Tonawanda News — On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be too much difference between this year’s Buffalo Bandits and last year’s. But make no mistake — it was a busy offseason for an organization aiming for an immense turnaround in 2014.
Buffalo general manager Steve Dietrich kept much of the roster intact while adding a few pieces to recover the Bandits from a 6-10 2013 season, one of the worst campaigns in team history. Of the finalized 20-man roster, 16 players are returners.
The roster alterations, however small the quantity, were of sizable value — made to improve a squad that was the only one in the nine-team National Lacrosse League to miss the playoffs last year. And the most notable change this season will be the man behind the bench.
Fired in June was head coach since 2003, Darris Kilgour, who is the NLL’s all-time leader in coaching wins, after the team missed the playoffs for the first time in his 11 years as coach. He also played eight seasons for the Bandits in the 1990s and is an NLL Hall of Famer. It officially marked the end of one era and the start of another.
To usher in new times in Banditland is head coach Troy Cordingley, the reigning NLL Coach of the Year after going 10-6 with the Toronto Rock in 2013 before being fired unexpectedly.
He’ll have the Bandits’ top five scorers returning, including captain John Tavares, who is back for a 23rd season at 45-years-old despite an injury-riddled 2013. The NLL’s all-time leading scorer can still get it done, when healthy, registering 39 points (14+25) in 12 games a year ago.
Second-year transition player Dhane Smith will play a major role in improving a Buffalo offense that was second-to-last in goals from a season ago. Smith scored 24 goals as a rookie, tops on the team.