While fellow National Lacrosse League heavyweights wheeled and dealed at the trade deadline on Thursday, the Toronto Rock and the Buffalo Bandits stood pat. Tonight, the long-time rivals will be attempting to prove their respective general managers made the right call in keeping their rosters intact.
Top spot in the five-team East Division is on the line when the Bandits (8-4) play host to the Rock (7-3) at HSBC Arena.
"Guys can read into (the Rock not making a deal) how they want, but by not making moves, I think that shows we have a lot of confidence in the guys," Rock general manager/coach Terry Sanderson said.
Bandits GM Kurt Silcott has similar positive thoughts about his team.
"Terry Sanderson said to me: 'Sometimes the best trade is the trade you don't make,' " Silcott said.
Other NLL title contenders bolstered their rosters this week. Star forward Paul Gait, the twin brother of Colorado Mammoth legend Gary Gait, came out of retirement to join Gary for a run at a championship. The Arizona Sting added forwards Craig Conn (Minnesota Swarm) and Chris Panos (Mammoth), the Calgary Roughnecks landed forward Ted Dowling from the San Jose Stealth while the Rochester Knighthawks acquired ex-Rock transitional ace Steve Toll from San Jose. Buffalo had explored dealing for Toll and Conn.
"We made a lot of our changes in the off-season," Rock forward Blaine Manning said.
"We've got a good team and Terry believes in all of us. He didn't find it necessary to make any changes and, quite frankly, neither did I."
The game tonight will loom large in the standings. The Bandits-Rock season series is tied at 1-1, meaning the winner tonight holds the key tiebreaker edge.
If the Rock loses, it won't be too far ahead of the fourth-place Philadelphia Wings (6-6). Rochester was 7-4 heading into a game last night in Minnesota against the lowly Swarm.
The top three teams in the East make the playoffs after the 16-game season.
"I think if we don't win (tonight), our thoughts of first place diminish big time," Sanderson said.
The Bandits are coming off a disappointing 12-11 overtime loss in Rochester against the Hawks, during which they blew an 8-2 lead. First overall draft pick Delby Powless suffered a leg injury in that game and is questionable for tonight.
"Every game is a first-place game now," Bandits forward John Tavares told the Buffalo News. "This is like a playoff game for us and for (Toronto). Everything is up for grabs."