Week 7 picks

Statistics are funny. If I were to flip a coin to make my picks each week, odds are that I’d end the season around .500. What does it mean when the coin-flip method would give you a better record than me, five of the seven IL Indoor writers posting their picks, and three of the five In Lax We Trust writers? We all follow the league closely and we know the teams and players and what they can do. We’re not going to get everything right, of course, and there are going to be teams and players that play better or worse than you think they will. But shouldn’t we be able to do better than random chance at our game predictions? You might think so, but obviously, you’d be wrong.

So there was a big trade this week, which will affect two of the games below. Paul Rabil has struggled a little this year, like the rest of his former Stealth teammates, so will his change of scenery give him a boost? And will Athan Iannucci, in his first game of the year, give the Stealth’s offense the spark they so desperately need?

Record: 9-14 (.391)

Game

Comments

Pick

EDM @ CAL Edmonton just got better by adding Paul Rabil (assuming he plays, and there are rumours that he won’t), but how long will it take him to learn the Rush system and be able to really contribute? Might take a couple of games, might take 5 or 10 minutes. Either way, Calgary is a formidable opponent, so I’m going to have to go with the Roughies here. Roughnecks
COL @ MIN I don’t follow the NFL at all but I won an NFL pool a few years ago, when the Patriots were at their peak. One of my “strategies” was “always take the Patriots”, and it almost always paid off. The Mammoth are like that now. I like the direction the Swarm are going and after their two-win weekend, I’m sure they have a lot of confidence. I don’t think the Mammoth will go 16-0 this year, but I just can’t bring myself to bet against them yet. Mammoth
WAS @ ROC Recent circumstances (and I’m not talking about the Iannucci trade) make this a easier pick. Rochester will be without their leading scorer Cody Jamieson, as well as Jordan Hall, Travis Hill, Sid Smith, and Tyler Burton. Of course this doesn’t mean that they will lose, but it certainly doesn’t help. Iannucci will be pumped to play well enough to make people forget about the whole holdout thing. Stealth
PHI @ TOR Toronto dominated Philadelphia prison-style (continuing with the Iannucci theme) in their last meeting, and they’ve had a week off, and Colin Doyle will likely be returning to action. Philly has since beaten the Bandits so I can’t see this being the cakewalk that the last game seemed to be, but I still think the Rock will take this one. Rock

 

Previous weeks:

Week 1 – 0-1
Week 2 – 2-2
Week 3 – 2-2
Week 4 – 2-4
Week 5 – 2-2
Week 6 – 1-3

Iannucci for Rabil: Who won the trade

The Athan Iannucci era ended in Edmonton the other day. The stats: zeroes across the board. But the Washington Stealth don’t care about that, they’re just concerned with the more important number associated with Iannucci: 71, the record-setting number of goals he scored in 2008 when he was league MVP. This number was so intriguing to the Stealth that they were willing to give up a player who has been called “the best lacrosse player in the world”, Paul Rabil. That quote was referring to field lacrosse, not box, but Rabil is no slouch in the indoor game either. But who really wins this trade?

After being sent to Edmonton in the biggest trade of the last off-season, Athan Iannucci never reported to the Rush because he never signed a contract. The details of the negotiations were never released, but there were rumours that Nooch was asking for top dollar on a multi-year contract. Iannucci himself said that this wasn’t the case and that there would be players in the league making double what he was asking for. Rush owner Bruce Urban said that what Iannucci was asking for, specifically in the second year, was not allowed by the CBA. Regardless, the Rush started the season without Nooch and it quickly became clear that he was unlikely to suit up for them.

