The Buffalo Bandits have become the Cinderella story of the NLL this 2014 season.
Though they were off to a rough start, the team has turned around their performance for the better and are currently riding a four-game win streak. On the roster are two key people: Coach Troy Cordingley and veteran player John Tavares.
A question I’d like to ask is, “What or who is responsible for this drastic change of success?”
Most immediately people think John Tavares. He’s been in the league 14 years now, since 1992. If I were to compare him to any famous athlete, it would be Brett Favre (retired NFL quarterback). They are both accomplished, long tenured, and indecisive about whether or not to retire.
An advantage for Tavares that Favre did not have would be head injuries. Lacrosse players don’t take the same kind of brutality NFL players do. It comes down to different styles of physicality and game play.
It’s proven that the Bandits historically struggle without Tavares; yet there is recent evidence that the team can perform without him (early 2014 season). If Tavares decided tomorrow to retire, could the Bandits still remain victorious? I don’t think so.
That’s not to say without No. 11 the team sucks. On the contrary, I think the new roster in Buffalo is quite adequate, and Tavares brings a plethora of experience, leadership, and education to the young squad. He currently has 17 points on the season (10 G, 7 A) and has forced or recovered 22 loose balls. In tough moments, he comes through. Hopefully, he’s showing the younger players how to perform similarly without him.
The next person in question is Troy Cordingley. A Buffalo veteran himself, Cordingley played on the history-setting team in the ’90s alongside Tavares. Cordingley came to the team in the 2013 offseason with great relationships, a plethora of network connections, and a whole lot of game experience/lacrosse IQ.
I believe Cordingley and Tavares are working together, one in the rink and one on the bench. Realistically, Tavares will most likely retire after the 2014 season. The health and physical standards of a professional sport can only be maintained so long, and though No. 11 is still a powerhouse, his age is slowly creeping up on him. Additionally, previous interviews and articles reveal he misses personal time with his family and children (Who could blame him? That’s natural).
Since both men were on a championship-winning, history-setting team is what leads me to believe Tavares is acting as player-coach. It’s adjacently a main factor in the team’s success. Tavares had the answers all along, but the coach was the incorrect matchup. Now with Cordingley in the lead seat, Tavares has the flexibility to add on to Cordingley’s direction.
With all that blabber stated, here’s my final verdict:
It’s the combination of Cordingley and Tavares. The team roster hosts an abundance of talent, intelligence and athleticism. Cordingley brings new, strong direction to the newly transformed team.
However, there is some sort of chemistry behind the scenes that flows between the two veteran teammates. When Tavares eventually does decide retirement is the right thing for him, I wouldn’t doubt that Buffalo may temporarily struggle to fill the void he will leave.
Until that day comes, everyone should enjoy and learn from the two lacrosse masterminds: Troy Cordingley and John Tavares.