NLL 2021-2022 Outlook: Buffalo Bandits

Compiled and Written by “Muffler” Mike Kostiuk

2019-2020 Record: 7-4, T-2nd place North Division

New Faces:

F Connor Fields, F Kyle Buchanan, F Brad McCulley. F Tehoka Nanticoke, D Justin Robinson, D Jordan Stouros

Key Losses:

F Corey Small, F Dan Lintner, D Matt Gilray, D Jon Harnett, D Mitch deSnoo, D Liam Patten

“We Want Five!”

This was the rallying cry for Banditland back in 2016, as they were considered a heavy favorite to win the franchises 5th championship. The Bandits appeared in the finals that year and again in 2019, sporting a consistent playoff-caliber team with a plethora of talent on both ends of the floor. However, championship five has continued to remain elusive, and the Bandits now have the third longest active cup drought in the league (only Colorado and Philadelphia have gone longer since their last Cup victory). Could this finally be the year? Let’s find out as we look at the roster in Buffalo entering the 2021-2022 season…

Offense

The core of this dynamic offensive unit – Dhane Smith, Josh Byrne, Chris Cloutier, and Chase Fraser – remains. Corey Small departed for Philadelphia in free agency, and Dan Lintner was traded to Saskatchewan (more on that in a bit), but GM Steve Dietrich was busy obtaining suitable replacements in Kyle Buchanan (signed in free agency) and 2020 Rookie of the Year Finalist Connor Fields (trade with San Diego). Further firepower arrived with the drafting of Brad McCulley and Tehoka Nanticoke. There’s no reason to believe this unit couldn’t potentially break the single-season team goal scoring record set by the Georgia Swarm in 2017.

Defense

The Bandits’ defensive unit ranked 3rd in the NLL in Caused Turnovers, 1st in Transition Goals, and 3rd in Transition Points, but struggled at the X, ranking last in both faceoff wins and faceoff win percentage. The core group includes veteran mainstays Steve Priolo, Kevin Brownell, Nick Weiss, Bryce Sweeting, and Frank Brown. Since the team last played, former 1st-round draft pick Matt Gilray was traded to Rochester, Mitch de Snoo was traded to Toronto, and Liam Patten was taken by Panther City in the Expansion Draft. Justin Robinson was acquired from Saskatchewan in the Dan Lintner trade and will join a group of young players, including Matt Spanger, lan MacKay, Justin Martin, Brent Noseworthy, and 2020 draft pick Jordan Stouros. whose talents could easily form the future defensive core of the franchise.

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