I remember watching Iannucci in a playoff game in Buffalo during his 2008 MVP season. He just had a presence when he was on the floor. You knew that every defender was watching him and yet it seemed that he could score at will anyway. The only other player I’ve seen with that level of dominance is John Grant. But Grant has kept up that dominance for a decade, and this season it seems stronger than ever. Iannucci, on the other hand, had injury problems and only played 10 games in the 2009 season and missed 2010 entirely. He returned last year, apparently back to full health, but wasn’t nearly as dominant, only racking up 29 goals and 61 points in 13 games. Neil Stevens from Lacrosse Magazine points out that he only played in one playoff game, a loss, in his “five years with Philadelphia” (which was really four because of the year he didn’t play) but that’s hardly Iannucci’s fault – the Wings had sucked for years before Nooch got there, and he did score four goals in that one playoff game.

Dominance aside, Iannucci’s numbers make him look like the prototypical “ball hog” during his MVP season – he only had 29 assists to go with his 71 goals. John Grant, on the other hand, has had more assists than goals in 9 of his 11 NLL seasons. Now Iannucci didn’t have Shawn Williams, Scott and Shawn Evans, Cory Bomberry, and Craig Point to pass to in Philadelphia, so perhaps that’s an unfair comparison. But Bob Chavez at IL Indoor recently ranked Iannucci as the 16th best player in the league saying that, in short, he’s back. In 15 playoff games with the Langley Thunder this past summer, Nooch picked up 45 points, helping the Thunder to their first Mann Cup appearance. It would not surprise me if Stealth GM Doug Locker was at one or more of those games, and liked what he saw.

Paul Rabil has been one of the best transition players in the NLL for three years. He is, as I said, widely known as one of the best field lacrosse players in the world – he’s been named MLL MVP twice, MLL Offensive Player of the Year twice, and MVP of the World Lacrosse Championship in 2010. His shot has been clocked at a blistering 111 mph. He was a big part of Washington’s 2010 and 2011 NLL Championship appearances, and seemed to be one of the faces of the Stealth franchise along with Rhys Duch and Lewis Ratcliff. Given his offensive success in the MLL, he can obviously be a scoring threat, but he’s listed as a transition player and that’s how he’s primarily been used.

But Washington’s problem this year is not transition, it’s offense. Even including Rabil, they have three players with more than 10 points after five games – and one of those three only has 11. Tyler Richards, the starting goalie, is tied for 7th on the team in points. Unless they convert Rabil to be a full-time forward, he can only have so much of an impact. Iannucci, on the other hand, is pure offense. I honestly don’t know how good of a defensive player he is, and with the new rules promoting transition, it’s more likely than in previous years that he’ll be caught on the floor and have to play some defense – this is true for all offensive players, not just Nooch.

On the assumption that Iannucci is average defensively (i.e. not a superstar but not a pylon either), it would seem that the Stealth are willing to give up some transition and defense for a ton of offense, which is what they need. The Rush gain a great transition player while giving up nobody from their starting roster. There are still rumours that Rabil is not finished being moved, and that he may come even further east, in which case he’s trade bait, and the Rush will still get something significant for him. It’s hard to say that they got Rabil for free though, even if Iannucci never played for them, considering they did give up Brodie Merrill to get Iannucci. The Rush also receive a first-round draft pick for next year from the Stealth, while Washington gets the Rush’s second round pick. Note that this brings the total count of first round draft picks Edmonton has received for Brodie up to four (over the next three years).

I think the Stealth did improve in an area that they absolutely had to improve in, and so this was a pretty good move for them. I’d have to call Edmonton the winner though, considering they got one of the most exciting and dynamic players in the game, gave up nothing from the roster that played their first four games, and upgraded a second round pick to a first. As with all trades though, we’ll have to revisit this after the season ends, or even a year or two down the road, and see how it really played out.

Guest columnist Jackie Harvey looks at the NLL from the outside

NLL Chatter readers are in for a real treat today. The long-time entertainment columnist for The Onion, Jackie Harvey, has agreed to do a special guest column. Mr. Harvey, as it turns out, is also a lacrosse fan and so when I approached him to write a guest column, he was excited to share his love of lacrosse with us. As you will see, Mr. Harvey has just as much insight into the NLL as he does in the world of entertainment.


