Week 2 picks

As the IL Indoor folks (I’m a newbie over there so I’m not in the “in” crowd yet) and the In Lax We Trust folks always do (and ILWT already have done), here are the week 2 picks for the entire NLL Chatter staff. I picked the Rock to beat Calgary last week, so I’m 0-1 to start the year. I can guarantee you that my average will not go down with this week’s picks:
Record: 0-1 (.000)

TOR @ BUF I have to say that I’m not terribly confident with this pick. The Rock players are unhappy with their opening game and will be fired up to prove that they’re still the team to beat. But a healthy Mike Thompson showed last year that he can be as good a goalie as anyone in the league. Wiles and Buchanan will want to prove themselves to their new coach, teammates, and fans as well, and I think Tracey Kelusky will have a much better season than last year. Buffalo is a tough place to play as an opponent, but I’ll go with the Rock in a close one. Rock
MIN @ COL After Grant and Prout, the offensive numbers drop considerably for the Mammoth. Then again, same for Minnesota after Benesch and Crawford. This game features two strong goalies, but Minnesota has lots of rookies on their lineup while Colorado has more established players. Until the Swarm rookies prove themselves, I’ll take the Mammoth. Mammoth
ROC @ PHI I think the addition of Dan Dawson to the Philly offense will be huge, and not just because he’s nine feet tall. This is another battle of great goalies (aren’t they all, though?), but I think the Wings offense can overpower the Rochester defense and get more shots on Vinc than Brodie and the boys will let the Knighthawks get on Miller. Wings
CAL @ WAS TRich is a very good goalie, no question, and was outstanding in the Championship game last year. But in my list of NLL goalies, I’d rank Mike Poulin higher. Calgary are on a high after beating the defending champs in their own barn and I think that will carry over into a Roughnecks win. Roughnecks

Review: NLL.com stats pages

For the second time in three years, the NLL has changed statistics providers. As a guy who loves stats, most of the time I spend on nll.com is looking over stats. The column I’m going to be writing for ILIndoor.com will be entirely about stats.  I run a lacrosse pool with my friends, and so I’ve written software to download and manipulate the stats. I keep having to change my code to handle changes to the URLs, the formats, which stats are actually included, and so on. Now I need to rewrite them all again to handle the new stuff. But rewriting that stuff is just a one-time inconvenience for me, and at most a handful of other people around the country doing something similar. Once that’s done, are we better off with the new stats provider and pages? Let’s investigate.

You don’t need to know anything about stats to read this article, but it will be quite long and detailed. You have my express written permission to skip it if you don’t care about the stats pages at NLL.com. But if you do skip it, you have to read the next article I post twice. Deal?

This may not be a completely accurate comparison since the old pages are no longer available, so I can’t compare side-by-side. I have to go by what I remember. I’ll also include a list of bugs I’ve found at the bottom.

Individual stats

When you click on “Stats” in the menu at the top, you get a page listing the individual leaders in a number of categories. This is likely what most visitors to the page are looking for, so this makes sense. For each stat, the top player is shown with a little picture, and then the next 4 or 5 in that category. It’s not immediately obvious, but if you want the entire list of a stat rather than just the top 5, you can click on the stat name. This takes you to a page with a list of players and a bunch of stats, and you can sort by any of them. This is fabulous, as it was one thing missing before. You can even sort by a player’s jersey number, though incorrectly.

There is also no legend. I know that PPG is power play goals, FO is face-offs taken, and FOW is face-offs won, but it took me a second to figure out that TO and FT were turnovers and forced turnovers. But if you have face-offs taken and face-offs won, do you really need a separate column for face-offs lost? I suppose you might if you want to sort by that column. The last column is for MVP. I have no idea what that is. My first thought was “are they really allowing you to sort by the number of game MVP awards a player has been given?” I didn’t think “game MVP” was even something the NLL awarded, other than the Championship Game. Whatever it is, it shows up in both the player list and the goalie list, and nobody in the Toronto-Calgary season opener was credited with one. Except that if you go to the game stats, Dane Dobbie got one, so maybe it is game MVP. Seems like a dumb stat to keep track of considering how subjective it is.

