or off-ice conditioning, show the coaches that you’re all in by pushing yourself to be better.

Not enough players have the mentality, but those who do are the players we all want on our team.

NEXT UP: Adam Manah, Head Coach/Ass’t GM: Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL)

LINK to each of the CJHL coach’s perspective segments.

Photo credit: icelevel.com

With files from Sean Marcellus, Director of Operations (CCHL)