Sports

Adding offence key for 2015, says Vancouver Stealth GM

Some young fans cheer a Vancouver Stealth goal during the team’s 14-8 loss to the Calgary Roughnecks on April 26 at the Langley Events Centre. The Stealth closed the 2014 National Lacrosse League season with a 4-14 record. Below: Crazy P riles up the fans during the Stealth season finale. - Gary Ahuja/Langley Times
Some young fans cheer a Vancouver Stealth goal during the team’s 14-8 loss to the Calgary Roughnecks on April 26 at the Langley Events Centre. The Stealth closed the 2014 National Lacrosse League season with a 4-14 record. Below: Crazy P riles up the fans during the Stealth season finale.
— image credit: Gary Ahuja/Langley Times

Defence may win championships, but you still need enough goals to qualify for the post-season.

“Frankly, we just didn’t score enough goals at the end of the day,” said Vancouver Stealth general manager Doug Locker.

The Stealth lost their final game of the 2014 National Lacrosse League season, falling 14-8 to the visiting Calgary Roughnecks at the Langley Events Centre on April 26.

Vancouver won two of its first three games before losing 13 of the next 15 to finish at 4-14.

Locker said for a team to be successful, they need to hit about the 200-goal plateau, an average of just over 11 per game.

The Stealth were the second-lowest scoring team in the nine-team league and 10 times out of 18 failed to crack double digits in goals. Their record in those games was 1-9.

Another problem for the team was its record in one-goal games as they finished with a 1-4 mark.

“I would assess the season as largely being disappointing,” Locker said.

The Stealth had been in three of the past four Champion’s Cup games — the NLL title game — before this past season, the team’s first in Langley after relocating from Everett, Wash.

“I think anytime you don’t achieve your goals, and struggle mightily like we did, it is obviously disappointing.

We just never seemed to be able to get on track. Whether that be a chemistry issue, an injury issue, a suspension issue, it just never seemed to come together where we could gather any momentum from one game to the next.”

A big turning point in the season — something head coach Chris Hall has mentioned before — was a home loss to the Edmonton Rush back in January.

In that game, Vancouver led 7-2 at the half but Edmonton rallied for seven of the final eight goals to win 9-8.

The Rush finished as the top team in the NLL at 16-2.

“I don’t think we ever really recovered from that game to tell you the truth,” Locker said. “It was one of those defining moments where we had an opportunity to get it done against a very good team and it slipped through our fingers.”

After that, the team could not recover from some key suspensions and injuries at an inopportune time.

“It just unraveled from there,” Locker said.

Team owner Denise Watkins has been vocal that she is happy with the team’s management and coaching staff.

The plan is to sit down with coaches and players individually beginning next week.

“Just take some time and let the emotion and fatigue of the season settle in a little bit and then really evaluate every singe player, individually and collectively,” Locker said.

“We will take some time to make sure we are making the right decision.”

The bottom line, he said, was that the team must score more goals if it wants to return to its winning ways.

This past season, Rhys Duch led the team with 36 goals and 80 points, numbers that were below his past years. Veteran Lewis Ratcliff also had a slow start and finished with 23 goals and 55 points, his lowest totals since his rookie season in 2003.

Rookie Tyler Digby was a bright spot — winning back-to-back league rookie of the month awards in January and February — with 22 goals and 58 points.

“The bottom line is we have to score some more goals so we have to do some things to improve our goal scoring ability, whether that be through the draft, free agency or some trades,” Locker said.

The Stealth will draft second overall and depending what the team decides to do with the pick, that will impact the team’s strategy in improving other areas.

Locker said the team is largely happy with its defensive group, but they could use more depth — captain Kyle Sorenson and veteran Chris O’Dougherty combined to play just 15 games — but it is hard to build depth with just two practice spot rosters.

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