Campbell vs. Snider

By now, we all know about the fight that took place near the beginning of last Saturday’s Rock-Roughnecks game involving Geoff Snider and Pat Campbell. I mentioned this in my game review and said I’d get back to it later. Well, now it’s later. But I’ve looked over the replay again a number of times and I think I’ve changed my mind a little. Campbell’s move was still unwise and put the Rock at a disadvantage, but after watching the replay (the TSN feed was better than the one in the video I linked to in my game review) and hearing and reading interviews with other people about him, not to mention his own words describing what happened, I think I understand why he did what he did, and I think I’m OK with it.

Pat CampbellI’m pretty sure this is the first lacrosse fight I’ve ever seen involving one goalie but not two. Let’s start with the play as I saw it. Snider is behind the net with the ball. He gets double- and then triple-teamed by Rock defenders Rob Marshall, Phil Sanderson, and Ryan Sharp. He takes a hit to the face (Sanderson) then gets cross-checked from behind (Sharp), then takes another hit to the face (Sanderson again). Snider’s helmet comes off and he goes down. He then gets up rather upset (understandably), drops his gloves, and heads towards Sanderson. As he’s pulling Marshall out of the way, Campbell, who has not been involved until now, runs over to Snider and punches him in the face. The refs try to pull them apart but Snider pulls Campbell’s helmet off, then they separate and Campbell takes his own jersey and shoulder pads off. They’re just about to go at it when Snider trips over the pile of pads on the floor and falls. Campbell drops beside him and throws two huge punches before the refs break it up. That’s it.

It wasn’t much of a fight. I’m not sure Snider actually landed any real punches, but he was given five for fighting anyway. Campbell was given five for fighting, two for instigating, and a game misconduct. He first went to the penalty box and then to the dressing room through a sea of high-fives from his teammates. I was watching the game on TV and my twitter feed on the laptop at the same time, and there were lots of tweets about the fight, mostly positive. I know I’m in the minority when it comes to fighting – I don’t particularly like it, but most people do, and that’s fine. As long as it’s not a pre-determined thing or people who are primarily fighters are sent out just to fight, I’m OK with it. Snider had been hit illegally three times within about five seconds, and no penalties were being called, so I can’t blame him for wanting to fight. But Campbell wasn’t involved and the way I saw it originally, there was no reason for him to get involved unless he questioned Phil Sanderson’s ability to defend himself.

Campbell’s actions did put the Rock at a disadvantage, in a number of ways:

  1. Campbell was ejected, so Matt Roik had to come in and play the rest of the game. If Roik had been injured during the game, the Rock would have been in deep trouble. I was going to say that Roik had minimal time to warm up, but this was only 4 minutes into the game, so his pre-game warm-ups were probably sufficient.
  2. Calgary got a two-minute power-play.
  3. The Rock lost Bill Greer for two minutes, since someone had to serve the penalty.

The first game of the NLL season featured the Roughnecks in Toronto, and during that game Snider had been chirping Roik incessantly, and it did look at one point like it would come to blows, but never did. There was some talk that the event on Saturday was somehow related to that, and it was even suggested that Campbell (who has a bit of a reputation) was given the start for that reason – not specifically to fight Snider, but just so that the Roughnecks might think twice about trying to get under the goalie’s skin. Maybe so, but I think the whole Snider-Roik thing was overblown and I doubt the Rock were really thinking about revenge for that minor incident three weeks later.

In a post-game interview, Campbell said “I saw his gloves come off and I knew he was ready to go. We are a team, a tough team and we don’t fight our own fights, we fight for each other“. I’ve since heard a number of interviews with people talking about what a great teammate Campbell is and how he would do anything for his teammates. It sounds like he was willing to fight Snider so that Flip didn’t have to, but not because he was questioning Sanderson’s ability. Maybe he figured that he stood a better chance against Snider than Flip did. Maybe he figured that sitting in the penalty box for five minutes himself wouldn’t hurt the team as much as having Sanderson in the box for five.

