The London Blue Devils are more than a quarter of the way into their schedule and they’re still trying to find a place where they belong.
The Blue Devils (2-4) aren’t at the top of the Ontario Junior B Lacrosse League West conference, losing four matchups this year to teams who are at least two games above .500. Their latest defeat came at the sticks of the Wallaceburg Red Devils in a 14-4 beat down at Earl Nichols Recreation Centre on Saturday (May 10).
London has played good clubs and found out their not at that level yet. The teams they were beat by have a combined record of 16-4.
The Blue Devils aren’t at the bottom either. Their two wins this season have come against squads who have one victory between them and a combine record of 1-10.
“There’s not really solace (in losing to these teams) because I don’t consider the teams we’re losing to as top teams and as far as I’m concerned if we were playing our best lacrosse at a minimum they should be much closer games,” said London head coach Ian Gordon. “We’re not just getting beat, we’re getting pounded.”
In the Blue Devils wins they have a goal differential of plus five, in their losses it’s minus 29.
Right now London finds themselves in lacrosse limbo and they don’t want to find out how low they can go.
The importance of games against teams in a similar position now gets a little more heightened. At this point, the Blue Devils need to show they might not be the best team in the league, but they’re the best amongst the middle of the pack clubs.
Games against low standing teams are big for London too, just to prove they shouldn’t be in the same conversation as out-of-playoff clubs.
“For me it’s not about who we’re playing, it’s about how we’re playing and we need to play the way we’re capable of to get back into things,” Gordon said. “We don’t really have the luxury anymore of saying, ‘Hey, this is a team we should beat tonight’.”
The Blue Devils show flashes of being a good team.
London pushed the Elora Mohawks (3-1) to the brink before getting dropped in overtime. The Blue Devils gave up just two goals against the St. Catharines Spartans (5-0) in the first period and then let nine balls in the back of their net in the second frame.
The second period has been a big hindrance to London so far. This year, they’ve let in 19 goals in the first period and 28 in the second. The Blue Devils have only scored 15 goals of their own in the middle frame — their least efficient period.
“Most of these games where we’ve given up all these goals there’s been a couple things. There’s been penalties and a lack of commitment on loose balls and that results in more scoring chances for the other team,” Gordon said. “I’m having a hard time figuring it out what it is and I think some of the old guys, the veterans, and myself are getting frustrated because we just don’t seem to have the mental fortitude or the mental commitment to the game for 60 whole minutes.”
If London is going to see any movement forward they’ll have to see more action from the rookies. Veterans drive a team and rookies push them over the hump, the Blue Devils are proving that.
The Blue Devils top-five scorers are all out of their rookie year — three of them have at least three years under their belt.
Only two first-year players are in the team’s top-10 scorers, ranging from 19 to two points.
Granted, London’s veterans are playing the bulk of the offensive minutes, but in 2012 the top two scorers were rookies.
Call it coincidence or correlation, but that year the Blue Devils have never seen so much production from first-year players and it was the club’s most accomplished season when they made it to the second round of the playoffs.
“I don’t want to get into placing the blame on any one particular person or group of people, I just think it’s guys just not being committed entirely to games and preparing the way they should,” Gordon said. “For me, everybody needs to step up.”
That 2012 season London finished second in the conference. The next year the Blue Devils finished second in their division. They have some things to figure out before they can match their recent accomplishments, but the Blue Devils have 14 games to figure out where they belong.