Blogs | 3/13/2012 12:55:02 PM | John Gurtler
It’s the halfway mark of the Buffalo Bandits season. And like a mid-term report card that isn’t very good, you’re afraid to bring it home.
Okay, so it’s not pretty right at the moment with the 2-6 Bandits on a franchise-high slide.
In sport, you work as a team to correct the mistakes and challenge one another to concentrate; be responsible and trust.
Granted, Saturday was not a pretty sight. You know the saying; things have to get worse before they get better. It was not good. But I think the Bandits have reached a level where the next step is up.
The second quarter was one to forget, but nobody on the Bandits roster packed it in. I thought the third and fourth quarter you could see they wanted to make it respectable.
Okay yeah, bad run here. We can point fingers and “armchair” all we want, but come Friday and Saturday with two games, this is a perfect window to start turning this losing streak around. Coaches and players buy into the system and get back to playing Bandit Ball.
“There is great leadership on this team,” said Mark Steenhuis who had three points (2+1), four loose balls, seven shots and three takeaways on Saturday. “I don’t think you’ve seen our best game yet. Everyone is positive, losing six games, it definitely hurts after the game, but you’ve got to realize you have to turn it around. They’re all playoff games now. You have to treat every game like it’s our last and see what we can do.”
I asked Mark if he has ever been a part of a losing streak like this. “I think there was one year we kind of had a similar record (2-6 in 2010), we went on a tear and ended up getting into the playoffs. Hopefully we can make that trend happen again. I getting tired of losing that’s for sure.”
The Bandits practice beautifully and have for the entire year; even the game-day shoot around seems to click. But get into the game and away it goes.
“It’s one of those situations so far this year where the offense is going and the defense hasn’t,” said assistant coach Dan Teat. “And when the defense has, the offense hasn’t, and I think it’s time we put all 18 guys, and everybody’s playing at the same pace and same level and that’s how we are going to be successful.”
Save the Minnesota mumble in January and Saturday’s second quarter wheel-wobble, the Bandits have played some very tight games. But while they score the most goals in the fourth quarter overall, it remains the point of the game where they lose control.
“It’s one of those things to get the offense and the defense playing well together, and you have to play 60 minutes in this league. There is no gimme after three quarters. You have to be prepared to play every quarter as hard as you did the first,” said Teat.
Then what part of the floor becomes the twilight zone? Where does the problem generate for all the mistakes to be made?
“A big word that has been used (lately) is trust,” Teat said. “We have to have trust in every guy on the floor no matter who’s going out there, no matter who’s running the ball up the floor. Everyone has to trust that player is going to make the right decision. For the last (few) games maybe we haven’t had trust in each other, but you can at least see that coming back now.”
Now I am beginning to understand what Tony Soprano was going through when he had his sessions with Dr. Melfee. In retrospect, here you have this big bad front of Bandit Ball in-your-face-lacrosse, and now they are struggling as a team understanding some of the problems. Hey, it’s natural. It’s what makes you better.
“All the things that normally would go your way aren’t going your way; little things add up into big things,” said Steenhuis. “It’s not one particular thing you can point your finger at. I think it’s a whole bunch of mistakes on our part. They seem minimal at the time, but it ends up in the back of our net. We are just going to have to clean our game up in all aspects -- defense, offense and goaltending -- and put forth a better effort.”
Everybody on the Bandits roster has to be held accountable.
“The good thing now is that guys are looking in the mirror; guys realize that sometimes it’s them,” said coach Teat. “ If they pull their own weight, maybe we have a win or two. It is a real close-knit group and that’s why, as a coaching staff, we’ve still got a lot of faith in these guys. Because they are so close and they are so tight-knit, and they realize this (Bandits) is a family atmosphere and the Bandits come first when it’s weekend time. And you’re going to see that start to show in the next few weeks.”
It will start up on Friday night in Toronto when the Bandits meet the Rock for their second meeting of the season. It hasn’t been a picnic for the Rock as well this season.
Then Saturday, the Bandits play host to Minnesota. A game which the team will wear a special St. Patrick’s Day uniform of green and black.
Sale of the replicas will be available at The Sabres Store on game day. And, most importantly the game-worn black and green jerseys will be auctioned off on bandits.com starting Monday, March 19 at 5 p.m. Proceeds from the jersey auction will benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
In perspective, the Bandits 2-6 record at the halfway mark of the season does not reflect the type of team that fills the roster. There is potential. The rudiments of the game in power play, face-offs, loose balls, takeaways, and shots are impressive. Stats like this mean a lot, and I am of the Vince Lombardi school of thought that “stats are for losers.” But you’ve got to feed off the good in order to effort some fan enthusiasm.
Go ahead, think what you want. The mid-term marks are out on the table. There’s no hiding. It’s time to turn it around.
Radio broadcast coverage both Friday and Saturday start at 7 p.m. on KB1520 AM. Former Minnesota head coach Mike Lines joins me in the booth on Friday in Toronto, and Randy Mearns will be back in usual spot alongside me on Saturday night against the Swarm at First Niagara Center.