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.

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, 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 story has a picture.

2ITB Roadie: Bandits, Amerks and BBQ

The Buffalo Sabres will skate into Ottawa tonight with the chance to at least draw even with Winnipeg this evening. If the Bruins can take care of business this afternoon, the Sabres will be playing for a share of eighth.

Now, I still contend that the team has yet to reach a point of watching the schedule on a nightly basis, but that day is drawing near. The Sabres have twice had a chance to draw even with eighth and have failed. Tonight is a game in which they will be rested (sort of) and is also one of those valuable “games in hand”. Winnipeg’s loss last night in Calgary came in their 68th game, this is game 68 for the Sabres. So far Buffalo has been strong when playing on a night their opponents are idle, but this game is yet another pivotal matchup.

Ryan Miller will be back in net tonight after getting a couple well deserved days off. I expect to see Ben Bishop in net for the Senators. Bishop is a massive goalie looking to make his mark on the league. He has waited a long time for his break and this season might be it. Buffalo’s oft-anemic offense will need to start rolling early tonight.

The main thing to watch for is two-fold. First, if Thomas Vanek is playing, I expect to see some new lines. John Vogl, Kevin Snow, Paul Hamilton and the rest of the Sabres media reported the shuffled lines at yesterday’s practice. However, those combinations came without Vanek and Patrick Kaleta. I expect to see some changes made in the hope to spark some more offense. If Vanek isn’t playing, seeing what Lindy Ruff comes up with (Marcus Foligno was recalled) will be equally interesting to a fully healthy lineup.

This special edition of The Morning Skate is because I’ll be taking the day to enjoy all the city of Rochester has to offer. So I’ll have Dinosaur BBQ and watch the Bandits and Amerks play.

The Bandits enter tomorrow’s game with their season in the balance. They simply cannot afford another loss if they expect to sneak in the playoffs and who better to snap their funk than their I-90 rivals?

One of the Bandits’ two victories this season came against Rochester, but this is a whole different Bandits team we are talking about. They have unraveled defensively and are getting offensive contributions from a small, core group. Things need to change in Banditland if a playoff push is to remain in the cards.

Like the Sabres, the Amerks are in the thick of a playoff race themselves. Luke Adam has been wearing #72 since his demotion (ugh) but has seven points in 11 games. He had a couple rough games upon his arrival, but has come around as of late. David Leggio had a great night against Binghampton tonight and I hope to see him again tonight. We shall see. Here are a few things I’ll be looking for from the Sabres prospects:

  • Shaone Morrisonn: I’m interested to see the big veteran. I liked his signing last year, unfortunately he didn’t work out. He has been steady for Ron Rolston and the Amerks this year, I want to see his game now; perhaps he still has a future in the show.
  • Defensive prospects: Drew Schiestel was loaned to Texas, which has freed up some playing time for other prospects. The defensive cupboard is going to be crowed in the next few seasons; Mark Pysyk and JGL are on their way and Brayden McNabb has shown his chops. I want to watch McNabb closely along with Joe Finley, T.J. Brennan and even Matt MacKenzie (if he plays). These guys have something to prove if they expect to stick around.
  • Phil Varone: Dude has been lighting it up for the Amerks. 8+33 in 60 games from the development camp invitee. I liked him (along with Johnathan Parker and Steven Beyers) in the summer and Varone has turned out to be a worthy addition to the pipeline. He is only signed with the Amerks for now, but I could see him getting a look from the Sabres.
  • David Leggio: I hope he gets the nod in net again, I’m interested to see where he stands in terms of development. The Sabres have some tough choices regarding all of their goaltenders in the coming months. Leggio is part of that group.

There will be Double Minors posted of the Amerks game, a Bandits recap and a brief write up on the Sabres. Stay tuned.

Bandits Postgame: Defensive stuggles continue as losing streak hits five

The Buffalo Bandits have been setting records for a number of years since 2000. This year is no different, however the record is not one to remember.

Buffalo set a franchise mark with their fifth-straight loss on Saturday, falling to 2-5 on the season. There seems to be a systematic failure at nearly every level on the team at this point in the season. Their 2-0 start seems light years away after Saturday’ 16-13 loss.

Anthony Cosmo was given his first start as a Bandit, but he didn’t last the full 60 minutes. Mike Thompson replaced the trade acquisition after Cosmo allowed 15 goals. Darris Kilgour was quick to direct the blame to his defense, perhaps the weakest unit for this struggling team.

Buffalo received big games from Mark Steenhuis (1+6), John Tavares (1+4) and Luke Wiles (4+1). However, the defense let the team down again. John Grant Jr. rolled up nine points (4+5) – which included his 500th career goal – while Gavin Prout and Adam Jones each had seven points of their own. Continue reading

Bandits Shootaround: Bandits look to stop skid against potent Mammoth

The long layoff for the Bandits practically has the team beginning a new season. The last home game was one month ago and Buffalo February 17 road loss was the last game action the team saw.