Jackie HarveyGreetings NLL Chatter readers! I was very excited when Graham asked me to write a column on one of my favourite sports, lacrosse! In fact, I attended Viterbo University in guess where? La Crosse, Wisconsin! Oddly though, we didn’t have a lacrosse team. But I’ve been a big lacrosse fan ever since the Los Angeles Storm of Anaheim played near here all those years ago. I’m also a soccer fan like many people in the Los Angeles area. I mean, our local soccer team, the Galaxy, even signed a player named Beckam after the success of the movie Bend it like Beckam! How’s that for catering to your local movie fans?

Anyway, back to lacrosse. I haven’t been to a game since the Storm left town, but I understand there’s another team up in the Silicone Valley area. I imagine they’re doing well, because if there’s one thing we Californians love, it’s our local sports teams!

Item! There are two brothers named Josh and Phil Sanderson who both play for the Toronto Rocks. What are the odds that two brothers would end up on the same team? That’s like that situation in baseball a few years ago when that team (I don’t follow baseball so I don’t remember who it was, but it might have been one of the Sox teams) had two guys named “Martinez”.

Speaking of the Toronto Rocks, how cool is it that they have a guy named Matt Rock playing for them?

A little known fact about the NLL: almost half of the teams have names that don’t end in “s”. They are the Stealth, the Swarm, the Rush, and the Mammoth. If I was going to name a team after an extinct elephant, I might have gone with the Denver Mastadons. “Mastadon” sounds cooler than Mammoth because it has an extra syllable. But then again, it does end in “s”, and that’s not hip enough for the NLL. That’s not how this league rolls, baby! They keep teams like the Wings and Bandits around because they’re old and I guess they have been “grandfathered” so they don’t have to change their name to something hip and trendy. But watch out for the next team to join the league – it’ll probably have a cool name that ends in “x” or something!

I keep reading about the “trannys” in the NLL, and I have no problem with that. How they live their lives off the field is their own business. But I really think the media should just leave their personal lives out of it and concentrate on how they play during the game!

You know where they should hold the NLL All-star game? Alaska. Why Alaska? Because it’s cold in Alaska, and lacrosse is played mostly by Canadians, and Canadians are used to the cold. Also, there aren’t any sports in Alaska except the Idiot-a-rod (which has a really insulting name!), so they would probably like to see some different ones.

Item! It turns out that Beau Jackson is not the only multi-sport athlete around! Buffalo Bandits player John Tavares also plays hockey for the New York Rangers. Since both sports are played in the winter, I don’t know how he handles days when both teams play, but maybe the Bandits have arranged for their games to be in the afternoon while the hockey games are in the evening. Both teams are in New York so that should help, but he’ll be in trouble if he’s ever traded out west!

I’ve seen a few news stories recently about the NALL, which I assume is supposed to be short for NAtional Lacrosse League. Note to management: you really should make sure you keep your short forms consistent.

Well, thanks again to Graeme for letting me share my thoughts on lacrosse with all of you. Since we don’t have a team here in southern California anymore, I’ll go with the next closest team and say go Arizona Stingers!

Week 6 picks

Another 2-2 week in week 5. I was right about Colorado being on a roll, and the Rock starting to look like the Rock again, but I thought the Bandits would return to playing like the 2-0 Bandits rather than the Bandits from last weekend, and I thought the Minnesota-Rochester game was just too close to call. The Rock and Mammoth are off this week, while Minnesota plays twice and interestingly, both are home games.