But the most likely explanation is that he didn’t figure anything. He didn’t think at all – just acted to defend his teammate. Not because the teammate couldn’t defend himself, but just because that’s what teammates do. I can’t fault him for that.


Game Review: Toronto 14 at Calgary 13

Let’s say you were going to write a movie that included a lacrosse game, and it was important to the plot that the game be close. How would you write it? It would have to include overtime. You could have the score tied nine different times. All four quarters end in a tie. Both teams have the same number of power play goals on the same number of power play opportunities. No team would lead by more than two at any time. Both teams have the same number of shots in two of the four quarters. Both backup goaltenders enter the game and play for significant periods of time. And then you’d have the unsung hero, the hard worker that doesn’t get all the accolades, score the OT winner, his first goal in two years. Well, you couldn’t put all those elements in, that would be too unrealistic.

And yet that’s what happened in the Rock’s second win of the weekend and Calgary’s second straight overtime loss. Rock defender Cam Woods scored on a pass from Mike Hobbins just over a minute into overtime, in a game that featured all of the above elements and more. There was even a fight, but I’ve never seen a fight involving a goalie that didn’t involve a second goalie. I’ve seen goalies shoving other players and even throwing the odd punch, but never a drop-the-gloves-take-the-jersey-and-pads-off kind of fight. I’ll get back to that later, but back to the game review for now.

This was the first game the Rock had played without either Blaine Manning or Colin Doyle in the lineup since the first game of the 2000 season. The question of who would step up in their absence was answered by another veteran, Josh Sanderson, who had nine points including a hat-trick. Garrett Billings continued where he left off last night, with 3 goals and 4 assists, giving him 14 points over the weekend. Not John Grant numbers, but not bad. Brendan Thenhaus made his Rock debut and scored a goal and two helpers. Pat Campbell started but only played 3 1/2 minutes, allowing 2 goals on 5 shots before he… but more on that later. Matt Roik finished the game from there, allowing 11 goals on 43 shots and for the fourth straight game, keeping his team in it. Three of the Rock’s goals, including the winner, were scored by defenders – Woods, Drew Petkoff, and Mike Hobbins all scored, and Hobbins also added three assists.

At the other end of the floor, Mike Poulin started but after allowing 5 goals, was pulled early in the second for Nick Rose. I didn’t think Poulin was playing that badly, but Rose ended up playing 25 minutes before Poulin came back in. Rose wasn’t bad either, but Poulin really played well  in the fourth. Offensively, the Roughnecks were led by Curtis Dickson with 3 goals and 3 assists, and Shawn Evans, with 2 and 3. Four other Roughnecks had 4 or more points, so it was a well-balanced attack.

After a tough back-and-forth game with goals scattered throughout and ten goals in the third quarter alone, both defenses were very strong in the fourth quarter. This resulted in a ten-minute span with no goals scored and Calgary nursing a two-goal lead. But with less than two minutes left and Roik on the bench, Kasey Beirnes scored to cut the lead to one. Toronto kept the pressure on and when Mike Poulin left the crease to try to grab a loose ball behind the net, he was hit by two Rock players. When he rushed to get back in front of the net, he didn’t have time to get properly set up, and was a step or two in front of the goal as Garrett Billings blew a shot by him to tie the game with eleven seconds left. Geoff Snider won the resulting faceoff (Snider was 24-4 on faceoffs on the night) and Calgary managed to get a decent shot on Roik, who made the biggest stop of his season to send the game to OT.

If you were to poll every Rock fan watching that game and ask which Rock player was going to score the winner, Cam Woods would not likely make the top 10. I doubt Cam Woods himself would list Cam Woods in the top ten. But on a quick transition, Woods scored from Mike Hobbins to end the game and put the Rock at 2-2 on the season.

OK, I said I’d get back to the Campbell thing later, but that may be long so I think I will save it for a separate article. I know, dear reader, that you are shaken and upset by having to wait, so I will leave you with some more notes about this game, and then a video of the event in question. Check back in a couple of days or watch my twitter feed for the announcement.

