Vancouver's "got a good team" according to Calgary's Dane Dobbie. "Their record doesn’t show for what it is. I'm sure they'll be back next year and they'll be a team to reckon with. This year we had their number and it was really good."
"The parity is so close, you lose one or two one-goal games at the beginning of the year, and they can come back to haunt you. That’s what did us in this year" said Mike Grimes, a seven-year veteran with the Stealth.
When the victor can afford to be magnanimous, and the vanquished talk of parity, you know that things aren't going well. The Stealth have completed their first season in Langley, and while 2014 will be remembered as the year that the National Lacrosse League returned to British Columbia, the rest is best forgotten.
But that's for tomorrow. Today, we must pause, reflect, and consider what we have witnessed. Already eliminated from Champions Cup contention, the boys in white were playing for pride. And yet, that proved insufficient.
The club still lost, 14-8, to close the season with a 4-14 record, equal to that of the Minnesota Swarm, who have a better goal differential. But in lacrosse, head-to-head matchups are the first tiebreaker.
You may recall that Vancouver defeated the Swarm back on January 11th, the only meeting between the two clubs.
"Calgary and Edmonton are both strong and they're going to make a push for the Champions Cup this year," added Grimes. "Those are our two biggest rivals in this league, and the last three or four years, we've faced them in the playoffs." The Stealth dispatched both in 2013, Calgary in 2011, and Edmonton in 2010. In all three seasons, the Stealth advanced to the Champions Cup Final, winning it in 2011.
"So to tell you the truth it's really not that hard to get up and play them, we wanted to get this one,” said Grimes. Unfortunately, Calgary wanted it more.
"We need to find a way to be a better as a team. We have a ton of great individual players, but for some reason it didn't come together this year. I think if we find a way to come together better as a team we’ll have more success next year."
"You look at the last few years, three of the last four years we’ve been to the championship game and the other years we didn’t even make the playoffs just like this year."
He does have a point. The Stealth failed to qualify for the Champions Cup in 2012, and yet the Langley Events Centre hosted the final last year; which just goes to show how rocky a road the NLL can be.
This year, the Stealth lost four matches by a single goal. Had they been on the other side of things, they'd be preparing for a Champions Cup preliminary round rematch with the Calgary Roughnecks. And once you're in, anything can happen.
Despite having a less than admirable record, the Stealth drew only 554 fewer people than they did last year. If it sounds like we're grasping at straws, that's because we are.
Rhys Duch finished the season with the third most shots on goal. Tyler Garrison finished a distant second in forced turnovers. And Matt Beers was the second most penalised player in the league. Together, those three were the only Vancouver players to make it into the top five of any statistical category.
But there is hope. The NLL is a nine club league and nine months from now, they get a fresh start, another chance, and maybe, hopefully next year will be far easier on the eyes. Click here to open our fullscreen slideshow.