Following my recent mid-season report on the East, let’s take a look at the NLL West. We have two awesome teams, one in the middle (but on the high side), and one not scoring but doing very well defensively. And the Stealth.
Best in the league, at 13.6 goals per game. They only have one player in the top ten in scoring, but five in the top 25. Hell, even their goalie is averaging more than a point per game. They haven’t scored fewer than 12 goals in any game, and scored 21 last week against a previously-undefeated team. They’ve only lost twice, both in overtime. With a couple of lucky bounces, the Roughnecks could easily be 7-0.
Only one team has allowed fewer goals than the Roughnecks, and that’s the Rush who also have a great defense, but have played one fewer game. Note that the Bandits have also played one fewer game than Calgary, but Buffalo has allowed one more goal. In terms of average, the Roughies are second-best in the league, with 10.7 goals against per game. In their five wins, they’ve only allowed as many as 11 goals once. Mike Poulin is one of the best goalies in the league, Nick Rose is better than average as a backup, and Frankie Scigliano made his NLL debut a couple of weeks ago and allowed 5 goals in 35 minutes for a sparkling 8.56 GAA. Add in defenders and transition guys like Geoff Snider, Curtis Manning, Andrew McBride, and Mike Carnegie, and the Roughnecks don’t even need a great offense to be successful.
But they do have a great offense. They don’t have the best record in the league right now, but I’d call them the best team in the league.
Only Calgary has averaged more goals per game than the Mammoth’s 13.3. Of course, the fact that John Grant is playing out of his mind right now is a large part of that. Grant is not averaging 10 points per game anymore, he’s down to a measly 8.4. Grant has 59 points in 7 games – only 22 players had more than that last season. If his production for the rest of the season drops by 50%, he will still end up with more points than anyone had last year. Oh yeah, and they also have Gavin Prout, early Rookie of the Year candidate Adam Jones, and Sean Pollock who are all in the top 20 in scoring.
After that though, it drops off significantly. Jamie Lincoln has 15 points, but nobody else has more than 6. That’s the problem with having such a dominant superstar (if you can call having a player of Grant’s calibre a “problem”) – if he gets injured or hits a multi-week slump, the Mammoth are in less of a position to recover than, say, the Roughnecks.
The Mammoth are fifth with 12 goals against per game. If you take out the Calgary loss, they’d be second at 10.5. They gave up 14 goals in their first game, then the numbers dropped steadily until they were down to 7 in back-to-back weeks. Then Calgary came in and blew them away. Still, that’s only one game, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now. Chris Levis is having his second straight great season. Imagine how good this team would be if Mac Allen wasn’t hurt.
It may seem weird to rank the Roughnecks higher than the Mammoth considering the Mammoth have a better record. It’s not like the Mammoth are overachieving and have beaten a bunch of weak teams – they are definitely a strong team, and if Grant stays hot and Levis continues to play well, they could have an amazing year. But I really believe the Roughnecks are better overall.
The top two scorers on the Rush are tied for 27th in the league. They have scored 10.7 goals per game, the second-worst in the league. They have less than 10 goals in 3 of their 6 games thus far, though they did score 16 against the Stealth. Shawn Williams is on pace for 64 points, his lowest total since 2000 when he only played 10 games.
Wow. Just, wow. The Rush have given up an average of 10.2 goals per game, the best in the league by half a goal. Strangely, they’re even better away from Rexall Place, giving up a stingy 9.5 goals per game compared with the 11.5 at home. They’ve lost Chris Corbeil to injury, but still have Kyle Rubisch, Brett Mydske, top Money Baller Derek Suddons, Ryan Dilks, Jarrett Toll, and captain Jimmy Quinlan. There was word that the Rush were going to trade Paul Rabil to the Bandits for Jeremy Thompson or to the Knighthawks for Jordan Hall but they don’t need transition or defense. They need scoring.
The Rush are the new Mammoth. Last year’s Colorado Mammoth also had a very good defense (though not this good) and a really bad offense. Of course, the Mammoth are kicking butt this year, so maybe the Rush have that to look forward to next year. Giving up Brodie Merrill for
Iannucci Rabil nothing hasn’t hurt the defense at all, (how good would the defense be with Brodie?) but the offense needs help.
Callum Crawford, Ryan Benesch, and Kevin Ross are leading the Swarm offense, no surprise there. But four of the next five are surprising: rookies Jordan MacIntosh, Corbyn Tao, and Jay Card along with 2nd year transition guy and captain Andrew Suitor, who has already eclipsed his 10 points from last year. The Swarm are fourth in the league in scoring, with 12.6 goals per game.
After the Blazers expansion draft, we thought the Swarm goalies this year might be Anthony Cosmo and Nick Patterson, a more than acceptable combo. Turns out to be neither one, and the Swarm went with rookie Tyler Carlson who has been very good and rookie Evan Kirk who has been outstanding. The Swarm are seventh with 11.6 goals against, but are improving – they’ve only given up more than 9 goals in one of their last four games. Their home goals against average is 9.5, almost two full goals better than anyone else. The defense has tended to be great in the wins (opposing scores are 11, 9, 6, and 7), but not very good at all in two of the three losses (scores of 20, 16, and 12).
With all the young kids, you might think this is a team that will be good in a few years, and I’m sure they will. But they’re also good right now. The Minnesota Swarm have never won a playoff game, but they definitely have as good a shot this year as they’ve ever had.
The loss of Luke Wiles was pretty big, but not this big. The Stealth are dead last in the league, only scoring 9.3 goals per game. They’re the only team under ten, and 1.4 goals behind Edmonton. As Stephen Stamp and Ty Pilson discussed on last week’s Boxla Beat, the problem is simple: Ratcliff and Duch are just not scoring. Ratcliff has 15 goals on a league-leading 97 shots on goal – compare that to Curtis Dickson, who has 15 on only 60 shots, or John Grant, with 27 goals on 86 shots. Now Duch is injured and Jeff Zywicki is back, but that’s a wash at best. The addition of Athan Iannucci hasn’t helped much so far, but once he shakes off the rust he could make a big difference.
The Stealth are also dead last in this category, giving up 13 goals per game – 14 at home. They’ve given up 15 or more goals three times. Chris Seidel has played 93 minutes and leads the team with a brutal 12.26 GAA. Tyler Richards has a 77.5% save percentage, which is not bad (5th in the league). But his GAA of 12.58 is only good for twelfth among goalies – and this is a nine-team league, so three backups (including his own) are ahead of him in that category. Richards is also injured now, so unless Seidel and newcomer Matt King can stop the bleeding, things may get worse before they get better.
Sorry Stealth fans, but there are no two ways around it. The Stealth have sucked so far this year. Chris Hall returned to the bench for the last game, which didn’t have the impact on the team that I was expecting, but I don’t know how many of the practices and such before that game he was able to attend. Maybe once he’s running the whole show, the team will start playing like the team that went to the last two Championship games but right now, that’s certainly not how the Stealth look.
The Stealth have the same problem as the 1992 Orlando Magic, whose GM Pat Williams said “We can’t win at home. We can’t win on the road. As general manager, I just can’t figure out where else to play.“