Team stats

There’s a page showing team scoring by quarter, which will be very interesting to watch over the season. Despite the fact that neither Colorado nor Minnesota have played yet, they have non-zero values in some columns. Colorado has scored 3 times in the first quarter, once in the second, three times in the third, and none overall.

The power play page (which is just called “Team”) is weird – it lists “Team”, “PP”, and “PP%”. That’s it. Even PPG isn’t there, and no SHG or PK%.

You can click on a team name and it will take you to that team’s page, which is more than just stats. It includes the team’s W-L record;  the team leaders in goals, assists, points, shots, and GAA; quick summary of their latest game; the entire roster (the fact that this includes the practice squad, injured reserve, physically unable to perform, protected, and hold-outs is awesome); some recent stories  about that team; and upcoming games.

The game schedule page is very nice, with a mini-calendar sort of thing across the top (including the words “WIN” or “LOSS” for past games). The box score list shows the final score, period-by-period score, date/time/location, and a link to the detailed boxscore. There’s also a game list page that shows the same stuff minus the boxscore but in a very small font. I don’t know why you’d ever use that page over the boxscore page.

There’s a page for each game as well, though it’s pretty information-free for upcoming games. All times seem to be in EST but are not displayed with time zone indicators. For example, it says that next weekend’s Washington/Calgary game is at “10:30PM”, even though “7:30PM PST” would make more sense.

Game stats

The first word that comes to mind for the individual game page is slick. It’s all Web 2.0-y and slider-y and smooth scrolling-y and stuff like that. There’s a display of the floor with dots where each of the goals were scored from, and you can click on the goals to get who scored it and when. You can do the same for loose balls, shots, shots off target, and faceoffs. I’m not sure how useful it is, but it’s very slick. There’s a play-by-play page, which lists all the “events” (goals, face-offs, loose balls, turnovers, shots, etc.) in the order in which they happened. Finally there’s a Game Stats page with two tabs: Team stats, which lists a bunch of stats and the totals for each team plus a visual indicator of how the teams compare for that particular stat, and Player Stats which lists all the individual stats for each player on each team. All of the PIM (Penalty Minutes) values include a “.0” at the end, though I’ve never heard of penalties being given involving fractions of minutes. (“That illegal cross-check was worse than a minor penalty, but wasn’t bad enough to be a full 5 minute major, so the player will serve a 3.5 minute intermediate penalty.”)

Stuff that’s missing

There needs to be a full menu of all the different stats pages available. If I click on stats, I get a list of the individual leaders. But how do I get from there to the list of all players on one team and their stats? Turns out you go go the Teams menu at the top, not the Stats menu, but this isn’t obvious. Once there, you have to scroll down past stuff like the aggregate number of goals, assists, points, penalty minutes, etc. to get to the player list. The aggregate team stuff is useful, but it’s more likely that the reader wants to see the list of players, so it should be at the top.

If you click on a player’s name, you get a page with his current stats as well as a menu of previous seasons, with game-by-game level stats. This is nice, but should not be the default. Having one single list with one row per season is absolutely essential. Without it, comparing different seasons is much harder and spotting anomalies is essentially impossible.

Very high on my nice-to-have list, but probably priority zero on the NLL’s list: an XML interface to the entire statistics database. Close second: an XML interface to this year’s player stats. Man, would that make my life easier.


To the NLL.com developer who is reading this: I am using Chrome on Windows.

  • When sorting the list of players by jersey number, it’s doing an alphanumeric sort rather than numeric. 3 should not come between 27 and 30.
  • As I said above, listing the player stats shows Dane Dobbie with a 0 in the “MVP” column, but in the game stats for the TOR/CAL game, he has 1.
  • On the player stats page, there are two separate lists. They don’t necessarily show the same players, and they’re not sorted by the same thing. When I click on the link to go to page 2, the upper list changes to page 2 but I’m shown the bottom list and have to scroll up to get back to the top.
  • Same page – when I’m on page 2, the link for “Previous” is on top of the link for page 1.
  • Team standings page – Edmonton, Philly, and Rochester are 0-0-0 while everyone else is just 0-0.
  • If you’re not using the latest version of your browser, you’re probably out of luck. Then again, that’s true for many web sites these days anyway. I tried to write a quick blog post on my sister’s computer last week, which is running IE7 (she can’t upgrade because of work restrictions). This ended being totally impossible.


For me personally, I’m mostly happy with the new site, though there are some missing items and in general it seems to take an extra click or two to get to where you want to be. For your average non-stathead fan who just wants to see who’s leading the league, it’s great. With the old site, you had nll.com and stats.nll.com, and sometimes it was obvious that the page you were looking at was a shell from one site around an ajax page from another site. The new one is much more uniform.

From an aesthetic point of view, the new site looks great. The fancy game page stuff is slick and fairly fast, though I found that page loads were taking quite a while. There are lots of images; almost everywhere you see a team you see a logo, and there are lots of player pictures as well. I suppose it’s possible that these were causing the slow page loads, but they should have been cached pretty quickly so that seems unlikely.

Kudos to the NLL on the new site. Now, if I could please have my XML interface, that’d be great. KTHXBYE.

Game report: Calgary 12 at Toronto 9

All summer long, Rock fans have been looking forward to seeing the boys back in action, watching for (a) some solid defence in front of (b) new goaltender Matt Roik, and (c) one of the most potent offenses in the league. In the wise words of the sage known as Mr. Loaf, two outta three ain’t bad. The defense was indeed solid and Roik played very well, but after  the first quarter the offense struggled mightily, as the Rock blew 5-0 and 6-1 leads losing to the Calgary Roughnecks 12-9.

The first quarter was all Rock, as Garrett Billings scored the first goal of the 2012 NLL season 2:24 into the first and Josh Sanderson scored less than a minute later. Two goals, two points for Josh Sanderson. A couple of transition goals by Chapman and Hoar and a power play goal from Beirnes with 5 seconds left, combined with a shutout at the other end, and the Rock were up 5-0 after one. Life is good for Rock fans. Calgary seemed disorganized and were dropping passes left and right (my friend Mike said it looked like they had “the yips”), and Mike Poulin was not sharp at all. Matt Roik wasn’t really tested until about ten minutes in (most of the saves he made before that were fairly routine), but made some pretty nice stops after that. I think Calgary also hit three posts and a crossbar in the first quarter alone.

When the second quarter started, Cory Conway finally got things going for the Roughnecks less than 30 seconds in, but shortly after that Blaine Manning answered and the five-goal lead was restored. Nine scoreless minutes followed before the Roughnecks got a couple to drop the margin to three, and the first half ended with a 6-3 Rock lead.

Just as the first quarter was all Rock, the second half was all Roughnecks. They certainly got rid of the yips – actually, I believe they had them sent down the hall to the other dressing room at halftime. By 3½ minutes into the third quarter, the Rock lead had vanished, and three minutes after that, the Roughnecks scored their first go-ahead goal of the night. Toronto didn’t score their seventh goal until 8½ minutes into the third, over 22 minutes after their sixth goal. Phil Sanderson scored to put the Rock ahead again, but Curtis Dickson scored a couple of minutes later to knot it up yet again and the teams finished the third quarter tied at 8.

Calgary broke the tie soon into the fourth as Scott Ranger scored what proved to be the game-winner. Ranger scored another to extend the ‘Necks lead to 2 goals before Dan Carey scored his first as a Rock to get back within one. But the Rock comeback was not to be, as Dane Dobbie scored both his second and third of the night with less than three minutes left. The last was a breakaway on an empty net with twelve seconds left. He was hauled down by a Toronto defender (Bryan?), and immediately awarded an automatic goal.

