Defending champion: Georgia Swarm. They defeated the 2016 champions, the Saskatchewan Rush, in two games in the Champions Cup. The Swarm's offense is still stacked, especially with Jesse King returning from a year-long injury. Reigning NLL MVP Lyle Thompson, who scored a league-leading 116 points last season, is still the focal point. There are a handful of changes from last year, including the absence of transition player Joel White and forward Jordan Hall to start the season.
The Bandits host Georgia Feb. 10 and face them in Infinite Energy Center on March 8.
Change in scenery: The Bandits were a part of arguably the biggest trade in the league this summer, sending Ryan Benesch and a conditional third-round pick to Colorado for goalie Alex Buque and forward Callum Crawford. Adam Jones, a Canisius College grad, was traded from Saskatchewan to the Toronto Rock. The Rush also swapped goalies with the New England Black Wolves, sending Aaron Bold east for 2016 Goalie of the Year Evan Kirk. Transition player Andrew Suitor was the biggest post-training camp cut. Vancouver signed the seven-year veteran a day after Rochester released him.
In addition to Benesch, four other players from last year's Bandits roster have found new homes: Billy Dee Smith (Rochester), Anthony Malcom (Vancouver), David Brock (New England) and Tim Edwards (Colorado's practice roster).
The schedule: The season starts on Dec. 8, three weeks earlier than last year and a month earlier than the league has traditionally started. Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz said the NLL moved the start of the season back to prepare for the inevitable addition of games when more teams are added to the league.
The schedule still ends in April, meaning for now starting earlier means the 18 games are stretched out longer than last year. Back-to-backs were cut down and bye weeks increased. The Bandits have five free weekends during the regular season.
"I don't know if I like it," Troy Cordingley said. "As a coach, what I don't like is that there's too many breaks. ... I just want to keep playing."
The postseason has been shortened, cutting the division semifinal and final to one game each. The Champions Cup remains a best-of-three series.
Television: NLL.tv, the league's online streaming service, is back for a second season. The price is the same as last year, $34.95 to watch every game and $24.95 to watch one team.
The NLL is also expanding its footprint on Twitter, livestreaming a free game every week of the regular season on the social media platform. The Bandits will be on Twitter four times: Dec. 8 against Toronto, Jan. 6 vs. Calgary, Jan. 19 at Saskatchewan and Apr. 21 vs. Toronto.
Retirements: This offseason has seen a heavy exodus from the league, including last year's Bandits goalie Anthony Cosmo, former Bandit Chad Culp and future Hall of Famer John Grant Jr.
The teams: For the third straight year, the NLL consists of the same nine teams in the same nine cities. Changes are coming next year by way of expansion, as the league awarded franchises to San Diego and Philadelphia. Buffalo will be joined in the East by the reborn Philadelphia Wings, reigniting a rivaly lost when Philadelphia moved to New England three years ago. The San Diego Seals, owned by Alibaba billionaire Joe Tsai, are the first attempt at the NLL in California since the San Jose Stealth moved in 2009.
Story topics: Aaron Bold/ Alex Buque/ Anthony Cosmo/ Anthony Malcom/ buffalo bandits/ Callum Crawford/ Chad Culp/ Colin Doyle/ David Brock/ Evan Kirk/ Georgia Swarm/ John Grant Jr./ Lyle Thompson/ NLL/ quick hits/ Ryan Benesch/ Tim Edwards