Bandits’ season wrap-up
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • May 13, 2011 @ 4:59pm
Entering the postseason as the top seed in the East Division, the Buffalo Bandits were poised to capture their first NLL Championship since 2008. For the second straight season, however, the Toronto Rock shattered Buffalo’s hopes, turning the Bandits back 12-11 in the division final. Post-game, the team spouted out excuses—poor officiating, an injured star, missed empty nets and a horrific start were all to blame.
— Don’t get me wrong though; this wasn’t a lost season. Chris Corbeil showed the mettle of a future NLL Defensive Player of the Year, while Roger Vyse’s supreme shooting ability became more apparent as he earned Darris Kilgour’s trust. Scrappy newcomers Jay Thorimbert and Chad Culp proved their worth through unrelenting physical play; these were outstanding off-season signings by the Bandits’ brass.
Goalie Mike Thompson was exceptional, particularly on the road where the Bandits went 6-2; Big Mike finished the year only a percentage point behind Anthony Cosmo, the NLL’s leader in goals against average, and the Buffalo net-minder is 15-4 over the past two seasons.
The team defense as a whole was magnificent, allowing the second fewest goals in the league. While the NLL takes pride in high-scoring affairs, unheralded defensemen like Scott Self, Ian Llord, Clay Hill and Travis Irving were steady and healthy throughout the season. The 2012 return of Billy Dee Smith will further bolster a deep corps of defenders.
— There are two simple explanations for the team’s failure to bring home a championship, and the roots were laid very early in the season. Buffalo’s offense failed to muster scoring chances regularly, and when they did, shots rarely hit the target. When they won, it was a defensive battle that was decided late; there were no offensive eruptions that led to blowouts.
The easy scapegoat is Mark Steenhuis, who saw a serious production decline in 2011, but what about Brett Bucktooth, the All-Star forward who disappeared from mid-March on? Former league MVP Tracey Kelusky didn’t live up to expectations in his first year with the Bandits; even down the stretch, the ex-Roughneck wasn’t in sync with his ‘mates.
—Congratulations to twenty year veteran John Tavares, who was selected to NLL Second-Team All-Pro. Both teams are listed here.
— Although this is impertinent to the season as a whole, it’s worth a couple comments on Darris Kilgour, the Bandits’ head coach. Unfortunately, Kilgour was arrested for a DWI in Lewiston only days after the season. Although his choice is by no means excusable, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t welcomed back next year.
Kilgour is a reporter’s dream in post-game interviews; he says exactly what is on his mind, won’t hold back his thoughts on referees/players and speaks honestly (though it’s a little weird that he won’t look reporters in the eye when he talks). He cares deeply about the Bandits’ success as a team and franchise, and he’s deserving of another chance.