For the Roughnecks, Dane Dobbie was the top scorer but to me, Shawn Evans was Calgary’s best player. He was his usual self (i.e. a pest), and had a couple of goals and an assist, but he was all over the floor and just making his presence felt by everyone. Evans continues to be the player that other players hate to play against but love to have as a teammate. Mike Poulin wasn’t great in the first quarter at all, but was better in the second quarter and outstanding in the third and fourth. That said, the Rock had less than 40 shots on net.

As for the Rock, the offense struggled from the second quarter on. Leblanc and Carey were invisible most of the night, and Blaine Manning continued his tradition from last year of missing the net seemingly more often than he hit it. Colin Doyle, who has had more assists than goals every season of his career except 2002 and 1998, looked like your stereotypical ball hog, sometimes holding the ball for the majority of the 30 second possession, and then taking a weak or low-percentage shot at the last second. Maybe that’s the fault of his teammates for not getting open and available to pass to, or maybe we should credit the strong Calgary defense for not making such passes available. Regardless, the Rock’s offense just couldn’t get it done.

Matt Roik’s Rock debut didn’t end the way he wanted it to, I’m sure, but that wasn’t his fault. He faced 50+ shots, allowed only 11 goals, and made some excellent stops that kept the Rock in the game. I don’t remember seeing a Calgary goal and thinking “Oh, he really should have had that one”. Andrew McKay of Yahoo! Sports nicely summed it up this way: “Here’s who hated Roik’s opening game: The Minnesota Swarm.” And likely Anthony Cosmo as well.

As I always do in my game reports, I’ve added in some random notes from the game:

  • Dear Roughnecks players: please stand still during the national anthem. This has been one of my pet peeves for years – athletes who walk or bounce around during the anthems. Two or three Roughnecks hadn’t even arrived on the floor until after the anthem had started (Dobbie and Ranger, maybe others). Dobbie didn’t seem to respect the anthem at all; he did the fist bumps down the line, then  bumped into the far boards, walked around a bit, jumped up and down a bit, he never stopped moving once. Now, I get that these guys are pumped and ready to play and there’s lots of adrenaline flowing and all that, but the rest of the players were able to control themselves. Lots of players were stepping from foot to foot, but Dobbie was the only one who left the line.
  • Newcomers Bill Greer and Bruce Codd were both scratches, while Jesse Gamble (who Troy Cordingley had previously said was not going to play) was in the lineup.
  • The “Toronto Rock Cheerleaders” went with much skimpier outfits than previous years, and now have a much shorter name. I believe they used to be known as the “Molson Canadian Bud Light Toronto Rock Dance Pack of Anaheim brought to you by Labatts Blue”.
  • In the second quarter, both goaltenders were called to the ref’s booth to have their pads measured. Never seen that mid-game before. I didn’t notice if any players had their sticks measured during the game.
  • The announcer should be shot for calling some saves as “Denial, Matty style”. The “denial” thing should have been exclusively for Whipper.
  • Another thing I’d never seen before – a shot went over the net, bounced off the boards, and ended up right behind the net. No, that wasn’t the thing I’d never seen before. This was: Roik dove on top of the net, scooped up the ball, and then just lay there as the net fell forwards (i.e. towards centre). Roik rode it backwards back to his feet, then turned around and continued play. Smooooooth.
  • There were two goal reviews called by coaches (the maximum now allowed), and both involved goals by Phil Sanderson. One he got, one he didn’t. The one he didn’t should have been a no-brainer – he shot the ball and then fell into the crease. From the replay it looked like he landed a good two or three seconds before the ball went in. I don’t know why the challenge took so long.
  • For the first time that I can remember, the Rock left the floor after the handshakes without doing their lap around the floor acknowledging the fans.

Week 1 picks

Quick post, which I meant to write earlier but never had a chance. This season, I plan on posting my picks for each game and I’ll keep track of my predictions over the course of the year.

I’m actually leaving for the game soon (going to the Hockey Hall of Fame with my dad beforehand), so I don’t have time for a full game preview. Luckily there’s only one game this weekend, with Calgary playing in Toronto. I predict a Rock victory for the first game of the Matt Roik era in Toronto. I’ll do a full game review tonight after the game.

