The Buffalo Bandits spent the offseason trying to turn around a team that had missed the playoffs for the first time in 11 years and posted back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in franchise history.
Director of Lacrosse Operations, Scott Loffler, and General Manager, Steve Dietrich, started with a change behind the bench as they fired Darris Kilgour and hired former Bandit player and assistant coach, Troy Cordingley.
Cordingley has just been relieved of his duties as head coach of the Toronto Rock when the Bandits hired him. He led Toronto to the playoffs in all four seasons with the team and won a championship in 2011.
They then set to turn around an offensive unit that scored the second fewest goals in the National Lacrosse League last season. Buffalo acquired former NLL Rookie of the Year and scoring champion, Ryan Benesch, from Minnesota. Benesch has averaged 30 goals a season and nearly 70 points in his seven years in the league and will provide a needed boost to an offense that has struggled to score.
The Bandits also acquired transition player Andrew Watt in the deal for Benesch.
Mark Steenhuis should see a resurgence on offense this season as well. Steenhuis’s output has trailed off considerably since scoring a career-high 51 goals in 2009. His numbers went down as his role within Darris Kilgour’s system changed to playing a more of a transition game as well as providing support on defense. Now Cordingley is moving Steenhuis back to the front end to give him a chance to regain the scoring touch.
Steenhuis is starting the season on a healthier note as he had sports hernia surgery in the offseason to repair a nagging injury.
The Bandits also added Hamburg-native Joe Resetarits this past fall in a draft-day trade. Resetarits is entering just his second season in the NLL as he scored 24 points in 14 games last season for Calgary, the team that drafted him sixth overall in 2012.
Future Hall of Famers John Tavares and Shawn Williams are back to pad their career stats and chase another title. Tavares is not expected to play in all 18 games this season but will still provide a spark on offense as he has done for the past 22 seasons with the Bandits. Tavares did not play lacrosse over the summer to help heal a nagging calf injury. The 39-year-old Williams led the Bandits in scoring last season. He returns for his 17th season in the NLL.
Dhane Smith is back after an impressive rookie season that saw him lead the Bandits in goals. Cordingley anticipates using Smith more on the defensive side of the field but look for him to still be a scoring threat in transition.
Billy Dee Smith is expected to lead the veteran group of defensemen. Smith signed a new two year contract this offseason and will be joined by returning veterans Steve Priolo, Derek Suddons and Glen Bryan. Buffalo also added tough guy Rory Smith to the defense. Smith has racked up 327 penalty minutes in 85 career games over six seasons.
Anthony Cosmo is back in net for Bandits. Cosmo has struggled somewhat since coming over from Minnesota in 2012. It would help the Bandits immensely if he put up the same numbers he did in his last two seasons with Boston where he had a goals against average below 10.00.
The Bandits open their season Saturday night as they host the Philadelphia Wings at the First Niagara Center. You can catch all the Bandits games on our sister station ESPN 1520 AM plus coverage on WGR550.com with post game reports and interviews with coaches and players.