A one-week bye, plus the All Star Game, has kept the Bandits away from regular season action for some time. They’re mired in a four-game losing streak and the sledding remains tough. Buffalo will host the NLL’s best team and most potent scorer tonight with John Grant Jr. and the Colorado Mammoth in town.

This will be the first chance Bandits fans have a chance to see new goaltender Anthony Cosmo in action. He was activated earlier in the week, along with Daryl Gibson, after Frank Resetarits and Jimmy Purves were released. There is a chance that Cosmo serves as a backup to Mike Thompson, but considering the time he has had to shake off some rust, I’d expect him in the crease tonight.

Buffalo’s additional decision to move Travis Irving Gibson to the active roster was likely motivated by the earlier trade of Jeff Cornwall and the fact that Purves just wasn’t an effective piece for the Bandits this season. The same can be said for Resetarits. He is a solid player, but is well down the depth chart with the team. Between Luke Wiles, Kevin Buchanan and the rest of last year’s incumbents, there was little time for Resetarits to play. Not to mention, he was taking floor time for more potent weapons on a team that hasn’t yet lit things up offensively.

Crease Crashing

Anthony Cosmo should get the nod for the Bandits. He has had a ton of time to practice and adjust to the system. Cosmo was acquired to shore up some questionable goaltending. The season is too fragile at this point to wait on him any longer.

Chris Levis was selected to the West Division All Star team. Need I say more? Levis is playing behind a potent offense led by one of the most talented offensive stars to play in the NLL. Regardless, the Mammoth are the NLL’s best team and Levis has been a big part of that.

Stopping Grant

If John Tavares is the Gretzky of lacrosse, John Grant Jr. is Mario Lemieux. I maintain that Tavares will go down as the best to ever play the game, but Grant is a supreme talent that has the gamebreaker ability few have. Grant will not likely break any of Tavares’ records, but he could probably be considered a more dangerous scorer when compared to the Bandits great. Buffalo will have a hell of a time trying to contain him and I doubt that they will be able to hold him to anything less than seven or eight points. Grant has 59 points on the season, just shy of 10 points per game.

Depth Charge

The Bandits made strides to strengthen their depth scoring this season. All they accomplished was making a change to who their leading scorers are. The depth scoring remains absent while Tavares, Wiles, Mat Giles and Chad Culp pace the offense. Mark Steenhuis, Roger Vyse, Kevin Buchanan and others need to start chipping in. Creating and finishing has nearly been as big of an issue as the goaltending this season.

Bandits spend a pair of picks to acquire Cosmo

Mired in a four-game losing streak and a two-week layoff prior to a home game against the NLL’s most potent offense, the Buffalo Bandits made a major move. The Bandits sent two first-round picks to Minnesota for goaltender Anthony Cosmo.

This was a major step for the team to take. Cosmo is a proven talent and wasn’t seeing time in Minnesota due to a logjam of talent and his own holdout. Cosmo wanted to play somewhere in the East and he now has his wish. The Swarm were able to hold him for a high return for two reasons; his overall talent and the fact that they didn’t need to unload him.

Buffalo was in dire need of a change. Whether a change in net or in the form of a runner was what was needed, is up for debate. Mike Thompson has struggled mightily after getting two wins to start the year. He has had a number of rough goals against, particularly squeakers that probably shouldn’t be going in. Cosmo is capable of being one of the league’s best and should give some spark to the team.

There were a few rumors swirling around the Bandits earlier in the week. Some mentioned Cosmo, others whispered at the option for an even bigger trade to go down. Looking at the four-game skid, there are a few issues that the team has. I don’t know if goaltending would be at the top of the list in that regard, but Cosmo should provide the necessary stability in net.

Giving up two first-round picks probably wasn’t much of an issue for Darris Kilgour either. He has never been one to build through the draft. He already parted with one recent draft pick (2nd round pick Jeff Cornwall) and made a few moves that allowed Jay Thorimbert back in the lineup. Thorimbert’s presence has forced Jeremy Thompson (1st round pick) to the press box for the time being.  Considering these two moves and the team’s relative draft history, I’m fairly certain Kilgour isn’t going to lose sleep over not having those picks.

What also should be remembered is that the Bandits had a bonus pick thanks to the Chris Corbiel trade. So they’re really only losing one pick of their own to this trade. As it stands now, the Corbiel trade will be a win for the Bandits – especially if Cosmo provides an immediate impact. The Bandits are essentially acquring Cosmo for Corbiel and a first-round pick, I’ll leave it to Cosmo’s performance to determine the value of the trade.

I still expect to see another trade come down the pipe for the Bandits. They’re getting contributions from different players on offense, but the attack has stagnated in certain areas, namely from the likes of Kevin Buchanan, Mark Steenhuis and Roger Vyse. If Kilgour is able to poach another major offensive weapon on the trade market there is no reason to think the Bandits would be able to string together a big run to secure a playoff berth.