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Season Preview: Calgary Roughnecks

The Calgary Roughnecks came within a minute and 23 seconds of winning the Champions Cup last year. Joe Walters and Craig Point thwarted their plans, scoring the tying and winning goals as Rochester took their third straight title. But you’ll excuse the Roughnecks if they don’t think they needed to make a lot of change to a group that was that close to winning it all. Of course, they’ve got Edmonton to contend with again in the west, but Calgary is confident that they have the horses to compete. They just have to put it all together at the right time again and they believe this can be their year.

2014 record/playoffs: 12-6 in regular season, 4-3 in playoffs (including mini games)

Top 3 returning scorers: Shawn Evans (26 goals, 79 assists for 105 points), Dane Dobbie (51/39/90), Jeff Shattler (35/49/84)

Key additions: Jeff Moleski (D)

Key losses: Scott Ranger (F, retired)

Outlook: The Roughnecks haven’t changed much since last year. They’ve added Jeff Moleski to the defence, which is a really nice addition. He brings toughness, stability and quiet leadership to a group that has underperformed the past couple of seasons. Many of the same players have been in place for years, and some of the youngsters have really grown into their roles. That means the Roughnecks should be better defensively than they were last year.

Dan MacRae really took a step forward last year and Garrett McIntosh is quietly becoming a strong presence in Calgary’s end. The key is for the whole unit to get back to working together the way they did a few years ago, when the Roughnecks made it really uncomfortable for opposing offences to play against them.

In goal, Mike Poulin had a better season in 2014 than he had the year before, but still didn’t find the stellar form that earned him the NLL goalie of the year award in 2012. He just didn’t seem to find the elusive rhythm that allows a goalie to anticipate what shooters are going to do so that he makes it look easy to always be in the right spot.

Transition is important to Calgary and they got plenty of it last year from Karsen Leung. He may draw forward to play more on offence this year, depending on the health and effectiveness of the rest of the offensive righties. If so, they’ll need players like MacRae, Curtis Manning andTravis Cornwall to take up the slack. Perhaps their most effective weapon in transition, though, is Dane Dobbie coming off the bench. He has a great sense of when he can leave the change box, rarely drawing illegal substitution calls, and he’s lethal when he breaks in alone on goalies.

Of course, Dobbie is also dangerous in the set offence, having led the league in goals with 51 last season. The rest of the dynamic Roughnecks O is back, led by the floor vision of Shawn Evans, the finishing touch of Curtis Dickson and the overall excellence of Jeff Shattler. The only thing missing in the front end is Scott Ranger, lost to retirement.

Marty Dinsdale did all he could in the preseason to assuage any concerns that he’ll be able to fill Ranger’s role. Dinsdale scored 9 goals in Calgary’s first pair of scrimmages and looked like his confidence is burgeoning. He looked good in the preseason last year, too, before going on to have a ho-hum season where he never really earned regular floor time or a defined role. So it will be important for him to carry over the momentum from the pre-season and continue to contribute throughout the year.

All in all, it’s steady as she goes for Curt Malawsky and his Roughnecks. They’re staying the course. They’ve already proved that they can compete for championships; sticking with so much of the same roster shows they believe they can win them.

There’s little question that Calgary will have another strong regular season, which starts for them on January 3 when they play host to the Vancouver Stealth. The answers they’re waiting for, though, won’t come until May when they see if they can take one more step and bring home the title.

Story courtesy of Stephen Stamp on ILIndoor.com.