Welcome to the first Roughnecks Mailbag of the 2016 season! I have selected five questions of the many that fans submitted and I will try to answer them as best and as thoroughly as possible.

Here we go!

Q: How much conditioning do the players need to do to compete?

As professional athletes who work jobs just like the rest of us, it’s hard to train the same way that players in the NHL might, but they find time to get their workouts in every week. Now, seeing as I’m no expert when it comes to the type of conditioning that the players do, I decided to go and ask Roughnecks trainer Chris Osmond. Here’s what he had to say about their conditioning:

“Training takes place all year round. Training is very individual per athlete based on what testing reveals at the start of camp. Most players perform two strength-based sessions per week that emphasize strength, power and sustainable work capacity and two to three conditioning sessions that focus on aerobic power and repeated sprint ability. This may vary athlete to athlete depending on strengths and weaknesses.”

Q: What is approximately the pay for players? Do the players get their own charter or do they all go on a public plane as a team?

Contract information is not released – I asked. What I can tell you is that each team in the NLL operates on a $405,000 salary cap. Obviously, some players are paid more than others, but with 20 men on a roster the ‘average’ pay would be around $20,000 per player.

As for travelling to away games, the Roughnecks do not have their own charter. Instead they fly to games on a public plane like everyone else. They don’t generally fly as a team because the players live in different parts of the country and it would not make sense for them all to fly to Calgary and then to the final destination.

Q: Calgary has the 2nd worst goals per game in the NLL right now—how big a concern is this for the team?

Great question. I covered this topic briefly in an article on the Roughnecks website yesterday [LINK], but I wanted to elaborate here.

The season is still very young, so the level of concern for the Roughnecks lacklustre offence is likely low. The team still has a great deal of talent offensively with former 50-goal scorer Dane Dobbie, Curtis ‘Superman’ Dickson, and former MVP Jeff Shattler, among others. Yet, hitting that 10-goal plateau has remained out of reach.

There are a few possible reasons for the low scoring. The first is that the Roughnecks are lacking the chemistry to find consistent offence. At times this season, the Riggers offence has been quiet for long stretches of time. Against the Rush, they were held off the board for 19 minutes and 58 seconds from early in the third quarter to the fourth quarter. Again in New England, after scoring with 4:05 left in the third period, they were held scoreless the rest of the game. With that being said, they’ve had some good runs as an offence as well – with a four-goal run against the Rush and a six-goal run against the Black Wolves – showing their high-scoring potential.

The second reason for the early season struggle could be a learning curve required for the new players on the roster. For rookies Wesley Berg and Reilly O’Connor, they are being asked to play a lot of important minutes against the best players in the world. That can be tough early on for rookies, so they are likely to adapt and improve as the season continues. Third-year man Tyler Digby has many of the same challenges in regards to adjusting to the Roughnecks. He has to get used to his new teammates, new coaches, and a new system.

Speaking of a new system, every offensive player is dealing with that challenge. With the offence previously being based around Shawn Evans, it made sense to re-design the schemes after his departure. Therefore, not only are the guys trying to gain some chemistry offensively, but they are all in a brand new offensive system and that could take some time to work out the kinks.

It’ll come. Patience Roughnecks fans, patience.

Q: Which duo is better – Kaleb Toth and Tracey Kelusky or Shawn Evans and Curtis Dickson?

This was one of my favourite questions, for sure. It sparked a lot of internal debate and had me questioning myself a few times when comparing the young guns against the retired Riggers.

Let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we:

Tracey Kelusky 195 383 440 886 139
Kaleb Toth 186 315 398 796 176

Shawn Evans 164 290 514 948 418
Curtis Dickson 87 204 140 239 55

While Toth/Kelusky lead in every major statistical category, except penalty minutes, it is mostly due to their significant lead in games played. More importantly, the younger duo has average 4.57 points-per-game while the elder averaged 4.03.

While stats are impressive and can provide a good insight, both have exceptional numbers. So for me to decide which is better, I had to look deeper.

As a duo, Evans and Dickson were teammates for only four years. That being said, they had undeniable chemistry right away in the two-man game and routinely combined to put up gaudy numbers. Together they put up 223 points in 2015 – an insane number. In those four years, Evans was named the NLL MVP twice … TWICE!

Kelusky and Toth were leaders on the team, donning the ‘C’ and the ‘A’, respectively. They were both very balanced on offence, contributing fairly evenly in goals and assists. They were also very aggressive on the loose balls. Once area that really stands out is their ability to stay out of the penalty box. Together, they averaged less than a minute in the sin bin per game played. They spent eight years together in Calgary and were key factors in bringing two Champion’s Cups to Calgary.

While you could split hairs and debate numbers, because of the two championships together, they are my choice as the better duo.

Trust me when I say that this topic could have another few thousand words spent on it, but for this purpose, 300 words will have to suffice. Please feel free to disagree and comment why I’m wrong below.

Q: What are some pre-game rituals that the Roughnecks do?

I asked this question to all of the Roughnecks players at training camp and found that most don’t have any rituals or superstitions that they must do prior to the game. Of the few players that have pre-game rituals, they are listed below:

Garrett McIntosh: On game days, Garrett must have a Tim Horton’s breakfast, a pasta lunch, a pre-game nap, Subway for dinner, and a dance party in the locker room!

Patrick O’Meara: Before the game starts, O’Meara taps both posts and his goalie on the leg.

Kellen LeClair: Before every game, LeClair must re-tape his stick.

Tyler Digby: Digby puts on some tunes and goes on to the floor as early as possible before warm-up to shoot the ball around.

Wesley Berg: It’s something all players do before the game, but Berg does a LOT of stretching before the game so he can be ready to go.

Tyson Bell: Before each game, Bell re-tapes his stick. When putting on his gear, he always starts from the left side – and he doesn’t appreciate when people interrupt that ritual.

Jon Harnett: After Harnett takes a pre-game nap, he grabs a coffee and walks to the Saddledome to get himself in the right mindset for the game.

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