We’ve all seen it before: the team that isn’t playing well starts getting frustrated and angry, and that leads to unnecessary penalties. That means they’re playing a man down for long stretches of time, and that doesn’t usually lead to anything good, so they get even more frustrated and angry, and so on. I don’t know what other people mean when they talk about “Banditball”, but that’s what that term means to me: the physical and undisciplined lacrosse that the Bandits became known for in the 2000’s. They generally don’t play that way anymore so the term is probably misleading and unfair now, but every now and again they revert back. But on this night, it seemed to serve them well.
Last week on Addicted to Lacrosse, I talked a little bit about the circumstances surrounding the Ryan Dilks / Cliff Smith fight from last Saturday. I said that I was surprised that the Stealth ended up on the power play rather than the Rush, considering Matt Beers should have gotten a penalty for an illegal cross-check and Smith could even have gotten a third-man-in penalty (which is an immediate game misconduct and a game suspension). I didn’t say it in so many words but my implication was that the refs blew the call.
The video from the fourth quarter from that game was not yet available so I couldn’t go back and see what actually happened, but it’s there now, so here’s my follow-up.
In short, I was wrong.
Here’s what happened. Jeremy Thompson ran up the floor looking backwards, waiting for a pass from Ryan Dilks. He received it, turned around, and saw Matt Beers right in front of him. He dropped his shoulder a little just before they collided and Beers went flying. Thompson kept the ball and walked away slowly. Beers got up, came back over and cross-checked Thompson across the upper arm. Dilks took exception to the hit and went after Beers and while the two of them were chatting, Thompson took another couple of steps, dropped to his knees for a second, then rolled onto his back, clearly hurt. At that point, Cliff Smith got between Dilks and Beers and the two of them got into it. I can’t say for sure that any actual punches were thrown before they fell, almost on top of Thompson.
Dilks got two for roughing, and Dilks and Smith got five each for fighting.
Mistake #1: Beers hit on Thompson was a totally legal cross-check. No penalty was warranted.
Mistake #2: Smith was not the third man in since Dilks and Beers were doing some pushing but not fighting. You can’t be the third man in in a fight when there’s no fight.
Would I have given Dilks an extra two for roughing? Probably not, but I can see why they did. So the end result: The refs got it right, as they usually do. And I was wrong, as I… well, let’s just leave it at I was wrong.
Round about this time of year, people think they have a decent idea of how the standings will end up, more or less. So far this season, Saskatchewan has clinched a playoff berth, but nobody else has. We think the Rush and Swarm will probably be at the top in their divisions, but it’s not guaranteed. Calgary and Rochester are currently at the bottom but both are only a half game back of the team in front of them. There’s enough time left for some really crazy things to happen, and every year I find it fun to look over the possibilities if the lower-ranked teams start winning and the teams at the top start losing. If everything falls into place, could we have a Calgary-Rochester final? Could the Swarm miss the playoffs? Let’s look at some scenarios that are unlikely but still possible:
Calgary finishes 2nd in the west
Calgary wins out, Saskatchewan loses to Vancouver, New England, and Toronto, and Colorado loses out. Then the Rush win the west at 10-8, Calgary is second at 9-9, and Colorado and Vancouver tie at 8-10. Vancouver would win the tiebreaker in that scenario with a 3-1 record against the Mammoth, so Colorado is out.
Calgary wins out, Vancouver beats Colorado, and Colorado loses one more game. Then the Roughnecks are 9-9 and the Mammoth are at best 9-9, but Calgary holds the tiebreaker.
Vancouver wins the west
Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Vancouver wins out, Saskatchewan loses at least three more, and Colorado loses to Rochester. Then the Stealth are at 10-8, the Rush and Mammoth are at 9-9, and the Roughnecks are at best 8-10.
All five teams in the east finish 9-9
Update: Can’t happen anymore.
New England beats Georgia and Saskatchewan and loses to Vancouver. Buffalo beats Calgary, Toronto, and Georgia twice. Rochester beats Colorado, New England, and Georgia twice. Toronto loses to Saskatchewan and beats Buffalo. Then all the eastern teams are 9-9 and we have the nastiest tie-breaker ever.