Other game notes:

  • Drew Petkoff scored a nice goal in the second as he got a breakaway and ran from Rose’s left to his right looking for an opening. I thought (and Brian Shanahan said the same thing on the telecast) that he’d run too far and taken too long, but he managed to pull Rose off to the right just far enough to open a hole on the left side and scored there. Don’t know if that’s what he meant to do, but it was beautiful.
  • I’m not one to complain about officiating in general, but there were a number of questionable calls here. Two of the most blatant went against the Roughnecks: Scott Ranger got a “hitting from behind” penalty for giving Bruce Codd a little shove on the back – with his hand. Then near the end of the fourth, Cam Woods grabbed Curtis Dickson’s jersey and yanked him down. The Roughnecks got a penalty on the first one (and the Rock scored on the PP) and Toronto did not get a penalty on the second. That’s exactly backwards.
  • Questionable officiating notwithstanding, Ryan Sharp deserved every penalty he took in this game, and in the Rochester game as well. If he’s going to remain with the team, he’ll have to play smarter.

Game Review: Rochester 11 at Toronto 13

The Toronto Rock won last night, and they also lost. The win was big, but the loss might have been bigger.

The win was, of course, the game, a 13-11 come-from-behind victory over the new-look Knighthawks. The first half was a see-saw battle, with the score tied at 1, 2, 3, 4, and at half-time, 5. Rochester had yet another one-goal lead at the end of the third, then a three-goal lead in the fourth before Toronto decided that they should just win the damn game and reeled off six straight goals in eight minutes to take a 12-9 lead. Rochester refused to go quietly, scoring two more in the last minute and a half around an empty-net goal by Patrick Merrill but it wasn’t quite enough.

The loss was Colin Doyle, who hobbled off the floor in the second quarter and was not seen again. The word from the Rock is a “lower body injury” and TSN later reported a pulled hamstring and that he will not play tonight in Calgary. This will be the first NLL game Doyle has missed since the 2000 season, a streak of 188 consecutive games. This ties him with former teammate Steve Toll for the NLL “iron man” record. Part of me is hoping the Rock put him out there tomorrow, even if it’s just for one shift, so he can set the record. They likely won’t and I can’t say I blame them; playing around with your captain’s health (not to mention scratching someone healthy so Doyle can play for 30 seconds) for the sake of a record is a bit silly. If Doyle’s injury is serious and he does miss a number of games, that will be a huge loss for the Rock who are already without Blaine Manning.

Rochester scored the first goal of the game on the first shot of the game, a minute and a half in. Cody Jamieson’s first of four on the night was a relatively weak shot from a mile away that beat Roik. After ten minutes, Roik had been beaten four times, though had only allowed that one goal – two shots hit posts (a trend that would continue all night for the Knighthawks) and one got through and trickled towards the net but Sandy Chapman managed to stop it before it went in. That was a weird play, actually – it happened with 9:00 left in the first, and Rochester coach Mike Hasen threw the challenge flag with 8:31 left. By my count, that’s 29 seconds. According to the 2012 rule book:

The challenging club must throw the flag within twenty seconds of the play being challenged. 

Despite Troy Cordingley gently reminding the ref of this rule, the play was reviewed but it wasn’t even close so the no-goal call stood. This ended up working in the Rock’s favour, since the KHawks almost scored a goal early in the second on a play that was closer, but Hasen had already wasted his first-half challenge. (After watching the replay on TV, that goal wasn’t all that close either.)

Only three goals were scored in the third, as the Knighthawks took a 7-5 lead before Ryan Sharp scored a shorthanded goal to bring the Rock within one. The first two goals of the fourth put the Knighthawks up by 3 before the Rock’s third power play goal began the six-goal run. The run also included the Rock’s fourth power play goal – the Rock were 4 for 6 on the power play, while the Knighthawks were only 1 for 5.

Both defenses were pretty solid on the night, though the Rock had some trouble with Cody Jamieson. Jamieson ended up with 4 goals, 4 assists, and 20 shots to lead all players. Stephen Keogh played pretty well but Johnny Powless was great, including a highlight-reel goal in the third. Matt Vinc was not outstanding but made a number of great saves. He did look pretty rattled when the Rock scored six in a row in the fourth. At the other end, Roik made his share of great stops as well, though as I said the first goal was a softie. “He’d like to have that one back” says Mr. Cliché Commentator – luckily Dave Randorf is not Mr. Cliché Commentator and correctly said that Roik really should have make that stop. That was the only real softie though. As he did in the first two games, Roik played well enough to keep the team in it, only this time the offense decided to show up. Drew Petkoff missed part of last year because of injury, and had a strong game in his return.

It was very nice to see the Rock bump their intensity level to come back in the fourth despite missing the leadership of Doyle and Manning. But there is a lot of veteran leadership on this team, so while losing Doyle will definitely hurt, it’s not devastating from a leadership point of view.

Other notes:

  • We almost had one of each type of goal: even strength (most of them), 5 power play goals, two short-handed, one empty net, Cody Jamieson hit the post on a penalty shot, and Matt Roik tried a long shot on an empty net that, I believe, would have made him the first goalie to score a goal in Rock history. That penalty shot happened because the Rock were hit with a too-many-men penalty in the last two minutes of the game, though the reason wasn’t announced (just “The Knighthawks have been awarded a penalty shot”) and a number of people at the game were confused, myself included.
  • The costume budget for the Toronto Rock Cheerleaders must have been drastically cut, though they kept the same number of people on the squad.
  • Toronto’s eighth goal was a weird one: Play in the Toronto end, Toronto defender forward Dan Carey knocked a pass out of the air, grabbed the loose ball and ran up the floor, then passed to forward defender Stephen Hoar who shot it by Vinc. Why Carey was back on D, I’m not sure, (who ever heard of an offensive player playing defense?) but it worked out rather well. Stephen Leblanc was also playing defense on that shift.
  • Stephen Leblanc’s goal in the second (his first of the year) was almost identical to Cody Jamieson’s second of the game in the first. Both cut inside from the goalie’s left and dove across the crease, scoring on the far side.
  • Garrett Billings did his best Blaine Manning impression (he’s already got the hair nailed) in the third, when he cut across the front of the crease, in traffic, and switched hands to shoot left-handed. Didn’t score, but a nice play.
  • The Rock took a too-many-men penalty with a minute left in the third, when Brad Self had a breakaway. It’s not unusual for a team to send a defender out early to try to prevent the breakaway – if the guy scores anyway, the penalty is negated and you lose nothing. If he doesn’t score, you count your blessings and take the two minute penalty. But in this case, Self was already beyond the bench when they sent the defenders out, so there was no point.
  • If the nets were an inch wider and an inch taller, the Knighthawks might have scored 20 goals. We counted ten posts hit by the ‘Hawks and around five by the Rock. Brad Self hit at least four.
  • Jamie Rooney made his Rock debut, and after a go-ahead goal in the first and a beautiful game-tying goal in the fourth, Rock fans have decided that he can stay.

The return of the two-way player?

We all know about the rule changes that the NLL has put into effect this year, most notably the eight-second rule and the “two feet in the box on the change” rule. The idea of these rules, and others, was to speed up the game and the general consensus seems to be: mission accomplished. This means that we’re seeing more transition – after a turnover, the transition guys race up the floor trying to force odd-man rushes and breakaways, which seem to be happening with a little more regularity this season. With that will come more goals by transition players and defenders, and more assists by defenders and even goalies. After three games Mike Poulin has 4 assists, and Tyler Richards has 3 assists in 2 games. But whenever you create a rule like this, there are frequently unintended consequences. If these rule changes means that strong transition players get more floor time, someone has to get less. But who?

