2014 Preview: Buffalo Bandits

Bandits

The 2012 season (not last season, the one before) was disappointing for the Bandits. They had their head coach call them stupid and publicly question their heart and commitment during the season, and they finished last in the East. Then in the division semi-finals they allowed just 7 goals and lost. As it turned out though, that wasn’t rock bottom for the Bandits; they actually got worse in 2013. They dropped from 7-9 to 6-10, from 4-4 to 2-6 at home, scored fewer goals, and allowed more. They finished last in the East again but this time did not make the playoffs, the first time the NLL playoffs had started without the Bandits since 2002. If Bandits management were disappointed with 2012, 2013 was the last straw.

GM Steve Dietrich made two major changes and a number of smaller ones. First, Darris Kilgour was let go, and reigning NLL Coach of the Year Troy Cordingley was brought in. Secondly, Dietrich mortgaged the Bandits future (even more than it was already mortgaged) by trading two first round draft picks to Minnesota for Ryan Benesch and Andrew Watt. The Bandits now have no first round draft picks until 2017 (2013 and 2014 to Minnesota for Cosmo, 2015 and 2016 for Benesch / Watt), but for the first time ever they have an heir apparent to the ageless John Tavares.*

* – I believe that as a lacrosse blogger, I am required by law to use the term “the ageless John Tavares” at least once per season until he retires. I first called him “ageless” in 2008. But don’t read the last paragraph of that article, where I talk about Athan Iannucci’s potential to become “one of the best in league history”.

2013 season summary

Record 6-10 (4th in East)
Home 2-6
Away 4-4
Goals for 171
Goals against 211
Top scorer Shawn Williams (65)
Playoffs Missed

Roster changes

Ryan Benesch now anchors the Bandits offense along with veterans Tavares, Shawn Williams, Aaron Wilson, Chad Culp, Jamie Rooney, and Mark Steenhuis. Steenhuis is listed on the Bandits roster as a forward rather than the transition guy he’s been for a few years. He  only scored 38 points last year as a transition guy, but don’t forget he scored 101 in 2009. I don’t think I’d expect that, but if he’s used purely on offense, 70 points for Steenhuis is not out of the question.

Andrew Watt is more than a throw-in as part of the Benesch deal; in fact, the acquisition of this tranny may be the reason Troy Cordingley can use Steenhuis on offense.

Luke Wiles had a terrible 2013. His point total dropped from 70 to only 21 in 12 games, and fans began publicly calling for his head. In September, they got their wish as Wiles was sent to Philadelphia , where he began his career in 2006, for two draft picks. As someone on the NLL Message Board astutely pointed out, Dietrich got more for Wiles after his lousy season (two second rounders) than he gave up for him after a 60-point season (a second and a third). To add insult to injury for the Wings, Wiles did not make the roster.

In another deal, Dietrich sent Carter Bender to Colorado for Rory Smith. Bender only played in three games so it’s hard to say the Bandits will miss him terribly (and he was then released by the Mammoth), but Rory Smith will be a welcome addition. Smith has turned from a pure fighter a few years ago to a solid defenseman who will drop the mitts if necessary, and regardless of what problems your roster might have, you can’t have too many of those.

Tracey Kelusky may still have some gas left in the tank, but after a dismal couple of years the Bandits weren’t willing to take that chance. Kelusky ended up with a decent 54 points in his first year in Buffalo, but in 2012 he fell to 28 points in 12 games – his worst points/game ratio (2.33) of his career by a full point. But after only 10 points in 7 games in 2013 (1.43 – almost another full point lower than 2012), the Bandits gave up and opted not to resign the former Roughnecks captain. Kelusky ended up signing with the Wings and unlike Wiles, he did make the cut.

Burning question

Cosmo. Dude, WTF? Sometimes he’s the old Goaltender-of-the-Year-winning Cosmo, other times he’s just… not.

Look out for

Ryan Benesch. A bit obvious to pick Benny, but arguably no player who changed teams this off-season will have as much of an impact on his new team as Benesch (with the possible exception of Ryan Ward). Not saying it’ll happen, but no Bandit has won the scoring title since John Tavares tied Gary Gait in 2004.

Prediction

Third in the East.

Haiku

JT will return
Benny adds his scoring touch
Troy turns it around?

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One thought on “2014 Preview: Buffalo Bandits

  1. Pingback: 2014 NLL Predictions | NLL Chatter

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