The Calgary Roughnecks were not happy with how their 2012 campaign wrapped up.
After posting the best record in the National Lacrosse League for the second straight season, the Riggers were promptly and decisively dispatched in the first round of the playoffs by the Edmonton Rush.
The early exit cost Calgary's head coach, Dave Pym, his job. In his three years of running the team, he had the most regular-season wins of any coach in the league. He had just one playoff win to show for it, however, and the organization decided it was time to make a change.
The reins have been handed to Curt Malawsky, who was Pym's top assistant for the last two years. Malawsky is joined by Bob McMahon, who won the Les Bartley Award as NLL head coach of the year in 2002, and Bruce Codd, a former Roughneck defenseman who retired after last season.
Malawsky's goal, without question, is finding a way to translate regular-season success into Calgary's third Champion's Cup.
There have been a couple tweaks to Calgary's lineup, but the core remains largely intact.
The two biggest changes come on the offensive side of things.
Cory Conway was traded to the Rush, freeing up a secondary scoring spot. But more significantly, Kaleb Toth announced his retirement in December. Toth is the Roughnecks' all-time leader in games played, goals and assists. Although his playing time was significantly reduced last year, his presence will be missed.
The remaining group of shooters might make up the most balanced and potent offense in the NLL.
Shawn Evans made an immediate impact on the Roughnecks in his first year with the team by leading it in goals (32) and points (79). Former league MVP Jeff Shattler was right behind him with 31 goals and 72 points.
Curtis Dickson improved on his rookie performance by scoring 31 times and adding 25 assists. Daryl Veltman (62 points) and Scott Ranger (61 points) were also dangerous game in and game out. And then there's Dane Dobbie, who added 50 points in just 13 games.
That's six front-line sticks to fill five offensive spots.
How good are these guys? In ILIndoor.com's annual list of the Top 40 players in the NLL, five of those six players made the list, including Dickson at the No. 6 spot.
And then there are the secondary options.
Aaron Pascas was acquired by the Roughnecks from the Toronto Rush. He scored 23 points as a rookie in 2011 before electing to sit out the 2012 season. Travis Cornwall chipped in 18 points in his rookie season last year.
Rookies Joe Resetarits and Jackson Decker will also be fighting for minutes on the floor.
Geoff Snider is the key piece in transition and also made ILIndoor's Top 40.
Snider has had three of the top 10 seasons all time in the faceoffs-won category. Four times he has made the top-10 all time in loose balls collected. He doesn't hesitate to drop the gloves with anyone. And he can put the ball in the net, scoring 11 times in 14 games last year.
In addition to scoring the second-most goals in the league last year (216, one behind the Colorado Mammoth), Calgary also gave up the fewest goals against (170).
Led by Mike Carnegie (yet another ILIndoor.com Top 40 guy), his brother Scott, team captain Andrew McBride and the Harnett brothers, Greg and Jon, the Roughnecks D has a ton of talent. Add in the veteran presences of Curtis Manning, Peter McFetridge, Nolan Heavenor and Dan McRae, and this squad is miles deep, rock solid and knows how to play as a unit.
The defense keeps things under control in front of Mike Poulin, who put up an outstanding 10.29-goals-against average last season.
The Poulin Wall was yet another Roughneck named to ILIndoor's Top 40. He will be looking to redeem himself following a less-than-stellar playoff performance after coming back from a leg injury that sidelined him at the end of the regular season.
Put all the pieces together, and this looks like a team built to win. It has youth, experience and bags of talent up and down the lineup. Without question, the Roughnecks look like front-runners once again in the NLL West.
The Roughnecks open their season at home against a very dangerous Toronto Rock squad on Jan. 12 in what might turn out to be a sneak preview of this year's Champion's Cup matchup.
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