Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series, previewing each NLL team as the season approaches. Today, we preview the Vancouver Warriors. The Warriors are coming off of some major changes and look to have an improved 2019 season. See our other previews here: Calgary Roughnecks, New England Black Wolves, Colorado Mammoth, Buffalo Bandits, Toronto Rock, Saskatchewan Rush, Philadelphia Wings, San Diego Seals.
In the sporting world the term rebuild is a buzz word that often gets misused, overhyped, and thrown around aimlessly. So much so that many don’t quite grasp the concept of what an actual reconstruction or altered direction takes for a team and franchise. The Vancouver Warriors, however, are a representation of a rebuild in the truest sense of the word.
Over the past six months the British Columbia based club has undergone a change of ownership, location, name, and substantial roster turnover. The shift of scenery and identity took place this past summer when the Vancouver Canucks purchased the team bringing them from the Fraser Valley and into downtown Vancouver to play at Rogers Arena.
Formerly known as the Stealth, and calling the Langley Events Centre home for the past five seasons, a fresh start and new atmosphere should be good for a group that has gone 25-65 while making only one playoff appearance during that stretch.
Aside from everything that has taken place off the floor there have been major changes to the on floor product as well.
The biggest splash of the offseason took place on the Pacific Coast when the Warriors acquired lefty sniper Mitch Jones from Buffalo in exchange for last season’s team points leader Corey Small. With the move Vancouver brings in a local talent that will provide great finishing around the net and a significant power play threat. Jones, who has quickly become one of the premiere offensive producers in the game, has seen his stock ascend tremendously after a few standout seasons with New Westminster of the WLA. The Delta, BC native will join Salmonbellies teammate Logan Schuss which should result in instant chemistry on the left-hand side of the offense for the Warriors.
In another significant move, Vancouver also released Rhys Duch after 11 seasons. Now in Calgary, Duch leaves the franchise as it’s all time leading scorer and will inevitably leave some sizable shoes to fill on the right side of the offense. Younger players like Malcom, McBride, Rahe, Bal, and rookie Chetner will be looked towards to fill that void and provide the Warriors with some depth offensively, something they have been in search of the past several seasons.
Although it hasn’t necessarily shown in terms of the standings, the Warriors, under head coach Jamie Batley, have placed a greater emphasis on conditioning and defense. That was further evidenced in this year’s draft as the Stealth used their top two picks to select Brampton Jr A defender Travis Burton and Nanaimo’s Nate Wade.
Both will bring physicality and size to the Warrior lineup to pair alongside the transition abilities of veterans Justin Salt and Tylder Codron for a team in search of more stability out the back gate.
Aside from the test of depth that will inevitably take place throughout the season the biggest key for Vancouver’s success will reside in the play of Aaron Bold between the pipes. It will be interesting to see if being back in the familiar confines of the Western Division and the reduced travel will lead to an uptick in Aaron’s play from last year.
Bold is as fit as nearly anyone in the league and should be able to provide the Warriors with a large amount of quality minutes throughout the season, something they haven’t had much of since moving from Everett.
There is certainly an identity being formed on the left coast and the winds of change appear to be pushing this team in the right direction. It will likely take a couple seasons for the Warriors to build themselves up to championship contender status and the upcoming drafts will be paramount as they look to continue to stockpile young talent.
Especially in a market on the lower mainland where fans understand what a quality product is, patience is important. Look for an improved version of the team that took the floor a year ago and while their season win total might not drastically reflect that, their performances and competitiveness level will.
For the Warriors’ full schedule, click here.