GURT'S BLOG: LOOKING AHEAD, NOT BEHIND
Blogs | 4/23/2013 10:16:31 AM | John Gurtler

Where do we go from here?

The Bandits season went by way too fast, and for the most part, the club could not rebound from the six-game losing streak. No matter how hard the team tried – you could see that in the last regular season game – they just couldn’t close it out with a win.

As the clock hit zero, there was nothing to show for their hard work. From individual off-season workouts, the rigors of training camp in December, and the 16-game season, too much got away from this team.

Coaches asked questions, pushed buttons, and tried to figure things out; The Bandit players did the same, game after game, practice after practice. By the end of the season, it was down to wining the battles in five-minute segments. They tried to do it as a team, but it just didn’t work out.

With a team that was talented and close-knit, this was not supposed to happen. A total of 124,960 faithful fans - an average of 15,620 per game - watched in complete frustration as the Bandits managed just two home wins - and those were back in January. And another six losses in a row? 

So many highs and lows this year make it tough to accept the fact the season is over.

Many of you are asking how can this happen to a team like the Bandits. For the first time since 2002, the Bandits will not be in the playoffs.

Now, there is nowhere to go but up.

Nobody is more frustrated than general manager Steve Dietrich, head coach Darris Kilgour and director of lacrosse operations Scott Loffler. Planning for the 2013 season started back in June, with changes in personnel and the reorganization of the roster.

The NLL Draft last fall produced some solid players in Dhane Smith, Carter Bender, Kevin Brownell, Jordon Critch and Hayden Smith.

The core of veteran players, led by team captain John Tavares, Mark Steenhuis, Shawn Williams and Arron Wilson meshed very well.

And the likes of Billy Dee Smith, Derek Suddons, Glen Bryan, Jay Thormibert and Steve Priolo looked to stand strong for netminders Anthony Cosmo and Kurtis Wagar.

It didn’t help matters that 31 players were in and out of the line-up due to injuries and inconsistency. 

Two games stand out in my mind: the 10-6 victory in Rochester following their stinker a week before; and the 15-13 Toronto win at the ACC. The team played with the utmost of confidence and character. 

Will John Tavares be back? Will Dhane Smith take the torch and hold it high? Will the younger players move into the lineup? How many new faces next season? Will they get bigger up front? Who will…?

Overall, this is a good roster with a great bunch of guys. With as much parity in this league, and the talent level expanding, competition will be even better next season.

But I like where this team is headed, with a strong group of younger draft choices who captured a lot of experience. Even Hayden Smith, while not playing a lot, absorbed a tremendous amount of experience practicing and traveling with the club.

Dhane Smith, finishing in the top five of rookie scoring, is going to be a dominant player in the NLL for a long time. He had nine multiple-goal games, including a hat trick in the last game. He has the size, speed and scoring ability this league demands. Like Edmonton’s Mark Matthews, Smith is a very smart player and carries himself amazingly well.

Carter Bender will add more size up front once he returns to healthy status.

Brownell and Critch will mix in well with the returning veterans.

Going forward, the team is already preparing for 2014 and they’ve got their basket full of changes ready to prioritize and take care of.

There are a lot of decisions to make. But I am confident with Dietrich at the reigns, this will not happen again. 

Overall, the issue at hand is finding labor peace between the players and owners, agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement before the start of the 18-game season.

Congratulations to Mark Steenhuis for earning his 700th NLL point on Saturday night.

Special recognition goes out to Scott Fleetwood, our radio home statistician, who through the entire season, was challenged with health conditions. His constant tracking of numbers of the game, streaks and milestones was amazing.

While knowing some nights he was not feeling well at all, those three hours in the broadcast booth provided an escape from daily challenges and pain he has endured through his illness.  Scott has been with us for eight seasons, and previously worked with me during Buffalo Bills games. And he has done it because he loves it and undeniable passion. Thank you “Fleets.”

And thank you fans of Banditland for your incredible support and making the home games so enjoyable with your enthusiasm.

VS.  Rochester Knighthawks
TV: The Lacrosse Network | RADIO: WGR 550/WGWE 105.3FM
 May 17, 2014 - 07:30 PM 1 2 3 4 F
 Buffalo Bandits 4 1 1 2 8
 Rochester Knighthawks 4 6 1 2 13