NLL West 2012 season preview

Today we continue our preview of the 2012 season. Earlier we looked at the East division so today we’ll take a look at the West.

Calgary Roughnecks

Biggest personnel change: Shawn Evans

Comments: The biggest question about the 2011 Roughnecks is: was it a fluke? Was it a case of a bunch of players all having career years at the same time? Will they all play at their level in 2012 rather than above it and drop from first in the league to middle of the pack? Stephen Stamp of ILIndoor says no, and makes a good argument. Adding Shawn Evans to an offense of Shattler, Toth, Dobbie, Dickson, and Ranger will make life difficult for people like Aaron Bold, Chris Levis, and Tyler Richards. And speaking of goalies, Mike Poulin and Nick Rose make a great one-two punch for the Necks. Too bad about Geoff Snider, though. Once the best face-off man in the league, last year he wasn’t even the best face-off man in his own family. OK, so that’s a touch misleading. He was second in the league with 70.6%, a half of a percentage point behind his brother Bob (71.1%) and almost nine percentage points ahead of third place (Brandon Francis of the Bandits at 62%). Still pretty impressive.

Prediction: First

Colorado Mammoth

Biggest personnel change: Brian Langtry

Comments: There were a fair number of changes in Colorado this off-season, most notably the retirement of Brian Langtry and the trading of Dan Carey. But most of the moves Colorado made involved acquiring defenders: Ryan Hotaling (who has since chosen to play in the NALL), John Orsen, Creighton Reid, Rory Smith, and Jon Sullivan. Who’s going to score? Even if Grant and Prout have great seasons, it may not matter – look at last year’s Swarm. Ryan Benesch led the league with 95 points, Callum Crawford added 70, and six other players had more than 20 points, but the team finished 8-8. Grant and Prout had 83 and 60 points respectively, but after that there is only one returning player (Alex Gajic, who may begin the season on the IR list) and one new guy (Sean Pollock) with more than 17 points. Joel Dalgarno averaged over 3 points a game since coming over from Washington mid-season, but he will not be playing in 2012. You may have a good goaltender and a great defense and only give up 8 goals a game, but if you can only score 6, I’m afraid the math says you’re going to lose.

Prediction: Fourth

Edmonton Rush

Biggest personnel change: Athan Iannucci

Comments: Wow. It was hard to pick only one name to put as the biggest personnel change. Shawn Williams is a fourteen-year veteran in the league, Kyle Rubisch was a strong Rookie of the Year candidate last year and is already one of the best defenders in the league, Aaron Wilson is also a proven goal scorer, and Aaron Bold is ready to be a #1 goaltender in the NLL, but Iannucci raises the most eyebrows after his MVP record-setting season in 2008.

As of now, Iannucci has not signed with the Rush, so I reserve the right to change my prediction if he ends up sitting out or being traded. Actually, I reserve the right to change my predictions anytime I want for any reason, or for no reason at all. That’s just the way I roll.

Prediction: Third

Minnesota Swarm

Biggest personnel change: Anthony Cosmo Aaron Wilson

Comments: In four deals, the Swarm traded away Aaron Wilson, Ryan Cousins, Kevin Croswell, Jon Sullivan, Rory Smith, Sean Pollock, Nick Inch, and Mat Giles, all of whom played for the Swarm last year, plus Josh Sanderson who didn’t, and one draft pick. In return, they got Jeff Gilbert, Greg Downing, a cardboard cut-out of Anthony Cosmo, and six draft picks. Three of those picks have already turned into players, and between those three acquired picks plus the ones they already had, three draftees (Jordan MacIntosh, Evan Kirk, and Corbyn Tao) will begin the season on the Swarm roster.

The Swarm have Nick Patterson and Kirk in net, so even if Cosmo never dons a Swarm jersey their goaltending situation is fine. I was tempted to put former captain Ryan Cousins as the biggest change, but he’s only played in 14 games over the last two years; Wilson played in all 32 and scored over 140 points. The Swarm have the same problem as the Knighthawks – they’re very young. But with that many players traded away for picks, the Swarm may have to play more of their young kids than they’d like just to have enough warm bodies on the floor. Are they going to totally suck this year? No, but they might be in a similar position as the Knighthawks – not great this year, but pretty good next year and continuing to get better after that.

Prediction: Fifth

Washington Stealth

Biggest personnel change: Luke Wiles

Comments: They traded Wiles to Buffalo but they also had the best offense in the league last year so they can afford to lose a little. That said, Jeff Zywicki only played in 3 regular season games last year, but should be healthy for 2012 so his presence should help offset the loss of Wiles. Their defense wasn’t as strong, so the addition of Kyle Ross is big for the Stealth. They also lost their backup goalie but with the play of Tyler Richards last season, Roik was likely to see fewer and fewer minutes anyway. It does mean that the Stealth will likely have a rookie backing up Richards, so they could have a problem if Richards is injured (although rookie Chris Seidel looked pretty impressive in the Stealth/Rock preseason game) but other than that possibility, the Stealth are poised to make a run at a third consecutive Champion’s Cup appearance.

Prediction: Second

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