Dan Ladouceur: Big Dog's New Trick


Dan Ladouceur (far right) celebrates after Georgia's 2017 NLL Championship. The Swarm scored a league record 266 goals.

Georgia Swarm offensive coordinator Dan Ladouceur made his professional lacrosse living punishing opponents on the opposite end of the floor.

A 6-foot-6 defender who won five NLL championships with the Toronto Rock as one of the most feared checkers in the sport, Ladouceur used to run out of the Air Canada Centre tunnel to the nickname “Big Dog.”

“He’s big and he played big,” said Georgia Swarm head coach Ed Comeau, a Rock assistant at the time. “He covered a lot of space and brought a level of nastiness back there.”

So imagine Ladouceur’s surprise in July 2016 when Comeau came calling in search of someone to coach the Swarm offense. Blaine Harrison had stepped down, and Ladouceur got a glowing recommendation from Saskatchewan Rush general manager and head coach Derek Keenan. They had worked together with the Whitby Warriors Junior A team in Ontario.

“Derek talked about Dan as a great communicator and teacher, and that is what we needed,” Comeau said. “When I talked to Dan, he was probably thinking we’d hire him as a defense coach, but we had Sean Ferris in that role and I explained we wanted him to work with the offense. I’ve always felt that, as a coach, if you’re a good communicator, there’s not much difference if you’re at the back door or the front door.”

Ladouceur thought it over.

“When he said he wanted me to work with the offense, I was a little shocked,” he said. “I played defense my whole career, so it was a bit of a shock to be asked to handle the offense. I was totally honest with Ed about that. We talked it out.”

Comeau assured Ladouceur he need not obsess over Xs and Os. With a generational talent in Lyle Thompson, a lights-out scorer in Shayne Jackson, slick offensive players like Miles Thompson and Randy Staats and smooth transition players like Jordan Macintosh and Jordan Hall, Georgia didn’t need Ladouceur to work wonders on the whiteboard.

Instead, Ladouceur could explain to the players what he did as a defenseman to check forwards and, together, they could figure out how to outfox those moves.

“Most of it is in the prep work, breaking down film and defensive systems and players to find areas our guys can exploit,” he said. “I am not going to teach these guys how to put the ball in the net. That is not my skill set. But I can explain how opponents are defending you. We have a free-flowing and creative group, and they don’t need Xs and Os. We want to let them be creative.”

Ladouceur gained the trust of the players, who responded by scoring an NLL-record 266 goals en route to the Swarm’s first Champion’s Cup title in 2017.

“That group doesn’t need a whole lot of guidance,” Ladouceur said. “Too much structure, too much Xs and Os, would probably choke out some of that raw beautiful talent that just wants to play.”

Lyle Thompson won the NLL scoring title and ran away with league’s MVP award in just his second season. Jackson was second-team all-pro. Johnny Powless, Kiel Matisz and Jesse King return to the fold this season after missing 2017 due to injuries and rehab. Is there room for all of them?

“The best cure for a championship hangover is to have a competitive camp,” Ladouceur said.

That sounds more like it, Big Dog.

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