NLL season is finally upon us! Rejoice, one and all!

The best lacrosse writers in the world… and me

This coming NLL season, I will be writing for the two best lacrosse blogs in the world! This one (obviously) and now I can announce that I will be joining the staff at ILIndoor.com. I will be writing a weekly column called The Moneyballers every Monday starting on January 16.

ILIndoor.com has some of best-known names in indoor lacrosse, including the aforementioned Teddy Jenner, a former player and current blogger, radio show host, and in-game announcer for the Washington Stealth; Ty Pilson, sports editor for the Calgary Sun and former Tom Borrelli winner (that’s the NLL’s award for the best writer of the year); Brian Shanahan, another former NLL player who has done colour for many lacrosse TV broadcasts (and yes, he’s Brendan’s brother); Marty O’Neill, the former GM of the Minnesota Swarm; and other great writers like Bob Chavez, Stephen Stamp and Casey Vock.

The Moneyballers will be a weekly look at the clutch players in the league from a statistical point of view. We have a system that assigns points to players for goals and assists that either tie a game or put their team ahead. Goals later in the game count for more than goals earlier, and OT goals count the most. Each week, I will tally up the points for that week’s games, and keep track of the league leaders as the season goes on. Here’s a link to last year’s season-ending article.

I am very excited about this opportunity, but very nervous as well. The Moneyballers is a series that has been on ILIndoor.com for a few years, and up to this year, it was written by another legendary lacrosse writer, Paul Tutka. Tutka won three straight Tom Borrelli awards, so that’s a pretty tough act to follow. However, I am up to the challenge. But if you call me on a Sunday evening during NLL season, don’t expect me to answer the phone.

NLL 2012 predictions

It’s early January, and you know what that means! NLL prediction season has begun! It’s that time of year that we lacrosse bloggers start making their predictions about what’s going to happen in the upcoming year. I’ll take a look at the overall standings and the major awards. I’m not doing playoff predictions right now, I’ll leave that the end of the regular season.

Overall Standings


  1. Toronto
  2. Buffalo
  3. Philadelphia
  4. Rochester

Toronto won the Championship last year with a strong offense, which only got stronger with the addition of Dan Carey and Josh Sanderson. Matt Roik has some pretty big shoes to fill, but as I said in my NLL East division preview, he doesn’t have to be outstanding for the Rock to be successful. Buffalo had some off-years from Kelusky, Steenhuis, and Tavares in 2011, so if they can rebound and Thompson is healthy, they will give the Rock a run for their money. Philly improved substantially with Dawson and Merrill, and I think Rochester’s young guys might need a year before they are a strong team, but look out for them next season.


  1. Calgary
  2. Washington
  3. Edmonton
  4. Colorado
  5. Minnesota

Calgary added Shawn Evans to an already strong offense, and has all the tools to win the west again. Washington is always dangerous, and Edmonton is likely the most improved team in the league. Colorado got better where they were strong (defense) and weaker where they were weak (offense), and while Minnesota still has Ryan Benesch, Callum Crawford, and an excellent goaltender tandem, they’re essentially in rebuilding mode.

Major Awards

MVP: Dan Dawson. I think he has the talent to turn Philly’s offense around and win his second MVP title. I also seriously considered Stephan Leblanc.

Goaltender of the Year: Mike Thompson

Defensive Player of the Year: Kyle Rubisch

Transition Player of the Year: Paul Rabil

Rookie of the Year: Kevin Crowley. Not exactly a go-out-on-a-limb pick, but he was chosen first overall for a reason, and will fit in nicely with the other giants on the Philly offense: Dawson and Westervelt.

GM of the Year: Derek Keenan for overhauling the Rush and turning them from last place in the west to serious contender.

Les Bartley Award: Darris Kilgour because he’s been one of the top coaches in the league for a decade and has only won the award once.

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

NLL East 2012 season preview

The 2012 NLL season is almost upon us, so it’s time to look around the league and see what’s changed. Obviously the loss of the Blazers changed the landscape quite a bit, but there were also some pretty major trades so just about every team has some significant changes from last year. We’ll look at the East division first, and then the West division in an upcoming article.

Buffalo Bandits

Biggest personnel change: Luke Wiles

Comments: Once again this year, not a lot of changes for the Bandits, but the ones they made were pretty significant. The addition of Wiles, former Blazer Kevin Buchanan, and journeyman Mat Giles may turn the Bandits from a very good offensive team to a holy-crap-good offensive team, rivalling the Rock. The trading of Chris Corbeil caught some people off-guard, but the return of Billy Dee Smith helps replace the loss of Corbeil. If Mikey Thompson is as good in net as he has been over the past couple of years, the Bandits will make it tough for the Rock to get out of the East, let alone repeat as Champions.

Bad news for the Bandits defense out of a pre-season practice, as Darryl Gibson will miss 8 weeks with an ankle injury.

Prediction: A close second

Philadelphia Wings

Biggest personnel change: Dan Dawson

Comments: Wings fans who haven’t been keeping up over the off-season are in for a shock when they return to the arena in January. Gone are Athan Iannucci and Ryan Boyle, replaced by Dan Dawson and Brodie Merrill. Former captain Tom Hajek returns after a year in Boston, and the Wings also traded for MLL superstar Ned Crotty who is relatively unfamiliar with the indoor game, only having played 8 NLL games with the Mammoth last year. If all these guys plus first overall draft pick Kevin Crowley can gel with the returning Wings, this could be a very good team, but there’s too much uncertainty for me to rank them any higher.

Prediction: Third

Rochester Knighthawks

Biggest personnel change: Shawn Williams

Comments: Williams played ten seasons for the Knighthawks, serving as their captain for the last two, before being traded to Edmonton. The Knighthawks also traded Shawn Evans to the Roughnecks and in a stunning offseason oversight, didn’t pick up a single guy named Shawn. They did pick up Casey Powell in the Blazers dispersal draft but he’s unlikely to play this year. They also got Ryan Cousins and Kedoh Hill in the Williams trade. For the third straight year, the Knighthawks are looking forward to watching an exciting young rookie they drafted – first it was Sid Smith, then Cody Jamieson, and this year there are two, Stephen Keogh and Johnny Powless. If they both play well, the Knighthawks could be very good. But I have a feeling that without Powell, the Knighthawks are a little young to make a huge splash this year. They have set themselves up nicely for some pretty successful years to come.

Prediction: Fourth

Toronto Rock

Biggest personnel change: Bob Watson

Comments: The retirement of Bob Watson will be huge for the Rock. The Rock have only had one #1 goaltender in the history of the franchise, and Watson was one of the top three goalies in the league pretty much every year of his career. But even if Roik isn’t at that level, he’s a solid goaltender who can play very well when he’s “on”. Many teams are built from the goaltender out, but with the Rock’s defense and especially their offense, I don’t think they need a superstar goalie to be dangerous this year. As long as Roik does a good job, he may not need to be outstanding. That said, he can be outstanding.

The Rock lost a few very good defenders in the offseason, namely Kyle Ross, Jeff Gilbert and a player I really liked, Creighton Reid. But Ryan Sharp is returning after missing almost all of last year with an injury, and Drew Petkoff will hopefully return this year as well. With the addition of Bruce Codd, the Rock defense could be as solid as any. A very good offense only got better with the additions of Dan Carey and Josh Sanderson. Sanderson, Manning, and Doyle were three of the top four scorers in the league in 2005, but that was seven years ago. Manning hasn’t been anywhere near the player he was then, but now the Rock also have Leblanc, Billings, Carey, Biernes, and Rob Hellyer (and Aaron Pascas, but it sounds like he might be missing the season due to work commitments), so there is no shortage of strong offensive threats for Sanderson to pass to.

Prediction: First as long as Roik doesn’t completely defecate in his sleeping apparatus, and I have no real reason to believe he will.