The Pirates head into their 3rd season under captain Andrew McDonald looking to rebound from a disappointing 2009-2010 campaign. After producing a 9-10 record in the regular season and allowing the second most goals (92), the Pirates were exited from the playoffs in the 1st round by the eventual champion Bishop Boyle Lancers. McDonald has worked vigorously this offseason to improve his organization as a whole. He addressed his defensive issues by drafting all defensemen in the first three rounds (Dave Gilson, Shane Lucas and Mike Cullen). These players don't provide a great deal of offense (13 goals combined), but they are all proven bodies on the blue line and should give opposing teams fits. McDonald has also worked tirelessly on his own game this offseason, participating in several other leagues and winning a championship in one of them (The Hawks, Bills). McDonald has this to say about his offseason work..
"Ya know, playing as much as you can is the only way to improve your game. I've played almost four seasons of dek, and I've learned so much. I've learned how important it is to back check and help in your defensive zone. I still believe I can score, but I've become more valuable to my team by adapting to two way hockey."
However, the Pirates only go as far as franchise player Tony Bonacorso takes them. The former Arizona State standout possesses arguably the best skill set in the FHL. Dynamic speed, uncanny awareness, and a blistering slap shot are what this MVP candidate brings to the table. Bono saw a severe drop off in goals last year (12) from his rookie season (28) and that no doubt had a huge impact on the Pirates shortcomings. He answered his critics this offseason by winning MVP of the August charity tournament and then helping Gates to a huge win in the Thanksgiving Classic.
With an exceptional top end of talent, it will be the back end of the Pirates lineup that raises the most questions. Ryan Stotlemeyer will be asked to hold down the second line (13 career goals), after that the remaining offense is a mystery. Veterans Neil Murray, Dan Powers and Jared Grace will be in the mix to contribute, as will newcomer "Mad" Chad Nolan. Recently added Mark Zelena will also add a huge boost to an already stout defense when he returns from a foot injury. If all of the pieces fall into place, the Pirates may return to their championship form of 2009.