Justin Salt’s get up and go is apparently rebooted.
At Vancouver Warriors training camp over the weekend, the defender showed the speed and agility he displayed in his breakaway-filled 2017 campaign and swears that he’s as healthy as he was during that campaign.
Last season, Salt suffered a broken bone in his ankle early on when he got tangled up with a teammate helping defend a pick-and-roll. Salt tried to play through it for a time, but ended up having his season shut down early.
The numbers do tell the story. Last season, Salt had one goal and seven points and snagged 54 loose balls in 11 games under the Warriors’ old Vancouver Stealth banner. In 2017, it was 11 goals, 28 points and 114 loose balls in 18 games for Salt, leading to InsideLacrosse.com naming him its National Lacrosse League transition player of the year.
“The doctor said that the only thing that would really help was time off and resting up and that’s what we ended up doing,” explained Salt, 28, who played sparingly for the Burnaby Lakers last summer after being a full-time regular with the Western Lacrosse Association club the previous six seasons.
“I’m feeling great now. It’s easily the best I’ve felt in two years.”
Another connection with the 2017 season for him is that Clay Richardson has returned to the defensive coordinator position after taking last year off due to work commitments.
Vancouver went 2-16 last year and gave up 15.39 goals per game, with John Lintz and then Art Webster handing the defensive coordinator duties. In 2017, the team was 9-9 while allowing 12.28 goals per game with Richardson in charge of the guys going out the back gate.
It’s way too simple to give Richardson all the credit for when things went right. It’s also understandable if players are keen on his return, and Salt being one of those in particular. Salt has been with the franchise since 2012, and his best totals in a season prior to 2017 were his 10 goals, 19 points and 75 loose balls in 2015.
“Clay has been very good for my game,” Salt, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound left-handed shot, said.
Salt was quick to say that both Richardson and head coach Chris Gill want an even greater focus on the defensive zone for Richardson’s charges. The Stealth loaded up on transition types last season, hoping to catch opponents napping, and it failed.
As proof in the switch in philosophies, they moved out a transition specialist on Thursday, trading Travis Cornwall to the Saskatchewan Rush for a second-round pick in the 2020 NLL draft.
As for Salt, as much as he’s known for getting the ball moving the other way he’s also improved his checking year after year, according to Matt Beers, the longtime Stealth defensive ace.
He and Salt have been regular roommates on road trips for several seasons, and he says Salt is always picking his brain about play in Vancouver’s zone. Beers says that Salt also regularly quizzed Curtis Hodgson, the Vancouver defender who retired before last season.
“There are some transition guys that you go right at if you have the ball. You know, by nature, they’re looking to cheat a little and get going the other way. Salt isn’t one of those guys,” Beers said.
Gill added: “He has the speed in repertoire, but he’s also knows the system and is very smart and determined. He’s committed to play defence first and transition second. That’s what we want.”
The Warriors open the regular season on Dec. 15, taking on the Calgary Roughnecks at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Their home opener is Dec. 21, with the Roughnecks providing the opposition at Rogers Arena.
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