Photo Credit - Dan Brodie
(Vancouver, BC – Wednesday, May 7, 2014) – It wasn’t the season anyone in the Stealth organization was anticipating, but it’s not uncharted territory for the Stealth either. When the Stealth were at the bottom of the league back in 2012, they rebounded the following year and came just one win short of their second NLL Championship.
The Stealth finished the 2014 season 4-14 and will have lots to do in preparation for a bounce back year, which includes getting healthy. It’s not an excuse, but a fact, that the Stealth dealt with injuries all year long and were at no point completely healthy during the season.
A total of 50 games were missed due to injuries and that doesn’t include Stealth defensemen, Tim Henderson, who was an important piece of the team’s defense last year. Henderson missed the entire season due to his commitment to serve in the US Military.
With the Stealth’s poor finish they can look ahead, which includes what to do with their second overall pick in the 2014 NLL Entry Draft. This will be the organizations highest draft pick since 2008, back when they selected Paul Rabil and Rhys Duch second and third overall respectfully.
Even though it was a disappointing start to the Stealth’s new tenure in Vancouver there were some significant positives to take away from the season.
The future of Stealth took a big step in the right direction this year, as the Stealth’s 2013 draft class, including Cody Bremner (8th overall), Nick Weiss (17th overall), Tyler Digby (20th overall), and Chris Wardle (54th overall) each played a significant role at different points of the season.
Digby was an early favourite for rookie of the year after his impressive start to the season, scoring two hat tricks and 11 points in the first three games of his NLL career. Digby would go on to register a point
in each of the 18 games this season, finishing with 22 goals and 36 assists, which was second among NLL rookies. Only 2013’s first overall pick, Logan Schuss, of the Minnesota Swarm, had more points (73).
On the defensive side of the ball, Nick Weiss provided a much needed spark at the beginning of the season, as some early injuries gave the rookie a chance to step up. He began the season on the practice roster, but quickly secured his role on the active roster, playing in the final 15 games of the season.
Weiss finished the season tied for second among rookies with 15 forced turnovers and eighth in goals with seven. He also finished fourth on the Stealth with 86 loose balls and was third among NLL rookies.
For the Stealth’s Cody Bremner it was a bit of an up and down season, as the 8th overall pick finished the year with nine goals (7th among rookies) and 14 assists in just 12 games. Bremner played in the first 10 games of the season and then watched six straight games from the press box, as the Stealth tinkered with their lineup to try and get out of their slump.
Bremner played in the final two games of the season against the Edmonton Rush and the Calgary Roughnecks, and finished the season with a goal in back to back games for the first time since January 17.
Chris Wardle didn’t see much time in the Stealth lineup but still added a goal and three assists in four games. The Stealth will be looking to see if Wardle can gain some valuable experience this summer, after being drafted 11th overall by his hometown team, the Victoria Shamrocks, in the 2013 WLA Entry Draft, which took place in February.
One other Stealth rookie that seemed to find his groove at the end of the season was Acton, Ontario native, Bradley Kri, who was signed as a free agent in February. Kri appeared in three games for the Stealth and looked more and more confident with each game he played in. Kri tallied one assist and 13 loose balls in his first NLL season.
Along with some strong play from the Stealth rookies there were some other Stealth players who improved from their previous season. Cliff Smith finished with a career high in goals with 19, Brett Bucktooth also had a career high in goals with 18, in just 11 games, and Mike Grimes had a career high in points with 22.
The Stealth’s Tyler Garrison also backed up his strong rookie season from last year with a career high in goals (9), assists (20), loose balls (106), and face-off wins (177). It was also Garrison’s first year with full time face-off duties, and the Stealth believe he’s only going to get better.
As the NLL playoffs continue this weekend the Stealth can only watch from a far, but if anything it should give them the motivation they’ll need to be better prepared for next season.
The Stealth’s ability to rebound one year later is there and having done it before they should have the confidence to do it again.
In 2012, the Stealth’s leading scorer, Rhys Duch, finished the season with 33 goals and 79 points, both were career lows. The following season Duch came back with a vengeance scoring a career high, 45 goals and 96 points to help lead the Stealth to a Champions Cup final. Duch is one of many Stealth players who had the drive to recover from a disappointing season and next year they’ll need all hands on deck to do it again.
While the 2014 season is in the books for the Stealth, fans are reminded to purchase their 2015 season tickets prior to May 28th to get their priority seating for 2014 Grey Cup. Tickets start at $99.
For details visit www.StealthLAX.com