The Buffalo Bandits finished dead last in the 2012 NLL East, with a sub-par 7-9 record. For a team with the history and pride of the Bandits, this was simply considered unacceptable.
First order of business to return to former glory was changes in the front office. Hall of Fame goaltender Steve Dietrich was named general manager, taking over the role from Darris Kilgour, who remains Buffalo's head coach.
Retired from the Bandits this year are goaltender Mike Thompson and defenseman Darryl Gibson, creating some room for new blood.
Among the acquisitions is Shawn Williams, who came from the Edmonton Rush via the Minnesota Swarm. Williams scored 68 points last season, is part of the extremely small 1,000 point club in the NLL, and set the league ironman standard last year (196 consecutive games played and counting).
Brendon Doran also came over in the Williams deal and should provide some depth on defense.
The Bandits have also acquired Jamie Rooney and Glen Bryan from the Toronto Rock. Rooney can provide some secondary scoring to Buffalo's attack while Bryan is a young defenseman with upside.
More recently, Buffalo inked veteran defender Derek Suddons. Suddons was a key part of one of the top defenses in the NLL last year with Edmonton and will add experience to the Bandits.
In one more addition coming from the Rush, the bandits picked up veteran forward Aaron Wilson in exchange for Jeremy Thompson. Wilson racked up a solid 31 points last year.
Wilson, Williams and Rooney join a veteran offense that is led by the ageless John Tavares. Tavares is the all-time scoring leader in the NLL and had yet another 80-point, 41-goal season last year. One can only assume that he'll lose a step sooner or later, but it hasn't happened yet.
Joining them is Tracey Kelusky who, unlike Tavares, is showing signs of aging as he enters his late 30s. His 28 points last season represented the worst production of his career, so Buffalo will be looking for him to return to form.
Anthony Cosmo is back between the pipes to take on goaltending duties. After signing part way through the season last year, he posted a 3-3 record and a 12.41 goals against average, good enough to earn him another one-year contract for 2013.
A number of question marks for the Bandits still remain.
As of Nov. 26, scoring transition Mark Steenhuis and team loose-ball leader Scott Self were placed on the Physically Unable To Perform list.
Luke Wiles, who finished the 2012 season with the second most points on the team (70), remains on the Bandits' protected list, but there's no indication yet as to whether he'll be suiting up.
If the Bandits have any hope of competing, they'll need one or two of these guys back, and soon.
Finally, the Bandits will be looking for help from some of their young draftees.
First-round pick Dhane Smith and second rounder Carter Bender should see time in the offensive mix, while Hayden Smith's defensive presence should provide help in front of Cosmo.
Buffalo visits the Philadelphia Wings on Jan. 11 to open the new season, and will show whether all the changes the Bandits have made will turn them back into a contender.
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