CALGARY, AB — After a tumultuous start to the 2015 NLL season, the veteran Calgary Roughnecks remained poised and worked until final game to squeak into the playoffs.
After beating the Colorado Mammoth with a lights out performance, the team advanced to the West Division Semi-Finals against the Edmonton Rush. Though they ultimately lost to the Rush in the tie-breaking game, the Roughnecks had a very successful season.
Looking towards 2016, here are five questions to consider as the team is looking to get back to the Champion’s Cup:
Q: How will Frankie Scigliano perform as a starting goaltender for a full season?
A: Starting 12 games in 2015, Scigliano went 6-6 with an 11.12 GAA and a .773 save percentage. This is, perhaps, a bit misleading as his statistics were brought down in the early parts of the season when relieving goalie Mike Poulin. Just after mid-season, Scigliano took control of the pipes and started every game the rest of the way. In those eight starts, he was 5-2, with only one poor start that was the second game of a home-and-home weekend series against the Rush. In 2016, he should be the opening night starter, but it seems that he may not have a huge leash with Poulin and rookie Christian Del Bianco on the roster. It will be interesting to see the new dynamics of having three goalies in Calgary. Scigliano is a very talented goalie and with all the experience and confidence he gained last season, he should be able to step in and perform at a high level right away.
Q: Will the Roughnecks reach the playoffs for the 14th straight year?
A: After starting last season with an 0-6 record, the Roughnecks still managed to reach playoffs by beating the Vancouver Stealth in the final game of the regular season. With an improved team in 2016, keeping the streak alive is very possible. It won’t be easy, though. Calgary has to compete with the reigning NLL Champions, the Saskatchewan Rush, an improved Stealth team, and the always-dangerous Colorado Mammoth. To keep the streak going, the Roughnecks will only need to finish ahead of one of these teams in the standings. Five of the last seven games of the season for the Roughnecks are against their division rivals and could play a big part in their playoff hopes.
Q: Will the Roughnecks special teams be Just as ‘special’?
A: In 2015, the Roughnecks special teams units were top notch, finishing first in both power play and penalty kill percentage. They held the top penalty kill despite being a man down more than any other team. The rate shows how dominant the Roughnecks defence was when playing when shorthanded, so if they can find a way to stay out of the penalty box they could be very stingy on the number of power play goals scored against them. Up a man, a big part of the power play in Curtis Dickson is returning and is now joined by talented scorers Wesley Berg and Tyler Digby. They are three big bodies who should be able to find the net consistently on the man advantage. Although losing Daryl Veltman, who scored nine PP goals, hurts, he will be replaced by Reilly O’Connor. O’Connor should be able to contribute right away, as evident by his five-assist performance in the latest pre-season game.
Q: Will Curtis Dickson surpass the 50-goal barrier?
A: Since entering the league in 2011, Dickson has never had less than 31 goals in a season. He has increased his point production year over year. Should that trend continue in 2016, he will stand a good chance of reaching the 50-goal barrier. With 48 goals in 2015, he just barely missed 50 goals. With plenty of change to the Roughnecks offence, Dickson’s changes may be deterred as the team is looking to have a more balance attack, rather than the righty dominated offence of 2015. The 50-goal plateau is by no means impossible for Superman, but it will be a lofty goal for the sixth year man.
Q: What will the new Roughnecks bring to the table?
A: Entering the 2016 season, Calgary has seven new players on the roster. They acquired forward Tyler Digby and transition player Brandon Goodwin through trade, while selecting Wesley Berg, Reilly O’Connor, Christian Del Bianco, Tyson Bell, and Kellen LeClair in the NLL Draft. Right away, they will be expected to make an impact. On the offensive side, Digby, Berg, and O’Connor will be thrust into big roles and should find success immediately playing alongside Curtis Dickson, Dane Dobbie, and Jeff Shattler. Goodwin, Bell, and LeClair will bring a lot of size, strength, and speed to the Roughnecks defence. They will also add some transition ability, which should help push the pace of play, something coach Curt Malawsky is hoping to do. As for goaltender Christian Del Bianco, he will be developing behind Frankie Scigliano and Mike Poulin, while acting as a very capable back-up should either above him get injured.