Offseason report #2: Kilgour’s title cut in half

The other day, I covered the first major NLL personnel change this offseason, the firing (actually, non-re-signing) of Dave Pym. The other move that was made was the Bandits removing the “GM” title from Darris Kilgour’s business cards, leaving him with just “head coach”. The Bandits’ press release plainly stated that they were unhappy with how the team has performed over the last couple of years. Midway through the 2012 season, I wondered if Darris’ days in Banditland were numbered and I guess Bandits ownership agreed with me, though I did say it was unlikely that he’d be fired from one of his roles and not the other. In that article, I concentrated on Kilgour’s tenure as head coach and didn’t really look at his record as a GM, so let’s do that now.

In terms of drafts, it does appear that he’s been less effective in the past few years than at the beginning of his tenure. In his first five NLL drafts, Kilgour drafted Billy Dee Smith, A.J. Shannon, Delby Powless, Jeff Shattler, and Brett Bucktooth in the first rounds. Shannon was a bust because of injury problems, through no fault of Kilgour. Powless never became the star some expected him to be, but he was an effective player for a while. Bucktooth still is an effective player for the Stealth after Kilgour gave up on him this past year. But Kilgour hit gold twice, even if the Bandits only benefitted once – Smith has been Defender of the Year and Shattler was the league MVP in 2011 for the Roughnecks.

In his last five drafts, he’s only had two picks. In 2010 he picked Kyle Clancy right before the Rock took Stephan Leblanc. In 2011, Kilgour chose Travis Irving who is a decent defender (and notched the second-most penalty minutes on the team last year), but is hardly what you’d call first-round material. Of course, it’s easier to see all of this with our 20:20 hindsight.

As for trades, when was the last time the Bandits were involved in a blockbuster trade? They’ve been involved in trades for big-name players like Tracey Kelusky, Luke Wiles, and Anthony Cosmo, but they’ve been acquired for draft picks. In fact, the most recent Bandits trade I can find that involved players going both ways was back in July of 2009 when they sent Phil Sanderson to the Rock for Chris Driscoll. Why have the Bandits only had two first round draft picks in the last five years (and none for the next two)? Because they traded their picks away for Phil Sanderson, Mike Accursi, Tom Montour, Tracey Kelusky, and Anthony Cosmo. There’s nothing particularly wrong with any one of those deals; in particular, the Accursi deal was fine and Cosmo started shaky but played great down the stretch. The Kelusky deal looked good at the time – in fact many people thought the Roughnecks got hosed. The Bandits couldn’t have known that the next two seasons would be the worst of Kelusky’s career.

But when you trade away that many first round picks, all for established players, it’s clear that you’re not interested in getting younger. And indeed, the Bandits are one of the oldest teams in the NLL. But the weirdest move was the trading of Chris Corbeil to Edmonton for draft picks, all the while saying they did want to get younger. You don’t trade away a 23-year-old budding star for a draft pick when the best case scenario is to draft someone as good as who you traded away.

At the end of the day, the Bandits needed this change. They have been known for years as a gritty, tough, physical team – not surprisingly, traits that we associate with Kilgour himself. This worked really well during the middle part of the last decade, but the Bandits are aging and their style was less effective last year than in the past. If the league continues to crack down on head shots, their often undisciplined system will continue to decline in effectiveness.

Would Kilgour be likely to pass on drafting a big strong tough defender in favour of a smaller, faster transition guy? Probably not, just ask Damon Edwards. Would he trade long-time Bandits like Mark Steenhuis, Chris White, or Billy Dee Smith? Again, probably not , but a new GM might. Not saying that these players need to be traded, but a fresh view of the Bandits and some outside-the-box thinking might be needed to make the Bandits successful for years to come.

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