Tuesday, June 30, 2009 | 6:35 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporters Steve Silver and Ray Brewer analyze the Las Vegas Wranglers' newest hire, head coach and general manager Ryan Mougenel.
A new era of Las Vegas Wranglers hockey has officially begun.
The Wranglers formally introduced head coach and general manager Ryan Mougenel at a press conference inside the Orleans Arena Tuesday.
Mougenel is just the second bench boss in franchise history as he replaces Glen Gulutzan at the helm of the Wranglers. Gulutzan, who amassed a 254-124-55 regular season record and led Las Vegas to the postseason five times in six seasons, left Las Vegas earlier this month for a head coaching position with the American Hockey League's Texas Stars.
Replacing such a successful coach is no easy task for Mougenel, but the 33-year-old first-time head coach already has acquired one of the best mentors for the job – Gulutzan himself.
"Glen has been instrumental in bringing me in," Mougenel said. "He's been unbelievable with the transition … We were at the draft in Montreal last week so we had a good chance to sit down and talk about some of the personnel issues, some of the guys we think would be the right fit here. Not necessarily the best players, but the right fit. That's something that is important to me. Getting great character guys here that will implement my vision."
That vision for the future of the Wranglers might not be too foreign to the team's fans.
Mougenel said he intends to keep a core nucleus of last year's squad while implementing on-ice systems similar to those Gulutzan employed. Mougenel would not name who will return next season, but he hopes to start signing players within the next month.
"We are going to be a north to south team that bangs and goes to the net extremely hard," Mougenel said. "I think special teams is a huge part of today's game and we are going to put a lot of emphasis on our special teams. We need to execute on the power play and gets a lot accomplished on the power play and be stingy defensively too."
Mougenel is also no stranger to Las Vegas hockey as he spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach in the Wranglers' division with Stockton (2008-09) and Fresno (2005-08).
That familiarity with Las Vegas has made Mougenel well aware of the unique challenges he will face trying to control young hockey players in Sin City.
"It's definitely a concern and it goes back to recruiting the right people," Mougenel said. "The people I want are the kids who are excited about getting to the next level. If they are just excited about being in Vegas, then I've recruited the wrong people. I want guys that are going to work and commit themselves to get to the next level and win."
Mougenel, however, will have to achieve all of his goals alone next season. The Wranglers, like many teams in the ECHL, are not going to hire an assistant coach due to financial constraints.
Even with monetary considerations, handing over a perennial powerhouse to a first-time head coach without an assistant is certainly a large vote of confidence.
"We were here six years ago starting a new team with a brand new coach who had no experience as a head coach and I got a lot of crazy looks when I decided to bring somebody like that in," said Wranglers owner Charles Davenport. "But I think everybody would agree that that was somewhat of a success in the last six years."
Although Mougenel has never held the head post behind the bench, he has helped put together successful teams alongside Matt Thomas in Stockton and Fresno. Mougenel and Thomas' clubs have made the postseason every year with a .617 win percentage (159-92-36) in those four seasons.
Mougenel's Thunder lost to the Wranglers in game 7 of the Pacific Division finals last season.
"(Mougenel) has been part of very successful organizations in the past," Davenport said. "He's a very hard working guy. He's a guy that is going to be great for this team and great for this community. When I knew it was time to make a change when (Gulutzan) was leaving, he was really my first choice."
As a player, Mougenel spent six seasons bouncing around the IHL, AHL and ECHL, eventually capturing the Kelly Cup in 2003 with the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies.
Now he aims to bring a championship to Las Vegas as a coach.
"The one thing I hope I can do is identify with the players," Mougenel said. "I don't like to think of myself as too far removed from the game where I forget what its like to be a player. But it definitely helps to be part of a winning culture. I know what goes into a winning culture."
The Orleans Arena, a Boyd Gaming facility located just west of the Las Vegas Strip, is one of the nation’s leading mid-sized arenas, and was recently ranked No. 1 in the United States and No. 5 internationally among venues of similar size by Venues Today Magazine.
The Arena hosts more than 200 events each year, including concerts by top names like Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Van Halen, Brooks & Dunn, Black Eyed Peas, Akon and Rihanna; family favorites like The Harlem Globetrotters and Circus Spectacular; and a wide variety of sporting events, including NCAA basketball tournaments, the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference Basketball Championships, mixed martial arts with Superior Cage Combat, and major motorsports events.
The arena serves as home to the Las Vegas Wranglers professional ECHL hockey team, the Las Vegas Legends professional indoor soccer team, and the Lingerie Football League’s Las Vegas Sin. Stay connected to the Orleans Arena on Facebook (www.facebook.com/orleansarena) and on Twitter (@orleansarena).
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected]