CALGARY - In his first year as head coach of the Calgary Roughnecks, Curt Malawsky has lofty objectives.
In fact, he couldn't have set the bar any higher.
"It's championship or nothing," Malawsky said. "That's what we're setting our goals on."
Following a disappointing 19-11 loss to the Edmonton Rush in the first round of the National Lacrosse League playoffs last May, the Roughnecks decided not to renew the contract of coach Dave Pym. General manager Mike Board subsequently promoted Malawsky, who served as an assistant to Pym, to take over as Calgary's coach.
"He is a very intense guy, very demanding," Board said. "He likes guys to be accountable. He will be accountable himself so it is just a slight adjustment to what we are doing and that's why we ended up moving that way."
Malawsky wrapped up his 12-year playing career in the NLL by helping the Roughnecks win the Champion's Cup in 2009, and then transitioned into his role as an assistant coach.
"2009 was a long time ago," Malawsky said. "There are a lot of hungry guys that want to prove themselves out here. It starts with the coaching staff. We're really upset."
With help from assistant coaches Bob McMahon and Bruce Codd, Malawsky believes he has put the proper systems in place for the Roughnecks to have success.
"I believe I have a recipe for what it takes to win," he said. "We might be a little different out the start of the gate than we were the last couple of years. We're trying to make sure it all accumulates in May when those last three games come up on us. We're really gearing up towards that."
Returning forward Jeff Shattler referred to Malawsky as "a great fit" for the Roughnecks.
"He's like a drill sergeant," Shattler said. "You really don't want to let him down. I think that’s going to work in our favour this year.”
Roughnecks captain Andrew McBride, a former teammate of Malawsky, has no problem with the intensity level that Calgary’s new coach possesses.
"It's great to have a guy that's so prepared and so passionate about the game," he said. "I think he brings a new energy."
McBride and the rest of his teammates have also bought into Malawsky’s coaching philosophy.
"Championship or bust is the motto," McBride said. "It's about trying to get over the hump in May. We've had great starts to the season, we've had good middles and our finishes haven't been successful.
"During the year it's about tinkering with a few new things, maybe saving a thing or two for the playoffs and adding a new element or a new wrinkle so teams can't take you for granted or you can surprise them a little bit."
Assistant captain Mike Carnegie, who will help anchor Calgary's defence corps along with McBride, likes the idea of using the regular season to build towards the playoffs.
"It's been a couple of years since we tasted victory so we're in it to win it now," Carnegie said. "We're getting tired of losing here."
Goalie Mike Poulin, who has compiled a 26-9 record for Calgary over the past three seasons, echoed the sentiments expressed by his teammates and coaching staff.
"We have some unfinished business," Poulin said. "It's a championship or bust year. We have been close enough the past couple of years. We had great regular seasons and now we just have to bear down and finish the job."
With 19 returning players, the Roughnecks boast an experienced roster heading into their home opener against the Toronto Rock on Saturday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
"This is a group of very athletic, very focused young men," said transition specialist and faceoff ace Geoff Snider. "I'm the oldest guy at 31 and it’s an exciting group to be a part of. It’s an honour to be here and it truly is a tight family."
Assistant captain Scott Ranger said he expects that the Roughnecks will "be a team to be reckoned with" this season.
"Guys that are back from last year have still got that sour taste in their mouths," Ranger said. "With that being said, we know we’ve got a lot of work to do to get to that point. Guys have got their work boots on and they're ready to work here."
Notes: As a result of a game misconduct penalty he received for instigating a fight during Calgary's playoff loss to Edmonton, forward Dane Dobbie received a one-game suspension meaning he’ll miss the Roughnecks' home opener on Saturday. … Joe Resetarits, who the Roughnecks picked sixth overall in the first round of the 2012 NLL Entry Draft, hopes to make an impact in his rookie season. "I feel thrilled they took me," said the 23-year-old forward. "I'm taking that to heart. I'm going to go out and show what I can do. I know I can help this team out. I've just got to go out there and do it."