Friday, March 9, 2012

Peaks and Valleys- A weekly look at the NLL

After a hiatus to handle some family stuff (a little blogger on its way), we are back this week with a look at the Buffalo Bandits. Coles notes version: Time to rebuild the team!

Peaks and Valleys- Buffalo what?

Oh how quickly a 2 and 0 start can evaporate. For the first 11 quarters of action, the Buffalo Bandits looked like they would run away with the East Division. They had soundly beaten Toronto and Rochester and were on their way to beating Philadelphia (leading 9-7 heading into the 4th quarter). Suddenly, the wheels fell off. Philly outscores Buffalo 6-1 to steal a win on the road and Buffalo hasn’t won since then.

The Bandits have dropped 5 straight games and look awful in doing it. They have trailed heading to the 4th quarter in their last 4 games (not a recipe for success). They traded for the rights to Anthony Cosmo thinking that goaltending was an area they needed to improve. Cosmo was rusty in his first action and didn’t last the whole game.

But what is the real issue for the dreadful results of late? Are there other issues that are getting missed? Let’s take a look at how they got here.

Step 1- Whiff the Boston Dispersal Draft
Buffalo took 2 players in the Boston Dispersal Draft, Kevin Buchanan and Damon Edwards. Edwards is now in Toronto after a stint in CLax and it looks like Buchanan left his game in Boston. For Boston in 2011 he had 24 goals and 33 assists. For Buffalo he has 2 goals and 10 assists. His points per game average has dropped from 3.8 to 2.0 this season. That is two picks that were misses for the Bandits and mistakes like that in a very competitive league doom a team to failure.

Step 2- Bad drafting
On top of whiffing the latest dispersal draft, Buffalo has been anemic in the Entry Draft too. They had no first round pick in 2011 and their 2010 first round pick (Travis Irving) has dressed for 2 games this season. In 2009 they took Kyle Clancey ahead of Stephen Leblanc and Scott Tinning, both of whom are contributors for their respective teams today. Clancey isn’t even on the Bandits active roster. They had no first round pick in 2007 or 2008. That’s five straight years without any influx of youthful talent.

Step 3- Keep on, keeping on
Darris Kilgour has been the coach since 2003. Mark Steenhuis has been a Bandit since 2003. John Tavares has been a Bandit his entire career.
The point? That’s a long time! These 3 are the core of the team but they are all now a little long in the tooth.

Steenhuis has gone from 101 points and 117 Looseballs in 2009 to 61 points and 82 Looseballs in 2011. This season he is on pace for his lowest point total since 2004. Like Buchanan, his point production has dropped by half over time. When your best player is over 40 and your second best player has production dropping like a stone, you are in a lot of trouble.

Step 4- Additions that are not adding much
Luke Wiles has had a fantastic season in Buffalo. His stats are up after his move from Washington and it looks like he is hitting his peak producing years. That is good for Buffalo.

What about another recent addition though? Tracey Kelusky has had a miserable year. In 2011 with Buffalo he had a respectable 54 points with a 3.37 per game average. In 2010 with Calgary he averaged 4.9 points per game and in 2009 he averaged a fantastic 5.25 points per game.

In 2012? Kelusky is on pace for 36 points (a career low!) with a measily 2.25 per game average.

Conclusion- A call for rebuilding
What now for Buffalo? It’s clear that they have an aging and underperforming roster in need of changes. It is also clear that they have few assets in the pipeline right now that will help them change that (Their 2012 first round pick was also traded away).

Do they move a player like Steenhuis while he still can draw some value in return? (Yes)

Do they change the coach in order to effect some changes in their organization and make a youth movement? (Yes)

Is this a team built for short term success? (No)

They may not want to hear this in Buffalo, but the Bandits need to move into rebuilding mode. They have some good pieces to build around (Wiles, good young defenders and Cosmo) and there several real quality players coming up in the next few years to draft to help speed the process.


  1. I was thinking the same thing recently. The Bandits have been very good for a long time, but is that because Kilgour is a great GM/coach, or did he manage to get lucky and build a team that has managed to stay good for a while? Personally, I think he's a great coach, but it still may be time for the Bandits to move on.

    How much do you think the Bandits would get for Steenhuis?

  2. He might be a great coach but his drafting record shows he is a bad GM. Having Tavares and Steenhuis covered up a lot of that for a long time but they long in the tooth now and the papier mache is wearing thin.

    I think they need to find a way to get a first rounder this year. Whether Steenhuis attracts that or not is up for debate but I think it could be done with the right team/sucker.

  3. Before Buffalo makes any decisions they need to ask themselves whether this is truely the downfall or whether it's just simply bad luck.

    In the NHL, having a run of a few bad games is something you can recover from, it will balance out over the long season. Not so much in the NLL.

    Kelusky is down from previous years in terms of shooting %. Kelusky is under 17.5%, and he's a regular 25% shooter.

    Steenhuis is a bit worrisome because his shots on goal are way down. Some of that might have to do with Wiles putting a lot on net, but Steenhuis's numbers won't improve much if he can't get the ball to the net more.

    In terms of goaltending, a .750 sv% is pretty much the Mendoza line in terms of NLL goaltenders, and none of Buffalo's goaltenders are above it on the year.

    1. Buffalo is old as dirt up front. Their top 5 scorers (JT, Culp, Wiles, Steener and Giles) have average age of 33.8.
      In comparison Rochester's top 5 scorers have average 28 years.
      Even the Rock who many accuse of being old up front have an average of 30.2 years (I used Doyle in top 5- he would be if not for injury plagued season).
      Buffalo is in need of major changes. Kelusky's stats aren't going to get better (he's 36), Giles' stats aren't going to get better (he's 36) and Steenhuis' stats have dropped precipitously over past 3 seasons.