Thursday, January 3, 2013

9 Teams In 9 Days: Buffalo Bandits

By Avry Lewis-McDougall

Last but not least in our Eastern division previews are New York's other franchise in the form of the Bandits.

Buffalo last year finished last in the Eastern Division but was able to get into the playoffs falling to the Rock in the thrilling Eastern Division semi final 7-6 in Toronto.

Last season, the 43 year old John Tavares had a 87 point year in his 21th season in the league and still shows no signs of slowing down going into year 22.

Offensively he was also helped by Mark Steenhuis and Luke Wiles who were electric for the team with 39 and 27 goals respectively.

With the amount of goals that the Bandits scored last season, 198, it may seem baffling to some as to how this squad didn't go further in the playoffs even with a record of 7-9. 

In the off season Buffalo, saw numerous changes with guys like Brandon Francis, Kevin Buchanan, Jeremy Thompson and Tom Montour gone.

The Bandits, did add to it's roster Shawn Williams who last year had a 52 point season with Edmonton. Williams will bring more offensive flare to Buffalo as he returns to the team that he played for in 2000 and 2001.

In the draft Buffalo in the first round took Dhane Smith (who is the cousin of Bandits vet Billy Dee Smith who himself signed a one year deal to return to the club) from the Kitchener-Waterloo Braves of the OLA. Smith, is a speed demon who had 38 goals and lead the OLA Junior A league in points last season with 107.

You have to think that he will learn a lot playing with guys like Tavares and Steenhuis, to possibly become to next big offensive force for the team.

In net last year it was quite interesting with Mike Thompson and Anthony Cosmo. Neither guy played well during the regular season with Thompson having a save percentage of .753 and Cosmo's being at .759. In 2013 it will be Cosmo back again and former Wings goalie ,Kurtis Wagar, who signed a one year deal in the off season.

With the many changes to the roster and head coach Darris Kilgour no longer pulling double duty as both coach and GM, it will be interesting to see if this is a year of improvement or a step back. 

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