Record: 8-11 (.421)

Game

Comments

Pick

EDM @ MIN Will this be the “Battle of the Basement”? Washington is currently in last overall but nobody thinks they’ll stay there. Minnesota has looked pretty good so far, but I’m going to go with my prediction at the beginning of the year that Edmonton will be a stronger team than the Swarm. Rush
CAL @ WAS Washington finally has a win, and they’ll be hungry to make up those games that they lost. But even if the Stealth were playing at their full potential, I think Calgary is a better team. Another battle of the Sniders – we know that one of them won’t be winning 60+% of the face-offs. Roughnecks
ROC @ MIN Rochester’s starting to play really well but this is similar to both of the previous picks in that nobody would look at you funny for picking either one. I’m going with Cody Jamieson to continue his hot streak and Matt Vinc to shut the door at the other end. Knighthawks
BUF @ PHI Can Buffalo lose four games in a row? No chance, right? Well, I wouldn’t have thought they could lose three in a row, but it happened. Obviously every team hates to lose, but if I had to pick a team that hates to lose more than the rest, it would be the Bandits. I think they will be back with a vengeance this weekend. Bandits

Quidditch vs. lacrosse

I’m a fan of the Harry Potter books and film series, so I smiled when I saw Melissa Dafni’s article on ProSportsColorado.com saying that “Scott Evans is the Draco Malfoy of lacrosse”. While I’m not sure the comparison is quite accurate (they both talk a good game and act tough but when it comes down to it, Malfoy is a coward while I wouldn’t say that about Evans) (especially if he’s nearby), it started me thinking, and then of course I had to run with it. So here you go, the NLL cast of the Harry Potter universe.


Kevin Crowley Harry Potter – Kevin Crowley. He is the Chosen One and everyone believes we can expect great things from him. Thus far, he has not disappointed.

Ron Weasley – Connor Martin. Not as talented as those he hangs out with, but kinda funny.

Hagrid – Has to be the 6’10” David Morgan.

Professor Dumbledore – John Tavares. The oldest and wisest guy around, but still one of the best with a stick in his hand.

Sirius Black – Geoff Snider. Everyone thinks he’s a psycho, but really he’s just a big loyal puppy dog.

Cedric Diggory – Shawn Williams. One of the most talented guys around, and very likeable too. Is also a vampire. No, wait…

Seamus Finnigan – Tim O’Brien. Just put him in and watch as things explode.

Mad-Eye Moody – Troy Cordingley. Really good at what he does and very well respected, but seems grumpy all the time.

Professor Snape – The NLL referees. Not well liked, but in the end, it takes guts to do what they do. Many think they’re secretly working for the other side.

Lord Voldemort – Yeah, I’m not going there.

Week 5 picks

Here’s a quote from last week’s picks article: “This is the week I break the .500 barrier. I can just feel it.

Yeah, well it looks like I can’t predict that either. I went 2-4 last week, and I feel bad that I picked my beloved Rock to lose in Calgary, but it was Buffalo going 0-2 that really screwed me up. But then again, none of the IL Indoor guys picked Buffalo to lose either game, and it’s a well-known fact that anyone who writes for IL Indoor must be really intelligent when it comes to lacrosse. Not to mention good-looking.

At 6-9 I’m tied with Shanny and ahead of Bob Chavez, Teddy Jenner, Paul Stewart, and Casey Vock. Not too bad.

Record: 6-9 (.400)

Game

Comments

Pick

WAS @ BUF Tough one. Buffalo looked great in the first two games, lousy in the last two. Washington’s looked lousy all year. Can both teams lose this game? Washington will break out at some point this season, I’m quite sure, but I don’t think it’ll be against the Bandits. Bandits
EDM @ COL Another tough one. The Rush kicked Washington all over the floor last weekend, but Colorado’s on too much of a roll to bet against them now. Mammoth
TOR @ PHI Still no Doyle or Manning for the Rock, and Philly is in first place in the East, but the Rock’s offense has begun to click, with Billings and Sanderson having big games last weekend. The Rock are the defending champs, and I think they might actually start looking like it pretty soon. Rock
MIN @ ROC Which Rochester team will we see? The one that scored 22 against Philadelphia, or the one that’s lost three straight? And which Minnesota team will we see? The one that we all expected, with too many rookies to really contend, or the one that scored 19 against the Bandits last weekend? How am I supposed to make a pick in this game when there are four different teams playing? Swarm

I really should stop saying “tough one” for these picks. With the parity everyone keeps talking about (for good reason), just about every pick is a tough one.