by “Muffler” Mike Kostiuk
2019-2020 Record: 5-5, 4th place West Division
F Tanner Cook, F Kyle Waters, T Harrison Matsuoka, T Ethan Ticehurst
F Dane Dobbie, F Rhys Duch, D Tyson Bell, D Chad Cummings, D Anthony Kalinich
Technically, the Calgary Roughnecks remain the defending Champions, almost two and half years after lifting the NLL Cup in 2019. But the franchise has already begun taking on a different appearance since that now-iconic overtime Cup-winning goal was scored (and I don’t just mean the new uniforms and color scheme). A somewhat minimalist approach by the front office, maintaining a steady amount of draft picks each year, prioritizing less glamourous trades to blockbuster ones, and taking into consideration who might be lost to Expansion have allowed the team to keep their roster at near-peak capability. Let’s look at the Calgary Roughnecks as they prepare to defend the NLL Cup in the 2021-2022 season…
Departures on Calgary’s offensive end in recent years have included Jeff Shattler, Holden Cattoni, Rhys Duch, and now Dane Dobbie signing with San Diego in free agency this summer. While the caliber of players mentioned above tends to make those departures seem all the more crippling, what tends to get lost in this slower-paced shuffling of personnel is the long-term planning the front office does, as described above.
With Dobbie’s departure, Curtis “Superman” Dickson is now the primary focal point of the offense, with a realistic chance to surpass Dobbie as the franchise’s all-time points leader in the next 2-3 years. His supporting cast consists of brothers Jesse (left) and Marshal (right) King, hometown product Dan Taylor (left), Ryan Martel (left), Tyler Pace (right), and recent draft picks Tanner Cook (2020) and Kyle Waters (2021). With so much talent at forward across the league, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Calgary also keeps an eye on capable forwards who just miss the final rosters of other teams following training camp, picking them up in a “low-risk, high reward”-type free agent signing.
Calgary’s defense has experienced a similar string of high-profile player departures in recent years: Dan MacRae, Scott and Mike Carnegie, Jon Harnett, and now Tyson Bell (signed with Halifax this summer). In addition, Chad Cummings and Anthony Kalinich were traded to Panther City for the 15th pick in the 2021 draft, which was then packaged in a trade with Philadelphia to move up to the 10th pick in the draft (highlighting the front office prowess discussed above). The 10th pick was used on Justin Inacio, who will compete with incumbent veteran Tyler Burton for face-off duties.
Joining Burton as elder statesmen on the defensive unit are Greg Harnett and Mitch Wilde (11-year veteran Curtis Manning remains unsigned as of this writing). Behind them is a large core of younger players, including transition wizard Zach Currier, Reece Callies, Shane Simpson, and Eli Salama. Despite the impressive junior resumes of the aforementioned young core, the Roughnecks ranked dead last in both Loose Balls and Caused Turnovers during the 2019-2020 season. With an eye on improving those rankings, Calgary drafted transition players Harrison Matsuoka and Ethan Ticehurst in 2020, along with Inacio this year. Fans can expect the infusion of these new young players to greatly increase the speed of the defensive unit, and allow goaltending phenom Christian Del Bianco the chance to expand on his transition assisting skills. The new core will also help to bridge the age gap as the older veterans approach retirement, likely as the front office had planned all along (wink wink).