Rochester wins the east
Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Rochester wins out. Toronto and Georgia lose out. Buffalo loses to Calgary. New England loses to Saskatchewan and Vancouver. Then Rochester, Georgia, and Buffalo are 9-9 while Toronto and New England are 8-10. Rochester has a 4-2 record against Buffalo and Georgia and wins the east while Buffalo finishes second and Georgia third.
Buffalo wins the east
Update: Can’t happen anymore.
Buffalo wins out. Toronto and Georgia lose out. New England loses to Saskatchewan and Vancouver. Rochester beats New England and loses to Colorado. Then the Bandits are 10-8, Georgia is 9-9, and the rest are tied at 8-10. New England wins the tiebreaker and makes the playoffs.
Georgia misses the playoffs
Update: Georgia has now clinched a playoff spot.
Georgia loses out. Toronto beats Saskatchewan and Buffalo. New England beats Saskatchewan and Rochester. Buffalo beats Calgary and Toronto. Then Toronto and New England have 10 wins while Buffalo and Georgia are both 9-9. Buffalo would win the tie-breaker here and the Swarm are out.
You gotta listen when the Big Dog barks.
For those of you who watched Toronto Rock games back in the early or mid 2000’s, you undoubtedly remember Dan “Big Dog” Ladouceur. At 6’6″, Laddy was hard to miss – even more so if you were a opposing player. Ladouceur was an anchor of one of the best defenses the league has ever seen, a group which included Terry Bullen, Pat Coyle, Glenn Clark, Ian Rubel, and Darryl Gibson in front of Hall-of-Fame goaltender Bob Watson. Ladouceur was a prototypical “stay-at-home” defender with a long reach, a heavy stick, and solid fists. He rarely found himself on the far side of the centre line, scoring 6 goals in his 11-year 150-game career. But he did score a big one in the 2002 Championship game, one of five Championships he won with the Rock.
These days, Laddy’s role in the NLL is a little different: as the Georgia Swarm offensive coach, his job is to train the Swarm forwards how to get around guys like him. This is a position at which he seems to be excelling, considering the Swarm at 8-3 and leading the league in goals scored, despite having played one fewer game than half the league.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Dan Ladouceur (well, via email – I assume he was sitting down) and talk about his early days with the Rock as well as his new role with the Swarm.
Many thanks to Dan for taking the time to talk to me.
GP: Hi Dan… thanks a lot for doing this.
DL: Hey Graeme, no problems. Happy to help out and share…
GP: Let’s start with your playing days with the Toronto Rock. In your early days, who were the players you learned the most from?
DL: Obviously one of the most influential guys I played with was Jimmy Veltman. He had a quiet style of leadership but was so fiercely competitive, you couldn’t help but follow him anywhere and want to learn and know what made that guy tick. Other guys like Glenn Clark, Pat Coyle, Terry Bullen – Those guys all taught me about being effective defensively, and I like to think I took a little bit of each of their style and came into my own. And other guys like Colin Doyle and Kim Squire, they reminded me that the game was fun, and to enjoy the experience.
GP: Conversely, in your later days, who were the players that you enjoyed teaching – the ones that learned the most?
DL: I really enjoyed my time rooming and chumming with Scott Campbell when he came to TO. He is a great guy and great player. The young Rob Marshall was great to be around as well. I think he is and always has been a great guy and great teammate.
GP: You won five championships with the Rock. Does any one of them stand out as different from the others – more memorable or special in some way?
DL: In 2000 I won a Champions Cup and a Mann Cup in the same year. That year was pretty special. The win in Rochester  was amazing as well. Having never won there before and going in to take a championship is something movies are made of. The home town fans and family that made the road trip was amazing to see and feel.
2002 was great. To be able to chip in, all of us on the back door, and help bring that home was amazing. Also very big learning experiencing for me as far as preparation from a coaching point of view goes. One goal that game was directly related to Ed Comeau and how prepared he always is.
GP: At one time, I heard a rumour that the Rock were not allowed to trade you because of your job as a Durham police officer. Was there any truth to that?
DL: It was never an arrangement I made or condition of a contract. They could have moved me if they wanted. Playing in another city would have been challenging logistic wise, especially in the early years when I was not very high in seniority in the policing world. I’m sure I could and would have made it work, but just been grinding like so many other players in this league with work and travel schedules that would cripple normal people. I’m thankful I did not have to deal with those challenges.
GP: While you were playing, did you ever think about coaching sometime in the future, or did you not really consider that until your playing days were over?
DL: I never really thought of it much to be honest. I mean, you know great coaches when you come across them in your career. Les, T, Keenan, Clarky all great coaches and all have totally different styles. I just never thought I would or could do the things that those guys did.
GP: Now moving on to your role with the Georgia Swarm. How did your job with the Swarm come about – did you call them or did they call you?
DL: Eddie [head coach Ed Comeau] called me in the summer time to talk lacrosse. We had some great conversations, catching up as we went. I was not out pounding the pavement or cold calling places. I was still processing my time in Toronto and my work life keeps me engaged a lot of the time, so it was not like I was experiencing a Lacrosse void. I knew I wanted to coach more, to implement what I learned from John Lovell and my experience in Toronto, but when Eddie called, I was not in the process of chasing anything.
GP: What did you first think of the idea of being an offensive coach, having been a defensive guy for your whole NLL career?
DL: The way Eddie laid it out to me, his thinking, his expectations and our approach as a group, I had zero doubts about my ability to meet his expectations. I acknowledge that I cant tell Lyle or Miles or Randy or Shane how to put the ball in the net, but I can offer some experienced observations on how they are being defended, tendencies, weakness and areas to exploit. Seemed like a very progressive approach to be honest and I was excited to be part of that and work with Eddie and Sean [Ferris, Swarm assistant coach].
GP: Lyle, Miles, and Jerome Thompson have been playing lacrosse together their whole lives, but they’re still pretty young and none has been in the league longer than two years. Do they need much coaching, or do you just stand back and let them do their thing?
DL: Those guys truly “feel the game” They are attentive to the little bit of structure and principals we have in place and do their roles so well within those parameters, but there is also no scripting or controlling that creativity. None of that O door need coaching per se… They need reminders, reinforcement and feedback. It is a very unique group I get to work with, and as my first experience, I could not be more happy or proud.
GP: Which Swarm players have you been the most impressed with this season – those who are consistently playing above the level you expected from them? What about non-Swarm players?
DL: Lyle Thompson – what can ya say. He came back for year 2 with his feet running.
Mike Poulin – I played with Mike and I am so excited about the player he is now and the leadership he brings to this group. He wants to win and is willing to do the little things to get there and let others follow his example.
Tom Schreiber and Kieran McArdle – Not that they are American. That they are so dangerous in their rookie seasons… So many talented US players just need a chance and they could have an impact as well.
Josh Currier – Watched him in Jr out of Peterborough. Kid is gonna be good for a long time.
Ben McIntosh – Guy is coming into his own and its a dangerous thing.
GP: And we’ll finish up with some fun ones. Who was the toughest guy you had to defend against?
DL: John Grant was always a handful. I liked the challenge of playing against him. And he would talk to you on the floor as well. Let you know that last slash hurt and that he owed you one or just make a funny comment. He is so strong and creative and competitive.
GP: I know you had limited scoring opportunities as a defender, but who was the toughest goalie to score on?
DL: lol. Bob Watson!!! Had lots of opportunities, but Bobby always had my number!!!!
GP: What was your favourite arena to play in as the visiting team?
DL: Philly was a great place to play in back in the day. Great passionate crowds. Calgary and Colorado were great as well. I hated playing in Rochester.
In many sports, some players go on to become coaches once they hang up their skates, cleats, or whatever other footwear they happen to use. Sometimes these transitions work out well, other times they don’t. But one thing I’ve noticed over the years is that in the NHL, the really great players frequently don’t make great coaches, and great coaches were generally not great players. Wayne Gretzky is the obvious example of the former – arguably the greatest hockey player ever was at best a mediocre NHL coach. On the flipside, Don Cherry played a single game in the NHL. Pat Burns never did, nor did Scotty Bowman, Ken Hitchcock, John Tortorella, or many of the current NHL coaches.
Patrick Roy is one counterexample – he’s the only one of the thirty current NHL head coaches who was a truly great player. Patrick Roy hasn’t coached in the NHL since last season. Not sure how I missed this.
It’s funny how different this situation is in lacrosse.
Think of two of the best NLL players ever: Gary Gait took the Mammoth to the championship in his first season as an NLL coach, and has been coaching women’s college lacrosse for many years. John Tavares has been an assistant coach of the Bandits for a year and a half and by all accounts is doing a great job.
But the list of current and former coaches who aren’t just former players but were great players is surprising: Tavares, Gary Gait, Paul Gait, Darris Kilgour, Rich Kilgour, Troy Cordingley, Jim Veltman, Tracey Kelusky, Glenn Clark, Blaine Manning, Dan Ladouceur, Dan Stroup, Chris Gill, Pat Coyle, Curt Malawsky, Derek Keenan (short career, but he did win Rookie of the Year), Kaleb Toth, Jimmy Quinlan, and I’ve probably missed some. Pretty much everybody I just listed was at one time one of the best at his position on his team, if not the league.
At one point just a couple of years ago, four of the nine head coaches in the NLL (Darris Kilgour, Cordingley, Keenan, Bob Hamley) were members of the 1993 Bandits, which also included future coaches Tavares, Veltman, and Rich Kilgour. Similarly, current coaches Stroup, Gill, Coyle, Veltman, Clark, Ladouceur, Campbell, and Keenan were all members of the 1999 Rock.
Who will we be talking about as the great NLL coaches in ten years? Colin Doyle? Brodie Merrill? Mark Steenhuis? Dan Dawson?
Left as an exercise for the reader: Why is this situation so different in hockey than in lacrosse?
Let’s see… entertaining game? Check. Home team played pretty well but lost? Check. In front of not very many fans? Check. Did I move to Vancouver without knowing it?
- I liked the Rock’s green St. Paddy’s Day jerseys. Not sure about the gold helmets.
- The Mammoth offense in general was great and scored a bunch of beautiful goals. Callum Crawford in particular scored a couple of nice ones. He tried at least two “face the other way, jump, spin, and shoot while still in the air” shots, and one of them worked.
- Early in the game, Eli McLaughlin found himself with the ball right on the edge of the crease. He faked low, waited for Rose to drop, and tossed it over him. Smart play. Then late in the second quarter, Stephen Keogh did almost the same thing, but from a little further out. He faked the underhand shot (pictured below but from a different game), causing Rose to drop again, then scored over Rose’s shoulder.
- Later on, Keogh picked up the ball in the Rock zone and was immediately triple-teamed by Rock defenders. A few seconds later, a fourth Rock defender joined the fray, but Keogh kept the ball for at least ten seconds. He even managed to get a half-decent shot off but missed the net. It looked like he was killing a penalty but he wasn’t. Given the amount of work he put in, I almost wanted him to score. I heard other Rock fans applauding him too as he returned to the bench.
- Kieran McArdle scratched again. I thought he’s played well enough recently to stay in the lineup, so perhaps he had work commitments or something.
- Only 8597 at this game. Only ten Rock home games ever have had lower attendance, and three of those have been this season.
- The Mammoth defense did a great job containing Tom Schreiber. He had nothing to shoot at all night. I put this under “not awesome” because I’m a Rock fan, but if I were a Mammoth fan, I’d have put it under “awesome”.
Other game notes
- The Rock brought out a pipe band to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, a day where we celebrate Ireland. What song do they play as the enter the arena? Scotland the Brave.
- There’s a big gap between the Watson and Doyle banners at the ACC. Just enough room for a third that says Veltman.
- In the fourth quarter, I tweeted the Mammoth, asking if they wouldn’t mind not scoring because the Rock were trying to tie the game. They responded by hitting the post twice on empty nets. Thanks for trying!
- Callum Crawford is becoming one of my favourite players because he’s so dynamic. He’s a great passer but can also shoot from anywhere – inside, outside, in close, from distance, even from above the goalie when he does his signature “leap in the air and then bounce it five hole from twelve feet up” move. I’m also a big Stephen Keogh fan. And Joey Cupido. And Ilija Gajic. And Dillon Ward. And Alex Buque. And… Hold on… am I becoming a Mammoth fan?
On a night where the Toronto Rock celebrated Colin Doyle’s contributions to the team and honoured him by raising his jersey to the rafters of the ACC, it would have been fitting for the Rock to win the game by scoring a beautiful late clutch goal since that’s something that Doyle was known for. But they didn’t. The Roughnecks probably wouldn’t have played along and nobody on the Rock wanted to take the chance that Calgary would score the clutch goal and win. Losing on Colin Doyle night wasn’t an option, so the Rock just decide to score a bunch of goals and take the clutch-ness out of it entirely.
