Although the 2013 NLL season is still fresh in the mind of many lacrosse fans, preparations for next year have already begun. The Toronto Rock recently became one of first teams to make a major off season move, relieving head coach Troy Cordingley of his duties.
Cordingley’s firing comes just one month after being named NLL Head Coach of the Year. During Cordingley’s tenure in Toronto, the Brampton native was able to help re-establish the Rock as a league powerhouse. However, after the regular season champion Rock were ousted from this year’s playoffs in a disappointing first round exit, it was decided Assistant Coach John Lovell carry on as the future bench boss in Toronto.
Lovell’s future reign as head coach in Toronto could be looked at as the beginning of a new era in the storied history of the Rock franchise. For several years now, Toronto’s core of savvy vets have been relied upon to lead the team. While the talents of veterans such as Colin Doyle, Kasey Beirnes and Josh Sanderson continue to act as focal points for the Rock’s success, it is unrealistic to think these seemingly ageless wonders can continue to carry the franchise for much longer.
When Garrett Billings and Stephan Leblanc burst onto the NLL scene in 2010, the rookie duo became an immediate impact in Toronto’s experienced offense. Rookie Aaron Pascas was able to do the same the following year, to a lesser extent, playing a significant role in the Toronto’s most recent Champion’s Cup title. However, since there has not been a young addition able to become an integral part of the Rock offense. While this is largely due to the talent level of the Rock not allowing for new players to crack the line-up, Toronto must consider their need to start planning for a future without their familiar offensive big guns. Billings and Leblanc provide a more than solid start to build an offense around and adding younger players that will support the duo for years to come now, as opposed to when it is absolutely necessary, will allow for the Rock to remain a powerhouse when age catches up with it’s current roster. Signing players such as Scott Evans and Roger Vyse may be beneficial to the team currently, but if it permits young talents such as Rob Hellyer and Brandon Ivey from gaining the experience needed to become NLL regulars it may not be the best long-term decision.
The key to finding young up and comers ready to establish themselves in Toronto lies in “hybrid” players, such as Jesse Gamble and Kyle Belton. As the indoor game returns to a more run and gun style of play, players with experience in both field and box lacrosse become more valuable. Both Gamble and Belton, who attended Cornell and Stony Brook, respectively, utilized experience from the outdoor and indoor game in order to make their presence felt amongst an established Rock squad. Such athletes also provide an opportunity to play both ends of the floor. The Rock’s defensive end needs little tweaking, especially with stellar prospects such as Bradley Kri and Mike Lum-Walker ready to take any vacant spots. Despite this, Gamble and Belton were able to fit their way into the Toronto defensive scheme due to stellar play in the transition game. While Toronto has depended largely on box specific players in the past, they will need to continue to acquire additional hybrid players in order to thrive in the new age of indoor lacrosse.
Cordingley’s unexpected dismissal does not symbolize an immediate overhaul in Toronto, after all, the team did finish atop the league in the regular season. However, at the very least it shows that the Toronto Rock franchise will not settle for anything less than greatness. As their stacked yet aging roster begins to diminish, it will be interesting to see what moves the Rock make in order to remain an NLL powerhouse.