Time is ticking until the Buffalo Bandits hit the floor for the first time for the 2017 National Lacrosse League season. For Buffalo, it’s a season where all expectations are geared towards making another run for the Champions Cup, which they lost by one goal last year to the Saskatchewan Rush.
The Bandits front office was somewhat quiet during the offseason. They didn’t make too many moves, but the moves they made seemed to address direct concerns from last season. They acquired both Brad Self and Craig Point from Rochester. With the addition of Self, it appears the Bandits are trying to bolster their back end and transition game. Self is not only a skilled transition man, but also brings a wealth of pro experience to the team with his 11-year NLL career.
Also donning a Bandits jersey for the first time is forward Craig Point. Point has spent that last several seasons with Rochester, where he consistently showed his offensive prowess on an offensive heavy roster. Over the course of his eleven year career he has tallied 260 points (133G+127A), and if he can build chemistry with the Bandit offensive leaders like Dhane Smith and Ryan Benesch, we should see him have a great 2017 campaign on the score sheet.
The Bandits seem to be showing some depth on the practice squad as well. For the first time in a long time, they are carrying a third goaltender on the roster. That netminder is Kevin Orleman, out of Kitchener-Waterloo and the Delta Islanders. Orleman was taken by the Bandits with the 18th overall pick in the 2017 NLL Draft, and will look to build on a BC Jr. A playoff campaign that saw the 5’ 11’’, 190 pound netminder notch a .846 save percentage over eight games.
For the most part however, the Buffalo Bandits that fans saw capture the NLL Eastern Division title last season, largely remains intact. The team did lose both forward Chad Culp and draw-man Jay Thorimbert to New England, but the team looks content moving forward. There does seem to be a big question mark on who will be the successor to Thorimbert in the face-off dot. There is no clear man for the job right now, but the Bandits didn’t have a dedicated face-off man in 2008, and if you check the plaques on the Champions Cup, that seemed to work out just fine for the Bandits.