Features | 12/26/2013 11:03:28 AM | Alex Pagliano
From 2009 to 2010, Mark Steenhuis was the most productive goal scorer in the National Lacrosse League.
Playing forward for the Buffalo Bandits, he put up a League-high 87 goals in two seasons. Only Colin Doyle, with 195, recorded more points than Steenhuis’ 191 over that time.
Then, at the start of the 2011 season, Steenhuis was moved from forward to transition. The move confounded the talented veteran.
“Yeah, I was absolutely confused. You try to be as professional as you can about it,” he said. “…The [coaching staff] had [mentioned the move] and I was like ‘alright.’ I think it was an unfortunate situation and I could not even tell you how [the process] happened, but you just have to kind of roll with it.”
Steenhuis scored 13 goals and 39 points last season and toward the end of the year, he saw some action at forward. In the last two games of 2013, he recorded 12 points. It was a sign that he had never misplaced his offensive skill.
“It was a super weird three years for me [not being out at forward],” he said. “Hopefully, I can go out and show them what I can do, again.”
Over the summer, the team announced Troy Cordingley as its new head coach. Cordingley, the former coach of the Toronto Rock, saw first-hand what kind of damage Steenhuis could do on the score sheet. Over the past four seasons, Steenhuis has posted 42 points against the Rock.
Once Cordingley took over in Buffalo, he wasted no time in reaching out to Steenhuis about the possibility of taking on a more offensive role again.
“As soon as I was named the coach, that was one of the first phone calls that I made,” Cordingley said. “We want [Mark] to focus on offense. We want him to focus on getting his numbers back to being one of our key players.”
Steenhuis, who turned 33 on Dec. 3, entered training camp this winter on the mend.
He was held out for most of camp as he recovered from a minor surgical procedure to repair an injury. Steenhuis was cleared to play in the scrimmage against the Philadelphia Wings on Dec. 7, but Cordingley opted to hold him out of action.
Steenhuis returned to the floor on Dec. 14 at Iroquois Lacrosse Arena and scored a team-high three goals in a 12-11 exhibition loss to Edmonton.
The Bandits open their regular season on Dec. 28 at home against Philadelphia and Steenhuis, who was named an alternate captain, said he thinks the preseason schedule has helped his preparation.
“I feel like getting into that exhibition game felt pretty good,” he said. “I’m getting pretty close to [where I want to be]. I want to have a good week this and week and I’ll push it even harder going into next week.”
Looking ahead to the season, the return to forward has Steenhuis eager to get back out onto the floor.
“I am excited,” he said. “After you play that position and you have success and then it is taken away, it is a sort of a stab. I just want to go out there and run our systems and then whatever happens after that happens.”
Entering the last season of a five-year contract signed back in 2009, the team hopes that Steenhuis can produce at a level more akin to that year rather than 2013.
The move to forward should help precipitate that.