We’re half-way through the
school year NLL season, so it’s time for report cards. Let’s have a look at each team and see how they’re doing offensively and defensively. I’ve assigned letter grades to each team’s offense and defense (which includes goaltending). Note that despite the fact that I’ll be spouting off stats all over the place, the letter grades are purely subjective based partially on the stats but partially on my own impressions of the team. The letters compare roughly thus:
|A||2011 Rock (Champions)|
|B||2011 Stealth (Finished 3rd, but did well in the playoffs)|
|C||2011 Mammoth (Crappy record, but made the playoffs)|
|D||2011 Rush (did not make the playoffs)|
In case you are unfamiliar with the logo, that would be the Syracuse Smash, who went a combined 6-30 (0-18 on the road) in three NLL seasons from 1998 to 2000. In one of those seasons, they went 1-11 and allowed 72 more goals than they scored – they allowed an average of more than 17 goals per game. In 2001, the Smash moved to Ottawa to become the Rebel, who were only marginally better. Only the Charlotte Cobras, who went 0-10 with 18.6 goals against per game in their only season (1996), were worse than the Smash. But at least the Cobras’ logo was cool – the Smash have the honour of having the worst logo in the history of sports.
Anyway, back to 2012. We’ll start with the NLL East.
I suggested in the pre-season that the Bandits could be a very good offensive team with the additions of Wiles, Buchanan, and Giles. But alas, it was not to be. John Tavares is having his best offensive season in years and Wiles has been great. Giles hasn’t been bad but Buchanan only has two goals and Tracey Kelusky only has four. The Bandits are sixth in the league in goals per game at 11.7.
The Bandits are tied with the Wings for second in the east with the lowest goals against per game, at 12.7. Good news, right? Well, no. In this case, tied for second in the east also means tied for sixth in the league. Only two teams have worse numbers – the Knighthawks at 12.8 and the Stealth at 13. The goaltending wasn’t that bad but just got better with the addition of Anthony Cosmo. Mike Thompson started off with two very good performances, enough to make him the starter in the All-Star game where he played very well. But then the Bandits lost four in a row which wasn’t entirely his fault, but I suppose Darris Kilgour figured a bit of a shakeup was necessary. Having two goalies this good fighting for playing time is a problem many GMs wouldn’t mind having.
The Bandits have only played six games, and have had two bye weeks in a row. The NLL schedule maker will not be getting a Christmas card from Darris this year, methinks. Despite losing four in a row, the Bandits haven’t looked terrible, except maybe in the game against Minnesota. There’s too much talent on this team to continue losing for much longer so I expect a better second half from the Bandits, particularly with their new goaltending tandem.
Dawson is second in the league in scoring, Crowley is eighth. Mundorf and Westervelt have also been good and Brodie Merrill leads the league with 3 short-handed goals. The team is seventh in the league with 11.3 goals/game.
The Philly defense has been inconsistent. They’ve held opponents to 10 or fewer goals three times, but allowed 15 or more twice. Their overall goals against per game is 12.7 (tied with the Bandits for 6th) but if you take out that one blowout, it’s 11.2, which is good for third. Giving them an B+ because they’ve been pretty good in the last few games and I was very impressed with the Wings defense in their win against the Rock.
Yes, they’re tied for first in the East, but three of their four wins have come against the Bandits and Stealth. They blew the Rock out of the water, and then got beaten handily by them 2 weeks later. They lost to the lowly Rush. If the Wings can get some consistency, they could be dangerous in the playoffs.
The Knighthawks are the only team in the league with six players with 20 or more points – even the Roughnecks only have five. However, the Knighthawks are also the only team to have played 8 games. They are third in the league at 12.8 goals per game.
They have given up exactly the same number of goals as they’ve scored. Their 12.8 goals against is second-worst in the league, ahead of only Washington.
Like the Wings, the Knighthawks have been inconsistent. They scored 22 in their first game, then lost their next three. They lost five of their top players and won, then got most of them back and lost. There seems to have been a few different teams calling themselves the Knighthawks this year – they really need to figure out which one they are.
The Rock with Colin Doyle for a full game are 0-3. The Rock with Doyle for less than half the game (or not at all) are 4-0. Doyle’s been more of a setup guy than a goal scorer over the last few years, so maybe the problem is that with the return of Josh Sanderson, the Rock now have two setup guys. Sanderson may be deferring to Doyle because Josh is the new guy and Colin’s the captain, but that means Josh isn’t playing his game. Without Doyle, Sanderson can return to what he does best. Hopefully when Doyle returns, he’ll let Sanderson continue to run the show and Doyle can focus on shooting more and passing less.
Stephan Leblanc still has not shown his full potential this year, but in the absence of Doyle and Manning, Sanderson and Garrett Billings have really stepped up. In the last four wins, the Rock have scored 13, 14, 15, and 16 goals, so they’re going in the right direction. They are fifth in the league with 12.1 goals per game.
Other than the one game against Philly, Matt Roik has been solid all season and has kept the Rock in games. And even in the Philly game, he certainly wasn’t “on” but he wasn’t horrible either. The defense in front of him has also been solid despite the rash of injuries (Phil Sanderson, Stephen Hoar, Drew Petkoff, Rob Marshall, Patrick Merrill, Bruce Codd, and Bill Greer have all missed games due to injury – and that’s not counting forwards Colin Doyle, Blaine Manning, and Rob Hellyer). The Rock are fourth in the league with 11.7 goals against / game.
After a slow start, the Rock really pulled it together and started playing like the defending champs – until they got smoked by Philly. But they recovered to beat Rochester a week later. Assuming that Doyle and Manning’s eventual return doesn’t screw up the offensive chemistry the team has built up in their absence, the Rock look to be heading back to the playoffs with an eye to their third straight Championship game.
Coming later this week: The NLL West.