Compiled and written by “Muffler” Mike Kostiuk
2019-2020 Record: 4-9, 5th place West Division
F Matthew Dinsdale, D Garrett McIntosh, T Reid Bowering, G Steve Fryer.
D Matt Beers, F Joel McCready, D lan Hawksbee, D Chris O’Dougherty, D Sam Clare, T James Rahe.
One of the most difficult tasks for a General Manager in any sport is to take an aging team roster and turn it over into a newer, younger core. It typically takes several years to accomplish, whether re-building gradually with strategic drafting, or via the “fire sale method”, where older stars are traded or even given their outright release to make space (both on the roster and financially) to sign new, young faces. The flipside is, those faces are then immediately given heavy expectations to be the future of the franchise, which more often than not results in several years of mediocre seasons, with the usual accompanying growing pains and general angst from the fanbase.
Vancouver Warriors GM Dan Richardson is currently in the midst of such a rebuild, but appears to be employing the best parts of both methods. Despite the team’s poor record during the 2019-2020 season, the organization may be reaching the turning point of the rebuild process sooner than anticipated. Let’s take a look at the re-tooled Vancouver Warriors roster ahead of the 2021-2022 season…
The offense returns its top 5 scorers – Keegan Bal and Jordan McBride on the right side, Mitch Jones, Logan Schuss, and Riley Loewen on the left. New additions to the right side of the offense include Matthew Dinsdale (signed from Saskatchewan in free agency) and Kyle Killen (acquired in a trade with Colorado); both additions may now carry more significance in the wake of the retirements of 11-year veteran right-hander Joel McCready and forward turned transition player James Rahe. The left side welcomes 2021 first-round draft pick Adam Charalambides, who has not played box in five years, but logged impressive numbers at Rutgers in 2021, returning to the field after two major knee injuries plus time off due to the COVID pandemic. If they can stay healthy, this group could be one of the more potent units in the West Division.
Vancouver’s defense was subject to even more re-tooling than the offense since the team last played. Matt Beers, the team’s captain the last three seasons, signed with Saskatchewan in free agency, lan Hawksbee, whose 1,445 loose balls over a 14-year career ranks ninth in NLL history, recently announced his retirement, along with long-time defender Chris O’Dougherty. Additionally, promising rookie defender Sam Clare was selected by Panther City in the 2021 Expansion Draft.
In response, the Warriors signed a pair of veteran free agent defensemen in Brett Mydske (Saskatchewan: 2020 free agency) and Garrett Mcintosh (San Diego; 2021 free agency). Former Saskatchewan Rush enforcer Nik Bilic is also back with the team after an injury prematurely ended his 2019-2020 season. Add imposing younger players such as Owen Barker, Tyson Roe, and 2020 first-round draft pick Reid Bowering, and this defensive unit immediately sports a much grittier look than it did in 2019-2020. In the crease, incumbent starting goaltender Eric Penney could be pushed in training camp by veteran free agents Steve Fryer and Alex Buque.
However, questions still remain both in the transition game and on face-offs. The departure of Beers and retirements of Rahe, Hawksbee, and O’Dougherty are significant losses for a team that already ranked in the bottom third of the league in both transition points (9th) and transition goals (10th). At the X, the Warriors ranked 11th out of 13 teams in Faceoff Win Percentage in 2019-2020. With Bab Snider unsigned (as of this writing), face-off duties may fall primarily to Tyrell Hamer-Jackson (16 of 43 at the X in 2 games during 2019-2020). As stated previously. there will be a lot of new faces in these roles, all of whom will be given sizeable expectations to keep Vancouver’s rebuild moving in the right direction.