Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009 | 6 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporter Steve Silver sits down with Las Vegas Wranglers head coach and general manager Ryan Mougenel to discuss a wide array of topics including the history of Canadian thanksgiving, Mougenel's bed building skills and of course opening night this Friday.
- Wranglers announce opening day roster (10/14/09)
- Wranglers set to sign physical forward (10/14/09)
- Wranglers add veteran forward (10/13/09)
- Wranglers make initial roster cuts (10/12/09)
- Reign edge Wranglers in shootout (10/10/09)
- Revamped power play lifts Wranglers past Ontario in preseason opener (10/9/09)
- Blue line competition heats up at Wranglers training camp (10/6/09)
- Young forward hopes to perfect hockey pedigree (10/4/09)
- Wranglers off to a successful start at training camp (10/2/09)
Expanded hockey coverage
The Las Vegas Wranglers will take the ice Friday night to launch their seventh season at the Orleans Arena against the Utah Grizzlies.
But there is almost nothing about these Wranglers that resemble last year's squad.
With new head coach and general manager Ryan Mougenel replacing Glen Gulutzan, the Wranglers return just three players from last year's National Conference finalist team.
Aside from forwards Mick Lawrence, Adam Miller and Chris Neiszner, the only recognizable face on the bench is athletic trainer Scott McClay. Some fans might also remember former Wrangler Jason Krischuk from the 2006-07 and 07-08 seasons.
"We are a different team, no question," Mougenel said. "We are going to be a team that is extremely well-conditioned to suit the type of game we intend to play."
The Wranglers even have a new NHL affiliation with the Phoenix Coyotes organization, ending a six-year run with the Calgary Flames.
With these changes, though, comes a younger, faster and more offensive-minded team that could finally bring a Kelly Cup to Las Vegas.
The average age of the 23 players on Friday night's opening roster is 24-years-old. Last year that average age was more than 26-years-old.
"We've got a great group of guys here," Lawrence said. "We're pretty young, everyone is pretty eager to start and play. I like the atmosphere and the attitude of the team here. I think that youth we brought in brought a little more life to the team and we are definitely a lot faster. (Mougenel) brings more of an offensive style and structure, which will keep the flow and pace up."
No matter the age or speed of Mougenel's team, the first-year head coach still has a large legacy to live up to thanks to the success of Gulutzan.
Gulutzan amassed a 254-124-55 regular season record while leading the Wranglers to the playoffs five out of the last six seasons.
"The one think I'm pretty confident in is who I am as a coach and who I am as a guy," Mougenel said. "This organization has a tradition of excellence and I think I've brought in players who embrace that."
As the general manager, Mougenel is also very familiar with the economics of minor league hockey. He knows he has to find a way to fix the Wranglers attendance woes.
Just three years ago, the Wranglers averaged 5,075 fans per game. Last season, the regular season average was 4,621 while playoff attendance plummeted to an average of 3,470.
A full Orleans Arena Friday night, coupled with a victory would certainly help launch Mougenel's tenure in the right direction.
"There is nothing like playing in front of fans that are excited and care for you," Mougenel said. "The one thing that Las Vegas has going for it is that we have a lot of players that have committed to living here, which is different from other towns. These guys are entrenched in the community and that's important to gain the support of our fans. We do have passionate fans here and I'm excited to put on a show for them."
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].