Dietrich makes a big splash early in his tenure

Despite a heavy turnover with offensive talent entering the 2012 season, the Buffalo Bandits experienced a relative lull in production and success. The Bandits stumbled to a 7-9 record before a narrow, heartbreaking defeat to Toronto in the first round of the playoffs.

After some restructuring in the front office, new general manager, Steve Dietrich, has been busy this summer. In addition to applying the franchise tag to Tracey Kelusky and Anthony Cosmo, Dietrich re-signed John Tavares and pulled the trigger on three significant trades.

Shawn Williams was the prized acquisitions in a busy summer for the Bandits.

The first trade was easily the biggest. The Bandits acquired Shawn Williams, defenseman Brandon Doran, a 2012 first round pick and two 2012 second round picks in exchange for Buffalo’s first round selection in the 2012 draft. The draft is set to take place on October 1.Dietrich also acquired defenseman Glen Bryan and forward Jamie Rooney from the Toronto Rock in exchange for a second-round pick (14th overall) in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft and a fourth-round pick in 2013. His final trade brought in transition player David Brock and forward Mike Hominuck from the Philadelphia Wings in exchange for Kevin Buchanan and a third-round pick in the 2013 NLL Entry Draft.

The trade with the Wings signified the end of a short, disappointing stint with Buffalo for Buchanan. A talented forward, he struggled to get free in Darris Kilgour’s system and was never an effective piece of the offense. His inability to tally on outside attempts made him particularly impotent here. Hominuck is a steady offensive player who should fill a similar role as Buchanan on Buffalo’s second offensive unit.

The Hominuck acquisition could potentially be a wash if his return to the system is as rough as Buchanan’s introduction appeared to be. However, after seeing Hominuck for a number of years, and his brief history in Buffalo, it is safe to assume his game is versatile enough to work with Buffalo’s motion sets. Continue reading

Bandits front office turned upside down

According to a Buffalo News report, Darris Kilgour will only be making decisions from behind the bench next season.

Budd Bailey reports that Kilgour has been relieved of his duties as general manager, but will remain on as head coach. The report also indicates that Derek Graham will no longer serve in a position with the team.

This is a huge decision for the Bandits to make. Kilgour has played a major role in he franchise’s impressive run since the early 2000s. His skills as a coach haven’t wavered much, but it seemed as if the burden of doing both jobs was affecting his success rate.

Kilgour stepped down from his duties as GM and coach a couple of season ago, allowing Graham to cover most of the major personnel decisions as the associate GM. However, that seemed like a decision made merely in the title and that Kilgour would certainly remain a major part of the decision making process when it came to drafting, trades and decisions with contracts.

This is a step towards giving the Bandits a clean sweep of sorts. Much like the Sabres, fans have begun to wonder if the message with the Bandits had begun to grow stale. Kilgour has been a fixture behind the bench much like Lindy Ruff. While there is little reason to remove one of the greatest coaches in NLL history, Kilgour will be under a bit more scrutiny from those above him.

As to who may fill the void in the front office is up for debate. There are plenty of strong lacrosse minds out there who would certainly compliment Kilgour’s hard-line coaching style well.

Bandits into postseason on heels of Steenhuis’ big week

The Buffalo Bandits will be playing the post season thanks to another victory on national television.

Buffalo’s 14-9 victory over Rochester was powered by a tremendous effort by Anthony Cosmo in goal and the NLL’s newest Player of the Week, Mark Steenhuis.

Photo courtesty: Buffalo Bandits

Steenhuis led all players with eight points (4+4) as he helped clinch a playoff spot for the Bandits. The former Transition Player of the Year (2008) has improved his offensive output in recent weeks and has put him on pace for a strong showing offensively this season. This is of particular importance considering the regression he had over the past two years.

The Bandits still have a chance to improve their standing in the NLL’s East Division as the playoffs draw near, but they will be playing on the road in the first round no matter what. Saturday’s game in Washington will be nothing more than a warmup for next week’s first round playoff game.

In addition to Steenhuis’ big effort, the Bandits defense locked down and stifled the usually high-octant Knighthawks offense last Saturday. Anthony Cosmo was superb in goal and enjoyed an evening of long, outside shots and only a handful of high-quality chances. He was capable of turning aside most of the Knighthawks’ best chances.

Cosmo was part of a larger defensive effort that saw the Bandits hold the Rochester to only two goals in the first half and many long scoreless stretches. That includes a drought of 16 minutes without a goal. From 11:54 of the second quarter until 12:45 of the third quarter and 11:26 of the third to 8:46 of the fourth quarter were the two longest droughts for Rochester. Buffalo made the Knighthawks pay, piecing together a number of lengthy runs, something they have struggled with this season.

The only missing puzzle piece on Saturday was John Tavares. For the first time in pretty much forever, Tavares did not factor in the goal scoring for the Bandits and only registered two assists. A good natured Darris Kilgour brushed off his stats, saying that he simply needs to shoot more. Continue reading

Bandits presented with a unique opportunity

The Buffalo Bandits enter this weekend’s game with Rochester with a truly unique opportunity in front of them. They can not only clinch a playoff spot, but also lock down the first overall pick in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft. Thus is life in a nine-team league, I suppose.