When transition players are heading up the floor on an odd-man rush, the players on the floor for the other team are going to be the attackers, not the defenders. They will likely not have time to get back to the bench to let the defensive specialists onto the floor, so you’re going to see more offensive players playing defense this year than in previous years. I’ve seen lots of people on the NLL Message Boards who talk about the good old days of the MILL, when just about every player played at both ends of the floor. If you were a great offensive player but sucked on defense, you better work on your D or you will find yourself on the bench. But in the last 10-15 years, that hasn’t been the case. Every now and then you’ll see a primarily offensive guy caught on the floor playing defense, and much of the time they keep looking towards the bench to see when they can get off.

There have certainly been players in the “modern era” who are/were comfortable at both ends of the floor – reigning MVP Jeff Shattler, Mark Steenhuis, Jim Veltman, and Chris Driscoll are great examples. Driscoll was primarily a (very good) transition and defensive guy for the last six or seven years of his career, but scored 49 points in 10 games with Rochester in ’97, and an amazing 76 points in 12 games (which extrapolates to 101 points over 16) with the Saints in 2003. Whatever era you’re in, two-way players like that are going to be exceptionally valuable, though I agree with Ty Pilson on the recent IL Indoor roundtable that we’re not likely to get back to having everyone play both ends. But what happens to the offensive stars who aren’t very good defensively?

I watched Josh Sanderson play for the Rock for several years, and after three years away in Calgary and Boston, now he’s back on the team. In the offensive zone, he’s the quarterback: setting up plays, making amazing passes, and scoring a ton himself. In this role, he’s one of the best ever and I have to say I’m a big fan of his. But at the other end of the floor, it’s a different story. Josh is simply not the greatest defender around. I have to wonder if the Rock will reduce his playing time slightly, depending on the speed of the opponent and the strength of the their transition game, to make sure he doesn’t get caught out there and have to play defense.

Josh is probably a bad example here – he’s so good in the offensive zone that any potential liabilities in his defense are more than offset, so his playing time will likely not be affected. But what about the good-but-not-superstar forwards who have weak defensive skills? I’m sure there are plenty of guys in the league who are decent offensively but can’t play D. (I tried to come up with some examples, (“What about the Kasey Beirneses, Zack Greers, and Daryl Veltmans of the league?”), but in the current NLL, these guys play defense so infrequently that I have no idea if they’re good on D or not.) They made the NLL and managed to stay there because of their offense, and since they didn’t need to play D anyway, their lack of defensive skill wasn’t a liability. Also, the fact that they never played on D means that their already-limited defensive skills have atrophied. With these new rules, these guys might find themselves warming the bench more often than in previous years.

Given the choice between a defender who prevents goals but can’t score and a forward who can score but is a defensive liability, I wouldn’t be surprised if coaches start to opt for the former more often than the latter.

Week 4 picks

For the second straight week, I went 2-2 with my picks. After three weeks, I’m still under .500 but getting closer. Now I’m a math guy, so I know that as long as I keep having .500 weeks, I can never reach .500 overall. This is the week I break the .500 barrier. I can just feel it.

Record: 4-5 (.444)




ROC @ TOR Rochester has almost never won during the regular season in Toronto – which means precisely nothing. The Knighthawks played a strong game against Buffalo last week and demolished the Wings the week before, so there’s no reason to believe they can’t come into the ACC and beat the Rock. But after starting the season 0-2, the champs are hungry for a win, and they’ll want to get it before the home crowd. The offense is poised to break out and despite losing Manning, I think this is the game where they do it. Rock
PHI @ BUF After wins over Toronto and Rochester, the Bandits have looked strong and their confidence level has to be very high. Then again, Philly beat the Stealth in OT last week, and Dan Dawson hasn’t really hit his stride yet. I’m picking the Bandits, but I don’t think it’ll be a blowout. Bandits
BUF @ MIN I think Buffalo’s just too strong for the Swarm, particularly if they beat Philly on Friday night. The only way Minnesota stands a chance on Saturday is if (a) Buffalo gets slaughtered by the Wings on Friday and their confidence get shattered, or (b) the Bandits consider it an easy win and don’t work their tails off. Darris Kilgour won’t let either of those things happen. And if either one does happen, I wouldn’t want to be in the dressing room after that game. Bandits
ROC @ COL I’m still not 100% convinced that Colorado is for real, and I am sure that John Grant has to come back down to earth sometime. But even if he does, Adam Jones looks like he’s ready to take over. Despite Vinc vs. Levis, I think this will be another high-scoring game, with the Knighthawks coming out on top. Knighthawks
TOR @ CAL If Toronto loses on Friday night, this is a no-brainer – Calgary in a landslide, and the Rock are in deep trouble. But if the Rock can beat Rochester, this is going to be much closer. I still think Calgary is the team to beat in the West, so I’m picking the Roughies here. Roughnecks
EDM @ WAS Toughest pick of the week. Edmonton didn’t have a bad game against Colorado last weekend, but playing against the Grant/Jones/Prout combo has been difficult so far this year. The Stealth just lost Jeff Zywicki, and Ratcliff and Duch aren’t tearing up the floor like last year. Hmmm… offense isn’t clicking and they lost one of their stars to injury – sounds like the Rock, doesn’t it? Rush

A tale of two champions

Some odd similarities I noticed this evening:

Toronto: appeared in last two Championship games, won one and lost one
Washington: appeared in last two Championship games, won one and lost one

Toronto: currently 0-2
Washington: currently 0-2

Toronto: lost their first game of the season to Calgary by 3 goals
Washington: lost their first game of the season to Calgary by 3 goals

Toronto: After 2 games, they have 19 goals, 26 assists, and 23 PIM
Washington: After 2 games, they have 19 goals, 29 assists, and 25 PIM

Toronto: Top scorer last year, Leblanc, was #9 in the league. Currently tied for #51.
Washington: Top scorer last year, Ratcliff, was #2 in the league. Currently sitting at #23.

Toronto: Nobody has more than 10 points, only four players with 4 or more
Washington: Nobody has more than 10 points, only four players with 4 or more

Toronto: One of their offensive stars, Blaine Manning, is injured and will miss some games
Washington: One of their offensive stars, Jeff Zywicki, is injured and will miss some games

Toronto: To replace Manning, picked up Brendan Thenhaus, recently cut by the Bandits
Washington: To replace Zywicki, picked up Brett Bucktooth, recently cut by the Bandits

Toronto: Play the Stealth on March 3 in Toronto and April 20 in Washington
Washington: Play the Rock on March 3 in Toronto and April 20 in Washington

OK, that last one isn’t much of a coincidence.

Expect the unexpected

The Emperor

Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.
                                            The Emperor

We are now 3 weeks into the 2012 NLL season, and things are exactly as I predicted. Toronto and Washington are on top, Colorado is struggling to find offense, and the highly touted rookies in Philly, Colorado, and Rochester are showing promise, but will probably need a year or two under their belts to really have an impact.

Or not.

Let’s take a look at what’s going as expected and what’s not.

Expected: The Buffalo Bandits are 2-0. Calgary is 2-1.
Unexpected: Toronto and Washington are combined 0-4. Colorado is 3-0.

Expected: Grant, Prout, Tavares, Shattler, Jamieson, Dickson are in the top 10 in scoring.
Unexpected: There are two rookies in the top 5.

Expected: Mike Thompson has the lowest GAA in the league.
Unexpected: He’s almost two full points ahead of anyone else. Brandon Miller is up around 15.

Expected: A number of players have scored hat-tricks.
Unexpected: Neither Adam Jones nor Kevin Crowley have had a game yet where they haven’t. Two for Crowley, three for Jones.

Expected: John Grant and Gavin Prout make a pretty strong offensive pair.
Unexpected: Both are in the top 3 in scoring, along with rookie teammate Adam Jones. Grant is averaging 10 points per game.

Expected: The rule changes have led to more transition scoring, which might mean more goalie assists.
Unexpected: Mike Poulin has 4 points in 3 games, and Tyler Richards has 3 in 2 games. Poulin is outscoring Stephan Leblanc, Tracey Kelusky, and Jeff Zywicki.

Expected: Colorado will be better than last year, when they had a terrible offense and a great defense.
Unexpected: Colorado has a great offense and a terrible defense.

Expected: Josh Sanderson will have a big impact on Toronto’s offense.
Unexpected: No Toronto Rock players are in the top 20 in scoring. Sanderson is tied for 32nd. Stephan Leblanc is tied for 49th.

Week 3 picks

I went 2-2 with my week 2 picks, so as week three begins, I’m sitting a game under .500. Let us continue our drive towards mediocrity with this week’s picks:
Record: 2-3 (.400)

COL @ EDM Edmonton has had lots of time to prepare for this game, but they have a whole new lineup, and haven’t played together against an actual opponent in over a month (since the scrimmage against Calgary). Meanwhile, Colorado won big last weekend, and I think they’ll ride that wave to a victory over the Rush. Mammoth
WAS @ PHI I think Philadelphia has improved quite a bit this off-season, and I have to say their thrashing at the hands of the Knighthawks last week surprised me. But even if the new and improved Wings play up to their potential, they can’t handle the Stealth. Stealth
BUF @ ROC Using similar logic to the Mammoth pick above, the Knighthawks won big last week, and they will try to ride that wave to another victory – but they’re facing the Bandits who just beat the defending champs, not the Rush who have yet to play. Mikey Thompson will let Messrs. Keogh and Powless know what playing in the NLL is really like, lest they think that last week’s offensive explosion was typical. Bandits
COL @ CAL Can anyone stop the Roughnecks? Sure, with the parity in the league this year, almost anyone can, and if Calgary was playing the night before and Colorado wasn’t, I might pick the Mammoth. But it’s the other way around, so I’m taking the Roughies. Roughnecks

The NLL without Blaine Manning

Next weekend, the Toronto Rock will play their first game without Blaine Manning in the line-up since the Championship game in 2001, more than ten years ago. Ten years is a long time, so let’s see how the league has changed in that time.

2001 2012
Teams in the league 9 9
The league is considering expanding to Vancouver in the not-too-distant future Yes Yes
The Toronto Rock have been in the last two championship games, winning one of them Yes Yes
John Tavares is a veteran, providing leadership to the Bandits and can still score with the best of them Yes Yes
Number of playoff wins in Philadelphia Wings history 16 16

OK, so things don’t look all that different so far. Maybe we should look at the changes from another angle. Let’s just list some things that have happened in the NLL since the end of the 2001 season:


  • 3 teams entered the league and are still around: Calgary, Montreal (which became Minnesota), Edmonton
  • 2 teams moved: Washington Power (became Colorado), Albany Attack (became San Jose and then Washington)
  • 2 teams folded: Ottawa, New York Saints
  • 1 team moved and then folded: Columbus (became Arizona)
  • 6 (or 8) teams entered the league and have since folded: Vancouver, New Jersey/Anaheim, Portland, Chicago, New York/Orlando, Boston


  • Toronto has won four more league Championships
  • Calgary has won two, and singles have been won by Buffalo, Rochester, Colorado, and Washington


  • Someone other than Gary Gait or John Tavares was named league MVP. This had never happened in the first eight years this award was given.
  • Only one of the most recent four MVP winners (Casey Powell) had ever played an NLL game.
  • Players such as Brian Langtry, Taylor Wray, Shawn Nadelen, and Jay Jalbert have entered the league, had a significant impact, and retired (Update: Taylor Wray has not officially retired.)
  • The only players on the 2011 All-Pro teams who were in the league in 2001 were Pat McCready, John Tavares, and Anthony Cosmo
  • The only members of the 2011 All-Star teams who were in the league in 2001 were John Grant, John Tavares, Colin Doyle, Anthony Cosmo, and Bob Watson.
  • In 2001, Mark Steenhuis was 21 and had only been playing lacrosse for four years. Brodie Merrill was 19. Paul Rabil and Ryan Benesch were 15. Rock sophomore player Rob Hellyer was 9.

Blaine, here’s hoping for a speedy recovery and return to the line-up. The Rock, and the league, won’t be the same without you.

Game report: Toronto 10 @ Buffalo 14

I learned something about myself tonight while watching the Rock-Bandits game (in hi-def on TV, thanks TSN). I learned that I pay far too much attention to my twitter feed when watching lacrosse on TV. I missed more than one goal while reading or composing tweets so perhaps in future I might decide to shut down the ole Twitter app during the game. Apparently the Rock won, or maybe lost, I dunno. Luckily, I PVR’ed the game, so I can go back and watch the whole thing again. Hang on.

OK, so the Rock lost, in a couple of ways. Not only did they lose the game, 14-10 to the Buffalo Bandits, but they lost Blaine Manning early in the game to a broken collarbone. Post-game reports say that he’ll be out 6-8 weeks. Manning is the current Rock “iron man”, not having missed a single game since becoming a member of the Rock in 2002. This means that the next Rock game will be the first the Rock have played without Manning since the Championship game in 2001. Colin Doyle is the league’s Iron Man at 180-something games (and will tie Steve Toll for the all-time NLL record in the next game) but he played three years with San Jose.

Once again, the Rock offense was stagnant. Doyle scored 3 with singles scored by Carey, Billings, and Beirnes, but once again Stephan Leblanc, who has been amazing in his first two years in the league, was nowhere to be found. After two games, he has still yet to score. Dan Carey’s goal in the second came after a very nice behind-the-back pass from Josh Sanderson, but I think Sanderson got it in his head that he’s really good at that, and he attempted a number of behind-the-back passes and shots over the rest of the game. He finished with no goals and 3 assists, so I’ll let you be the judge of how well that turned out. Carey looked a little lost in his first game, but looked pretty good in this one. One of my concerns with Carey because of his concussion history was that he’d be reluctant to get into the corners, digging for loose balls. You can hardly blame him after what’s happened to people like Ken Montour and Merrick Thomson and Sidney Crosby, so it was nice to see him in there working hard for the loosies.

The defense fared almost as well as the offense in terms of goal-scoring. The Rock had four goals from defenders – two from newcomer Bill Greer, and one each from Sandy Chapman and Glen Bryan. Chapman, Stephen Hoar, and Phil Sanderson scored in the first game, so right now Chapman has as many goals (2) as Josh Sanderson (1), Blaine Manning (1), and Stephen Leblanc (0) combined.

I tweeted during the game that the Rock’s practice nets must be a touch bigger than the ones they were using in Buffalo. Shots on net were going high all night long. Maybe there was a scouting report that going high was the way to beat Mike Thompson. Actually, in the game against Calgary, that looked like the way to beat Matt Roik. It didn’t work against Thompson, but then again, not much did. Thompson was outstanding, and stopped more than one shot from point-blank range. In at least one case, the Rock forward was standing just behind the crease line, all by himself, for at least three seconds, trying to decide where to shoot. Three seconds may not seem like much, but when you’re a goalie about to face a shot from that close, three seconds is an eternity. The Rock shooter feinted shooting low, waited for Thompson to drop, and then shot high but Thompson waited him out and make an amazing stop.

In my picks for last week, I called a close game won by the Rock, and I was mostly right. Except that the Rock lost. And it wasn’t all that close at the end. I also said that I didn’t know who was going to score for the Mammoth, who scored 20, though I got the outcome right. And I said that Brodie Merrill and the Wings defense wouldn’t let the Rochester forwards get that many shots on Brandon Miller. I was kind of right there in that they only got 32 shots on Miller, but there was also the 26 shots on Wagar. I got the Calgary game right as well, making me 2-2 on the weekend and 2-3 overall.