New coach Glenn Clark has taken the Rock back to the drawing board in hopes of turning around a club that struggled to a franchise-worst 8-8 finish a year ago.
The Rock's National Lacrosse League season kicks off Saturday at Rochester's Blue Cross Arena, the team's personal house of horrors. The Rock is 1-11 overall there, including last spring's 16-8 playoff trampling.
The Rock will have a new look this season, both in terms of playing style and the lineup. Gone is former general manager/coach Terry Sanderson's explosive, but slow to get back, attack. In its place, Clark has instituted a quick transition game that he hopes will generate a greater variety of chances, while limiting the defensive lapses that were all too common last season.
"I want to see a disciplined team that pays attention to details, that plays with a lot of energy, pays attention to transition and getting off a little quicker," Clark said.
Also banished was former NLL MVP Colin Doyle, who was shipped West with Darren Halls in exchange for promising youngsters Ryan Benesch, Chad Thompson and Kevin Fines.
During nine seasons in Toronto, Doyle made a habit of scoring goals when they mattered most -- at the end of games -- but Clark said teams need a variety of scoring threats so that opponents can't focus on one attacker.
"If you rely on one guy too much it hurts you," he said. "Teams are getting so good defensively that if the ball is in one stick you're very predictable."
Clark expects players such as Aaron Wilson and Matt Shearer to flourish in the more balanced attack and will give Benesch a shot to contribute immediately.
"(Benesch) is a lights-out scorer, he's a talent. You give those talents time to go," Clark said of the first overall pick.
Though the Rock's veterans were sorry to see Sanderson, Doyle and a few other faces go, they are excited about the season.
"Some people say it feels like (Clark's) dumbing it down, but he's going back to basics for a reason," Dan Ladouceur said.
"He's showing us everything from the basic pick and there's no excuse for us not to execute, and I think that's great because it puts a lot of accountability back on us."
Captain Jim Veltman will see more time in transition and less up front under Clark.
"Glenn's idea is in order to be excellent, you need to practise excellent," Veltman said. "I like the direction that he has taken right now."
The team must adapt, but will welcome back NLL scoring leader Josh Sanderson, loose-ball vacuum Veltman and scorers Blaine Manning, Shearer and Wilson. As well, longtime starter Bob Watson should get off to a better start in goal after a strong summer lacrosse season.
"I've got high expectations," Clark said. "I think we've got a great group of players that can be one of the teams that competes for a championship."