Obviously the Bandits will need some help if they are to achieve this feat. First, the easy part. The Bandits can clinch the playoffs if they beat Washington next weekend at home. Plain and simple, just win your game. However, the Bandits could also clinch with a win tomorrow and a loss by either Washington or Rochester in the next week.

The Bandits are currently flirting with missing out on the final playoff spot due to the swing rule that has been instituted this season. If the worst team in the East finished below the worst team in the West, the West team will play in the playoffs. Right now Washington and Buffalo are in a bit of a dog fight.

Despite some of the questions surrounding Buffalo’s post season future, they even have a shot at the East Division crown. This is more or less because of the parity in the East versus the success the Bandits have had. However, if they win out and both Toronto and Philadelphia lose out, Buffalo will win the East. Continue reading

Bandits Postgame: Defense powers blowout victory

A national audience was able to tune in to catch the most convincing victory of the year for the Buffalo Bandits.

The debut of the NLL on CBS Sports Network was a good one of the league and the Bandits. Mark Steenhuis had six points (3+3), Luke Wiles had seven (3+4) and John Tavares  had eight (4+4) as Buffalo cruised to a 17-7 victory over Philadelphia.

Bandits.com

The real story was the near flawless effort the Bandits defense put together. It has been a rough season for the Bandits, defensively. Mike Thompson has had his ups and downs and Anthony Cosmo has struggled to settle in since being acquired via trade. However, things came together last night for Darris Kilgour’s squad. Cosmo was phenomenal for the entire game and the defense, as a unit, kept most of the Wings’ shots well to the outside.

“Our defense was great tonight, great slides and movement,” Luke Wiles said. “[Cosmo’s] a great goalie and there are teams in the league that are scared of us because we have him in our net.”

There were a number of easy saves that Cosmo made on the night. However, there were plenty of dazzlers as well. That includes a pipe-to-pipe stop in the third quarter that goes down as one of the most impressive saves I’ve seen made on an indoor lacrosse field.

If Cosmo’s game is on the upswing, the Bandits could become a very scary team to play against. As they stand now, their still in a dogfight to avoid losing out in the new crossover system installed for this season. However, they have started to find some more goal scoring (outside of last weekend) and the defense very well may be coming around. Continue reading

Patty’s Day unis for the Bandits

The Bandits are hoping the luck of the Irish will help snap them from their current losing streak. For their game against Minnesota on Saturday, March 17, the Bandits will wear special St. Patrick’s Day jerseys.

Here is the info, straight from the Bandits:

The game-worn black and green jerseys will be auctioned off on Bandits.com, with the auction beginning at 5 p.m. on Monday, March 19 and ending at 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 25. Proceeds will benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. In addition, replica jerseys will be available for purchase in the team store, along with other St. Patty’s Day-themed Bandits items.

Futhermore, Bandits forward Luke Wiles will appear on Time Warner Cable Sportsnet’s “The Enforcers” tonight, March 12, at 6:30 p.m. on Channel 13 to discuss the jerseys and the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day game.

I like when teams do this sort of thing. It gives you a reason to check out the game and usually the designs are pretty fun. The jerseys look as if they will just be a modified version of their black road uniforms. In place of orange and purple, there will be green. The Bandits.com story has a picture.

Double Minors: Rochester roadtrip

Saturday afforded me the chance to check out a pair of games and sample some of the best BBQ in Western New York.

Rather than just stay at home for Saturday’s Sabres – Senators game, a few friends and I took a quick trip to Rochester for a Bandits game, Dinosaur BBQ and the Amerks – Senators game.

The purpose of the trip was to see the Amerks and see some of the talent the Sabres have in the pipeline. It ended up being a great day trip featuring a sports double header. The Bandits game was a loss. They are a team in complete disarray who don’t seem to have a clue which way is up. Buffalo was held to three goals fro most of the game until they finally went on a late run. The final score was 13-10, but that was hardly indicative of the domination the Bandits endured.

The Amerks game was far better. Joe Finley dropped the gloves just three seconds in and Rochester put on a clinic against the AHL’s cellar dwellers. Mark Voakes (0+3) and Travis Turnbull (1+2) paced the Amerks as six different players scored for Rochester.

David Leggio didn’t see his tenth shot until the third period and was largely untested for most of the night. He did allow one goal, but did mange to make a few impressive stops along the way. Leggio finished with 17 saves.

While Marcus Foligno was busy scoring his first NHL goal, there were a few bright spots from some of the players biding their time in Rochester this season. Paul Szezchura, Brayden McNabb and even Finley had some strong moments in the blowout victory.

The highlight of the day may have been grabbing a massive plate of BBQ between the games. Dinosaur BBQ is located about 100 yards from Blue Cross Arena. Would it be that difficult to put a location in downtown Buffalo? Seriously, are the people making decisions on the waterfront that obtuse? Continue reading