January 3, 2012

Sanderson Comes Back Home with Toronto Rock

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com

Defenseman Drew Petkoff will start the season on injured reserve, but will be counted on to bolster Toronto's defense when he returns this season.
© Rich Barnes

Toronto Rock

2011 Record: 13-6, NLL champion

Offseason: Reacquired Josh (Shooter) Sanderson via trade with Minnesota after Swarm selected him in dispersal draft of Boston players.

The Rock had the most potent offense in the East last season with Colin Doyle, Blaine Manning, Stephan Leblanc and Garrett Billings in prominent roles. Reinserting Sanderson, the most creative set-up man in the NLL, adds even more zip.

Sanderson has 15 pro seasons under his belt, including championships with Toronto in 2005 and Calgary in 2009. His 1,017 regular season points (346g, 671a) rank him fourth all-time. But don't for a moment deduce he's on his last legs. Sanderson won the NLL scoring title as recently as 2010 and was a key player for Canada when it repeated as world indoor champion last May.

Which is why his father, Rock general manager, Terry Sanderson, brought him home to Toronto.

"I'm really excited to be back in Toronto," the 5-foot-7 lefty said. "Troy Cordingley is one of my favorite coaches. I've always been comfortable playing for my dad, and I'm also looking forward to being back with [offensive coordinator] John Lovell. We've had a lot of success in the past, and I just want to fit in and win a lot of games."

Terry Sanderson also acquired Dan Carey in a trade with Colorado, adding even more pop to the Rock offense. But it's the back end with which the GM is most concerned. Goaltender Bob Watson retired after being named 2011 Champion's Cup MVP. His are large shoes to fill. There were whispers that Anthony Cosmo might wind up in Toronto. But for the Rock are ready to go with Matt Roik, who they got in a trade with Washington, where Roik had been relegated to backup duties.

"We're extremely confident in Matt Roik, and his past success in this league is a good indicator of why we have confidence in him," Terry Sanderson said.

Besides losing Watson, Toronto's defense was further disrupted with the losses of Kyle Ross in the Roik deal, Creighton Reid in the Carey trade and Jeff Gilbert in the Josh Sanderson swap. But the Rock hopes signing unrestricted free agent Bruce Codd, who was a valuable contributor in Calgary, and getting extended seasons out of Ryan Sharp and Drew Petkoff, who were injury casualties last season, will offset those losses. (Petkoff will start this year on injured reserve.) Glen Bryan is coming off a solid rookie season that earned him more playing time.

Insider's Take

"Critics will loudly proclaim that this veteran-laden lineup won't be able to keep up with younger teams, but these guys are the champs until somebody knocks them off."

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