In an attempt to right their listing ship, the Rock replaced the anchor on Monday. Matt Roik was supposed to be the goalie of the future for the Rock but his tenure lasted just over half a season, as the Rock traded for Calgary backup Nick Rose on Monday, releasing Roik outright. Calgary gets Toronto’s first round draft pick in 2014, and if Toronto doesn’t make it to the Championship game this year, they also get a second round pick from Calgary in 2014. Is this the solution? Obviously we won’t know that until a few games have been played, but in order for Rose to be the solution, Roik would have to have been the problem. Was he?
In 10 games, Roik was 4-4. Among regular starters (i.e. 300+ minutes), he ranks ninth in both GAA (12.52) and save percentage (.725). In a nine team league, ranking ninth is not good. The Rock are also tied for last in goals against with 129. From these numbers, it certainly sounds like goaltending is a big problem. But (feel free to gasp out loud here as a stats guy says this) the numbers don’t always tell you everything.
Quite simply, Roik was not the reason for the Rock’s less-than-stellar season thus far. He had his tough games, and in a couple he wasn’t sharp at all. But in those ten games, he’s really only had two or maybe three bad outings, and only one real stinker. Interesting that the Rock decided that this was too much for Roik, when Stephen Leblanc has had more than three lousy outings this year, but he’s not going anywhere (and I’m not suggesting that he should be).
The real problem is that there isn’t a single problem. There were games where the goaltending wasn’t great (pretty much the last three), but there were also games where the defense in front of him gave up too many chances, and other games where the defense was fine but nobody wanted to score. The Rock have scored 13 or more goals in five games, so they can score. They held the Wings to only 6 goals so they can play defense, though that was the only game this year where they’ve held the opposition to less than 11. In the first seven games, the Rock were 4-3, but in the three losses, Roik wasn’t the problem. In the 14-8 loss to Philly, I said in my game report: “I certainly wouldn’t pin the loss squarely on him [Roik]”. Even Terry Sanderson said in the press release “In this case, I don’t feel our guys were playing well enough in front of Matt”. That sounds to me like they are acknowledging the fact that it was a team thing, not just Roik.
None of what I’ve said would be news to Sanderson, Troy Cordingley, Jamie Dawick, or anyone else in the Rock organization, were they to grace my humble lacrosse blog with their presence. So if Roik wasn’t the problem, why did the Rock make this move? I have to think it’s the same reason you sometimes pull the goaltender during a game – just to shake up the team. Mike Thompson had some ugly games for the Bandits, but their 6-game losing streak wasn’t entirely his fault. That didn’t stop Darris Kilgour from picking up Anthony Cosmo, and who’s been the better goalie since then? Thompson.
Rose hails from the lacrosse hotbed of Orangeville, Ontario, and a number of Rock players – Edwards, Gamble, Bryan, Rooney, and Josh Sanderson, according to Eh Game – have played with Rose before, either on the Boston Blazers or the Orangeville Northmen. It’s not like Roik was a complete unknown, but we all know that Terry Sanderson, also an Orangeville guy, would much prefer having players on his team that he’s familiar with.
Are the Rock a better team with Rose? This year, it obviously remains to be seen. Going forward, the answer is likely yes. Rose is eight years younger than Roik, and had a lot of success in junior lacrosse, winning a couple of Minto Cups and being named IL Indoor’s Junior Goaltender of the Year in consecutive years. He hasn’t seen an awful lot of playing time in the NLL, but has been a backup to two of the best in Cosmo and Poulin. Oddly, Poulin was also a backup to Cosmo, and both Poulin and Cosmo were at one time backups to Bob Watson in Toronto. And Cosmo was once traded for Matt Roik. The cycle of goalies is complete.
So what happens to Roik now? Maybe he and Nick Patterson will hang together and watch NLL games online for the rest of the year. It’s certainly possible that he’ll catch on with another team, likely in a backup role unless there’s an injury. Or maybe he’ll get a starting job somewhere if a team starts to falter, even if it’s not their goalie’s fault.