The Vancouver Warriors season is fast approaching. But, despite the season-opener being just 16 days away, Warriors general manager Dan Richardson has a message for all the players currently on the 40-man roster.
“The message that I’m going to deliver on Day One is: ‘None of you should feel comfortable here’,” The Warriors GM said.
Last season’s woeful 2-16 record doesn’t meet the Warriors standards. Under new ownership, and a completely revamped staff, fans and players alike should expect substantial changes during the process of creating a different culture than that of the Vancouver Stealth.
As we’ve seen over the last 24 hours, Richardson is holding true to his words. Training camp hasn’t even begun and he and his staff have already made substantial moves.
“When you take over a 2-16 team,” Richardson said. “When I look at it, you can’t stand pat. You’ve got to make some changes, and in our case, they’re going to be substantial changes.”
Head Coach Chris Gill is prepared to be part of that change by pushing his team to play with a certain effort he feels has been lacking in recent years.
“We’re going to be a team that plays from the first whistle to the last whistle,” Gill said. “I don’t think they can say they were that team the last few years. We want to be tough to play against and we want every shift to count. We’re going to be focused on the little things that make teams win.”
Gill brings a strong offensive-minded strategy to a team that was last in the NLL in goals scored and second-to-last in assists last season. Furthermore, the last time the former Stealth franchise was even in the top-half of the league in offensive production was when they scored an NLL-best 203 goals in 2011.
The former Colorado Mammoth head coach understands that this season will help cement the building blocks of success, but also recognizes it will take time for this team to become an NLL Cup contender.
“Let’s be realistic here,” Gill said. “We’re not the favourites to win The Cup by any means; we’re going to have to earn that. We’re a ways away from that, but we’re working towards it. It’s up to the coaches to put [the players] in a good spot and in a good system for us to be the favourites. We’re fighting for that cup, but we’re definitely not in the talk to be getting it right now.”
Gill and his coaching staff are hoping that the Warriors younger players will be able to contribute and prove their worth on the roster.
“They need to play their game,” Gill said. “Everyone needs to fall into place. They need to play hard, smart and disciplined lacrosse. They need to come with an energy and a purpose. We’ve talked to all of the guys, and we’re not as concerned with how many goals we score, but how many goals we let in. A lot of those young guys will be on the backend. They’ve got to be able to play tough, hard-nosed defence.”
It will help the younger players adjust on defence knowing that the Warriors newly-signed goaltender, Aaron Bold, will be in between the pipes. Bold’s veteran leadership and NLL Championship-pedigree was exactly what Richardson was looking for when the Warriors brought him in.
“Any club I’ve been a part of,” Richardson said. We’ve always started on the back-end. You start with your goaltending and then your defence, and that’s what we did here. We went out and got arguably the best goaltender in the league in Aaron Bold.”
Through a strong NLL Draft and key offensive signings, Richardson believes that this team is going to prove that this year’s squad is exponentially better than last year’s record might suggest.
“We’re going to surprise some teams,” Richardson said. “Teams are going to look at us and say, ‘they were 2-16 last season’ and I hope they do. We think we’re better than that. In our mind, we think we’ve made the changes to get back to being respectable.”
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