They made a hasty exit from the National Lacrosse League playoffs, but don’t expect sweeping changes from the Calgary Roughnecks.
Despite an 11-7 loss Saturday to the Edmonton Rush, the group of Roughnecks that hits the floor in 2011 will be similar to the one that walked out of the Saddledome as first-round losers.
“Offensively, we still believe we’re real good, but we didn’t show it on Saturday,” said owner-president-GM Brad Banister.
“I’m glad it was an Alberta team that beat us rather than anybody else. It’s good for the province and their franchise. It’s important to minor lacrosse to have two competitive teams here.
“If we were going to lose to anybody, I’m glad it’s them. We will support them in their playoff run.”
The Rush, who made their first post-season appearance, will now travel to Washington to face the Stealth for the second round.
After the loss, many of the veteran players said urgency was missing from the team this year.
Banister is sticking up for his leaders by arguing injuries played a bigger part than
they let on.
Tracey Kelusky missed three games with a concussion earlier this season, Kaleb Toth sat out six outings with hamstring and knee problems and Banister believes leading scorer Josh Sanderson played hurt most of the second half.
All three are coming back next season when they hope to improve on a 10-6 record, which was still good enough for third-best in the NLL.
The core group should remain as none of the older veterans are expected to walk away, and Banister said those tough decisions in terms
of releases haven’t been made yet.
“We don’t want to go on emotions,” Banister said. “We will sit down as a group in the next few weeks and figure out which way we want to go.
“We have three picks in the first round and there is some good talent out there. This is a deep draft.”
Banister gives the first-year coaching staff of head man Dave Pym and assistants
Curt Malawsky (offence) and Rod Jensen (defence) a passing grade.
Considering the team was on a four-game win streak to finish the season, the coaches had the Riggers rolling when it mattered most.
“It wasn’t so much the coaching,” Banister said about the loss to the Rush.
“We were only two games off a record year (of 2009).
“With 11 teams in this league, everybody is awful good. A best-of-one series isn’t the way I would prefer to do it. I would like to have two-game total points or a best-of-three, but with the guys having work commitments, it’s pretty tough to do.”
In the draft, Banister would like to find a transition star similar as Edmonton’s Brodie Merrill or the Riggers’
“We really like two-dimensional player, guys who can transition the ball up and work both ends of the floor,” Banister said. “We would like to be a transition team, but we’re still going to have talented guys like Josh and Tracey who are one-end players.
“Every team has a couple of strictly offensive guys. It would be nice to have a traditional lacrosse team where guys stay on the floor a little longer. I find it more entertaining to watch.
“We’ve targeted one or two guys already but we’re not going to tip our hand. Hopefully, we can inject some youth into the team. There might be a couple different faces but it should be close to the same roster as this year.”