2013 Preview: Buffalo Bandits

BanditsThe 2012 season started off just fine for the Buffalo Bandits. They hosted the rival Toronto Rock and beat them 14-10. The next week they travelled to Rochester and beat their other rivals 12-9. Then the troubles started. Five weeks later, they were 2-6 and their coach was calling them stupid, a bunch of bush leaguers, and questioning their heart. This was a lack of success with which the Bandits organization was unfamiliar, at least lately. The Bandits hadn’t finished below .500 since 1999, and finished first or tied for first in the East in four of the previous six seasons.

Still, after all the drama they went 5-3 in the second half and ended up tied for second in the East (dropped to fourth due to tiebreakers). Anthony Cosmo allowed a mere 7 Toronto goals in the division semi-final, but Nick Rose only allowed 6, ending what was not likely Darris Kilgour’s favourite NLL season. After the season, I predicted “There will be lots of changes coming for the Bandits this offseason” and lo and behold, I was right. Not that this was a particularly Earth-shattering prediction.

Roster changes

Steve Dietrich has only had the Bandits GM job since July but he’s been one of the busiest GMs in the league since then. Gone are Kevin Buchanan and Jeremy Thompson (both traded), Darryl Gibson and Mike Thompson (both retired), Brandon Francis, Travis Irving, Tom Montour, Ian Llord, Angus Goodleaf, and Roger Vyse (released), and former captain Chris White (signed with Toronto). A whole pile of new faces will don the orange and black in 2013, many of whom, strangely, are former Toronto Rock players. This list includes former Bandit (and Rock) Shawn Williams, Aaron Wilson, Jamie Rooney, Mike Hominuck, Glen Bryan, and Derek Suddons. Even Dietrich himself was the backup goalie in Toronto for one season, and goalie coach for one more. There are a few non-former-Rock additions as well: David Brock, Nick Cotter, and Kurtis Wagar.

There are also three rookies on the Bandits roster. Last year the Bandits had two Thompsons, this year they have three Smiths – all defenders. Billy Dee returns for his tenth season in a Bandits uniform, and his cousin Dhane was Buffalo’s first draft pick (5th overall) in the entry draft. Hayden was Buffalo’s second round pick, 13th overall, and is not related to the other two Smiths. The other rookie is Carter Bender, a forward who was taken 18th overall in the draft.

But even given the number of new faces on the team this year, some things never change: John Tavares, who has never played for the Rock (nor any NLL team other than Buffalo), returns for his eleventy-millionth season.

Burning question

Darris Kilgour the GM is gone but Darris Kilgour the head coach remains. Did the Bandits keep the right one?

Prediction

Third in the east because half the team is new, and it will take time for them all to gel together. But if they do that quickly and the Powell/Dawson/Jamieson experiment doesn’t work out, the Bandits could win the east.

Haiku

Many new Bandits
Chugger’s been a busy guy
JT’s still here, natch

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