The ceremony to honour Doyle was well done. It wasn’t a quick “let’s get this over with” thing, but it didn’t drag on for ages either. Jamie Dawick spoke briefly about what Doyle has meant to the Rock, even long before Dawick himself arrived. Then they showed a video of some of Doyle’s best moments, a bunch of shots of him holding the Champion’s Cup, a listing of his accomplishments, and some interviews with current and former teammates and coaches. The man himself stepped up and talked for a few minutes, and was just as classy and well-spoken as you’d expect from Doyle. He thanked a bunch of people including Dawick, former Rock owners Bill and Brad Watters, all of his teammates and coaches (collectively), the Rock trainers and doctors, the fans, and his family. He also singled out a few people who are no longer with us: Terry Sanderson, Chris Hall, and Les Bartley.
If you weren’t at the ACC or watching on the live stream, head over to nlltv.com and check out the video. During his speech, one of Doyle’s daughters (cute-as-a-button 6-year-old London) noticed that she was on the Jumbotron while daddy was talking, and started to ham it up a little, dancing around, bowing and curtseying. She stole everyone’s attention away before Doyle noticed and said “Don’t encourage her!” but how could you not?
Former Maple Leaf captain Wendel Clark was also there, and helped carry the banner out before it was raised. I thought it was a little strange that he didn’t speak at all but I’m sure it was a case of “they didn’t come to see me, they came to see him“. These classy Toronto team captains stick together.
On to the game:
- Latrell Harris, Billy Hostrawser, Sandy Chapman, Challen Rogers. These guys were everywhere and did a great job of getting in the way of the Calgary offense.
- I feel like I should apologize to Billy Hostrawser. I’ve been hard on him in previous years for taking dumb penalties, and even implied that his only reason for being on the floor was to fight. But he’s turned into a damn fine defender.
- Another seven points from Tom Schreiber, who even made a couple of great defensive plays as well. Turns out the MLL MVP is a pretty good lacrosse player.
- Refereeing. I rarely call out refs because they have a very difficult and thankless job. But the whistles were out in full force in this one. If you looked at someone the wrong way, you were in the box. There was a slashing call on McArdle in the first which was not a slash. Hostrawser was called for an illegal body check that looked totally legal to me. Scott Carnegie was given a major for an illegal body check that may have been a minor but I don’t think it was a major. Carnegie also got called for tripping which was a total accident. Gamble, checking from behind. Bell, slashing. Reinholdt, slashing. It just didn’t stop. Then in the middle of the fourth, a Calgary player gave a Rock player a blatant cross check across the back just after he’d passed the ball. No call. The mind, she is boggled.
- Latrell Harris got another breakaway but couldn’t bury it. I think he’s 1 for at least 5 on such breakaways this year. But his defense is good enough that it’s not a big deal.
- The Rock only allowed a single goal in the first half. Then they allowed NINE in the second half. Luckily the Rock offense didn’t take any time off so it wasn’t a big problem but allowing nine goals in a half is a bit concerning.
Only one other game note:
The Rock’s seventh goal was challenged because it appeared that the goal went in after the shot clock expired. The review was inconclusive. It seemed to me at the time that the order of events was:
- Rock player shoots, hits defender
- McArdle picks up ball, shoots
- Shot clock whistle sounds
- Ball enters net
- Ref signals good goal
I can’t say for sure that that’s what happened, but that’s how it looked to me. I looked over the replay on nlltv.com but the shot clock was not shown on the screen and I couldn’t hear the shot clock whistle at all, so that doesn’t clear anything up. The ref who reviewed the goal checked all of the replay views and none of them showed the shot clock either so he had no way to confirm Calgary’s suspicions. It should be technically possible to embed the shot clock and game clock time in the video itself so that either all shots from all angles have the clock displayed on the screen, or there’s some other way to determine the time from the video. This is not a small project though.
As my wife said following the game, it wasn’t as much of a blowout as it could have been, but it wasn’t really a close game either. We all know that Calgary has the offensive ability to make up 4 or 5 goals in no time flat, and in the second half they proved they could score a bunch to make it close, but on this night the Rock offense was just a little bit better.