The Buffalo Bandits since entering a one year contract in 2009 have held high reliance and respect in Jon Harasym. Four years ago, the Bandits signed the most players at once in recent history. Some of the other names included Jon Arnold, Darryl Gibson, Isaiah Kicknosway, Brian Coswell and Scott Komer. Among them and others contracted, Harasym continued to thrive, and created himself into one of the (if not the) best of that 2009 signing “class.”
Now, here we are in the beginning of October 2013 and the National Lacrosse League has released the official announcement that Jon Harasym is retiring from the league. At 33 years old, the NLL transition monster feels his time now is better spent with his family and kids, but fights the overwhelming urge to stay involved in a sport he loves.
What will the Bandits do now? Their most reliable and instinctual player is retiring and the window before the start of the 2014 season is quickly narrowing. If anyone has seen the “new” lacrosse movie Crooked Arrows (2012) directed by Steve Rash, the Bandits could really use the character Mogue, a forest dwelling traditional Native American with skills and ferocity that are almost disgustingly good.
More realistically, over the summer Buffalo acquired Ryan Benesch and Andrew Watt from the Minnesota Storm in exchange for multiple draft picks in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 drafts. Benesch (28 years old) comes to the Bandits with comparable stats to Harasym’s. Though Benesch is primarily a forward while Harasym is a transition player, combined assists and goals bring Harasym close to 150 points throughout his career, and Benesch is well on his way to breaking that precedent.
To make up for the defensive loss in Harasym’s retirement, the Bandits have two major options. The first and most obvious is looking to the newly acquired Andrew Watt. He makes up for the size and power the team loses with Harasym leaving. Watt is 28, already plays an up-tempo style of defense, and comes from the same hometown as Benesch. The lifelong connection between the players can create a crucial and overbearing disturbance to opponents.
The second option Buffalo has would be Mark Steenhuis, who is one year younger than Harasym, same body dimensions and weight, and has played on the Bandits for a season more than the newly acquired roster additions.
A third and riskier alternative is to focus on the latest graduation classes from collegiate schools. The Entry Draft Class of 2013 was heavy in defensemen, and many stars from D-I teams such as Syracuse, Albany and Denver have graduated. Because lacrosse is a dynamic sport many able players go undrafted or overlooked.
The Bandits may need a ‘Bandit’ out of a defensemen, in which Andrew Watt or Billy Dee Smith would make good transition players in the void left by Harasym. No matter who replaces Harasym in the lineup, Jon will be missed as more than a Bandits player, but also a person and accountable teammate.
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