A disappointing 6-10 record in the 2013 season led to the Buffalo Bandits finishing at the bottom of the NLL standings and missing the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. During this offseason many changes have occurred in Banditland to ensure that the franchise will get back on track next year, bringing in the likes of Rory Smith, Ryan Benesch and a new bench boss in Troy Cordingley. With the 2013 NLL Entry Draft scheduled for September 16, Buffalo will have another opportunity to add some talent to their roster.
In terms of what to search for in the upcoming draft, Buffalo’s biggest deficiencies are on offense. The Bandits were the only NLL team without a player in the top ten league wide in goals, assists or total points. Shawn Williams led the team in points with 65, the only Bandit to register over 50 points. While Williams impressive summer numbers with the MSL’s Brooklin Redmen is a positive sign that the veteran has what it takes to continue to lead Buffalo offensively, other Bandits will need to step up in the scoring department. Ryan Benesch brings world class talent into the mold, but with players such as John Tavares, Mark Steenhuis and Luke Wiles struggling with decreasing point production during last season, acquiring some youthful talent in this year’s draft could provide a boost to the offensive dynamic.
Defensively, the Bandits have a rather strong returning core featuring stay at home stalwarts such as Steve Priolo, Derek Suddons and Billy Dee Smith, as well as transitional threats including the likes of Jay Thorimbert and Kedoh Hill. Offseason acquisitions Rory Smith and Andrew Watt, as well as the addition of defensive legend Steve Toll at the assistant coach position, only strengthen Buffalo’s back end. Barring unforeseen circumstances, any defensive draft picks will have to replace some stellar players in order to crack the Bandits roster.
Buffalo has five picks in this year’s draft, as opposed to seven in the 2012 Entry Draft. The Bandits showed full faith in their draftees last season, as five of seven 2012 selections dressed cracked the roster during their rookie year. This includes Dhane Smith, the lone eastern division representative on the NLL All-Rookie Team, whose outstanding debut season saw him lead the Bandits in goals with 24 while finishing third in points with 44. Aside from Carter Bender, who was traded to Colorado as part of the Rory Smith deal, all of the Bandits rookie class from last season will look to join Smith on the roster during their sophomore campaign. This includes Jordan Critch, Kevin Brownell and Hayden Smith.
While the confidence in rookies last season shows that the Bandits staff are comfortable inserting new talent into the mix, these moves may have been more based on desperation to spark a struggling team. New head coach Troy Cordingley, the reigning NLL Coach of the Year who led the Toronto Rock to back to back eastern division titles in 2012 and 2013, has been more reliant on veterans in recent years as the Rock’s experienced roster proved hard for many draftees to crack. Include offseason deals that sent future draft picks away in exchange for established NLL players and it appears the Bandits are looking to establish a more veteran presence to mesh with some of their younger talent.
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