Player Spotlight

Player Spotlight highlights the finer details and elements while supplying insight to the fans on what a player's thought process may be pertaining to a certain play, game or situation. It brings the intensity, passion, and inner most thoughts of the individual player that otherwise may not be felt or heard.

Bob Chavez has Derek Suddons in the PLPA Player Spotlight. This spotlight was conducted just prior to Suddons signing as an Unrestricted Free Agent with the New England Black Wolves.

Photo by: Scott Pierson
Chances are, if you hear people talking about Derek Suddons after a game, it's because he didn't do his job.

That's life for a defenseman in the National Lacrosse League, where your work on the back end is only noticed when something goes wrong. Suddons understands this, but given the way he's been playing in recent seasons, it's something he doesn't have to worry about.

Suddons just wrapped up his 14th NLL season, the last 3 of which have been with the Buffalo Bandits. The native of Whitby, Ontario, has been a steady presence and make no mistake, the veteran D man is very proud of that. Originally drafted by the Columbus Landsharks in 2002 before spending time in Toronto and Edmonton, Suddons has never been a flashy player but his career arc is such that he's garnered respect around the league as one of the most consistent defenders in the game


He cracked ILIndoor's list of the Top 50 best players in 2014, thriving in the role the Bandits have him in as one of the top pressure guys in the game. It's an ideal fit because he brings an aggressive check to the ball carrier, but does it with discipline. How else do you play 49 regular season games over the last 3 seasons as a defender and have just 10 PIM?

It's a situation that's worked very well for Suddons and the Bandits, so let's catch up with the defenseman and talk about his approach to the game and who some of the toughest matchups are.

Question To start, let's get the obligatory story on how you got started with lacrosse while growing up in Whitby.

It all started with my childhood friend Kevin. He lived just down the road and had this strange looking stick that he would always play with in his driveway. Eventually, it caught on and I soon came to realize that several hockey players from the winter also played lacrosse.

Question Most players grow up wanting the glory of scoring goals, but someone's got to play defense. How did you end up on defense?

I believe the transition from playing both ways to more of a defensive role started around the junior A level. I felt I was a better fit in the defensive role and so did my coach at the time.

Question In talking with younger players in minors or juniors, have you seen any change in the culture where players actually want to be a defender?

I think the speed of the game in the NLL has really enhanced the scope of a defensive role. Playing tight defence is only one area of a defensive player today. There is value in being able to collect loose balls, win faceoffs, and also contribute offensively from the defensive end.

Question As a defensive player, what's your personal philosophy and approach that you take into each game?

I believe that consistency is extremely important. Staying within your own abilities and understanding areas where you're better suited is very important. Also, preparation is paramount, both in the area of fitness and scouting of teams key players and tendencies.

Question On a personal level, what's your definition of a great game?
Answer From a personal standpoint, winning the game is always top priority. If I am able to play sound defence and stay in position, I'm happy. Contributing offensively is always satisfying.

Question Give us an idea of what you do to stay in shape for lacrosse, both in the off-season and during the season.

For the past several years it has been almost year round for lacrosse between both the NLL and Major Series in the summer. I try to get to the gym as much as possible pre-season to build up strength and also prevent injuries. I was fortunate to connect with Brad Chalmers from Elite Performance Centre, who has been integral in my training for the last 5 years.

Question Stick skills, positioning and checks are big parts of the defensive game, but footwork is something that tends to get overlooked. How valuable is having good feet to playing defense?
Answer It is extremely important, often being in the right place before a play develops can greatly enhance your ability to defend.

Question There's an old saying that if you're not talking, you're not playing defense. Name some of the toughest barns to communicate in because the fans are so loud.
Answer Colorado and Rochester stand out in my mind. The Colorado fans are excellent and there have been some extremely loud games with Rochester lately. Top of the chart would have to be Buffalo, there isn't a louder barn in any sport.

Question Who are some of the forwards over the years who have been the toughest to mark?
Answer There are some really fast forwards out there, the likes of John Tavares and John Grant can make plays even when they're covered.

Question Best off-ball guy you've played against?
Answer There are some really great off-ball players out of Calgary and Edmonton. The two that come to mind are Aaron Wilson and Kasey Beirnes over the years. They both have an understanding of the off-ball game and soft hands.

Question You broke into the NLL in 2002 so you've seen a bit. What's been the biggest change in the NLL you've noticed from the start of your career to today's game?
Answer The speed and non-contact off ball. In the earlier years it was a full contact all over the floor, loose balls, off ball, and goaltenders. The game has become really fast with the 8-second rule, and transition aspect. Also, special teams have become very important with the level of skill in the game.

Question Columbus, Toronto, Edmonton and Buffalo are all cities you've called home in the NLL. Which has the best food, and what is it?
Answer In Columbus, pizza pasta was the main item. Toronto and Edmonton were similar in that a pizza or burger would hit the spot. Buffalo, however, has a few great places for wings and pizza. Paneros does fantastic food and desserts, the canolis there can't be beat!

Question What's your job outside of lacrosse?
Answer I'm a financial advisor, working towards clients having a good retirement paycheck.

PLPA Correspondent

Bob Chavez has been covering the NLL since 1995 and has been a writer/editor for since its inception in 2008. He lives in the Finger Lakes region of New York with his wife and 2 children.

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