Rock seeks redemption

RYAN WOLSTAT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

It will be a long and uneasy off-season for the Toronto Rock and its coaching staff.

National Lacrosse League expansion and the failings made evident in last weekend's 16-8 playoff demolition at the hands of the Rochester Knighthawks, guarantees that the Rock team that takes the floor next January will look quite different from the one that muddled through an uninspiring campaign this year.

Expansion additions in Chicago and New York will cost the Rock two players. The deep Rock can only protect 13 runners and a goalie, so the new teams will be able to pick from a solid list of talent later this summer.

Rock general manager/coach Terry Sanderson never has been afraid to pull the trigger on a trade and this off-season should be no exception.

"There will be other changes," Sanderson said.

When the Rock got crushed in the playoffs two seasons ago, Sanderson pulled off the NLL's biggest blockbuster trade, bringing his son Josh -- this year's league scoring champion -- to town.

Sanderson was not ready to say exactly what he has in mind this time around, but did admit he'd like the team to get more athletic defensively.

The fate of the offence is not as clear. The Rock returned almost exactly the same lineup as its 2005 offensive juggernaut, yet scoring was a huge problem. The Rock connected just 182 times in 2006, 45 less than its 2005 total. Those three fewer goals scored per game were a major reason why the Rock went just 8-8 in the regular season, compared to 12-4 a year earlier.

FRUSTRATED

"Everything went in for us last year, this year it didn't," a frustrated Blaine Manning said after the playoff loss in Rochester. Manning slipped to 80 points from 105 a season ago.

Rock captain Jim Veltman, who plans to return as a 41-year-old next season, said he doesn't think the team needs major alterations, but admitted winning the last playoff game of the year is the only way this proud franchise measures a campaign.

"Anything short of a championship is a failed season," he said.


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