Team summaries and projected changes: East division

Now that the 2012 season is behind us, each team will be looking to 2013 and trying to decide what changes need to be made. Let’s look over each team and see what changes may be in store. We’ll start with the East division, and get to the West in a few days.

Buffalo Bandits

There will be lots of changes coming for the Bandits this offseason, if you believe what Darris Kilgour said a number of times during the season. I don’t know how much of that was said in the heat of the moment, but I don’t imagine his strategy for 2013 will be “Hope everyone plays better”.

Goaltending is not a problem assuming Cosmo stays in Buffalo, and I have no reason to believe he won’t. As good as John Tavares was this year, surely he has to slow down sometime, doesn’t he? Maybe, but I’ve been asking that question for five years. Tracey Kelusky has said that he was pretty unhappy with his own play in the 2011 season, and his point total dropped by half in 2012. Considering the impact he’s had on the league over the last ten years, it would be kind of sad to see a sure-fire hall-of-famer like TK retire after two such lacklustre seasons, but I’m not sure I can see the Bandits taking another chance on him.

In a nutshell, the Bandits need to get younger – though ironically, the Bandit least likely to be traded is 43-year-old John Tavares. They have one first round pick (third overall) in the next entry draft thanks to the Chris Corbeil trade, but their own pick – second overall – was sent to Minnesota for Anthony Cosmo. Their first round pick next year belongs to the Swarm as well. I’d look for a number of players to be moved out for draft picks.

Philadelphia Wings

I’m not sure what to think about the Wings. They had periods where they played really well, and periods where they played really badly. Their defense played well against the Rock in Toronto, allowing 8 and 10 goals in two games, and then allowed 13 or more in five of six straight games (and 12 in the sixth). They were in first place in mid-March and then collapsed, losing their last five.

Dan Dawson was obviously not the problem here. Dawson had yet another great season, but in the NLL one player cannot pull a LeBron and lift a team to greatness pretty much by himself. A quick glance at the individual numbers seemed fine, with Dawson over 100 points and Crowley, Mundorf, Westervelt, and Hominuck all over 50. By comparison, the champion Knighthawks only had four players over 50 points, and the Bandits only had three. But after that, things drop off significantly. Brodie Merrill had 32 points, and Siebald and Crotty had 14 each. Nobody else had more than 8. Of their nine losses, they scored fewer than ten goals in five of them (and exactly ten in two more). Only the Edmonton Rush scored fewer goals than the Wings.

And nobody gave up more goals than the Wings. It seemed that for the most part, when the defense had a bad night, they had a bad night. The Wings gave up 15 or more goals six times, though they won one of those six. This seems odd considering there were people voting for both Merrill and Paul Dawson for Defensive Player of the Year. Brandon Miller didn’t have his best season ever, and yet Kurtis Wagar and Steve Fryer played only 71 minutes combined all season.

The decade-long rebuild of the Wings continues. I’m sure Dawson isn’t going anywhere, nor are Crowley or Merrill. But you gotta wonder if anyone else’s job is safe. Considering the Wings don’t have any first round draft picks for the next couple of years, their best hope for improvement is through trades and free agency. They made a big move last off-season to bring in Merrill, and then had Crowley and Dawson dropped in their laps. I’ve thought all along that Philadelphia would be a good fit for Paul Rabil (can you imagine transition studs Rabil and Merrill on one team?) so it wouldn’t surprise me to see another big trade with Edmonton this off-season. Perhaps the Wings should start looking into what players on their team might consider playing out west. Interestingly, Kevin Crowley is from BC.

Rochester Knighthawks

They won the damned championship, so the Knighthawks obviously don’t need an overhaul. They have a mix of young and veteran talent up front, lots of veterans and a couple of kids on D, and an outstanding goalie with many good playing years in front of him. So what are they in desperate need of? Nothing. What could they use? My only thought here might be to get a little younger on the defense. It’s not like their defense is old and creaky, but McCready, Laverty, and Cousins have all been around for a while, and they also have Campbell, Travis Hill, Smith, and Glaves. The only real young players on the D are Dylan Evans, Tyler Burton, and Mike Kirk.

But I don’t think this is a huge hole that really needs filling. If someone offers the Knighthawks a trade, that may be where they want to focus, but if they do nothing at all, Rochester will be poised for more successful seasons to come.

Toronto Rock

Jamie Dawick said that Nick Rose is their goalie of the future, though Dawick also had nothing but good things to say about Matt Roik – right up until he was released. That said, I’d be surprised if Rose wasn’t the starting goalie for the Rock in 2013. It has been implied that Pat Campbell may hang ’em up, in which case the Rock need a new backup goaltender. Dawick also said that Phil Sanderson may have to retire after the concussion he suffered this season. That would be a huge loss for the D.

The offense looks set, except for one position where there was a bit of a problem. That would be the “Stephen Leblanc” position. The guy playing there had some good nights, but wasn’t nearly as effective overall as in 2010 or 2011, so that needs to improve. Dan Carey didn’t have a huge impact on the offense but like Flip, he suffered a season-ending concussion. Seeing as this was the second time in his career he’s missed significant time because of a concussion, Carey may have to walk away as well.

I think they could use a little more size and toughness from their defense. Considering the firepower up front, could the Rock send one of their O guys off for a big D guy and backup goalie? Doyle and Sanderson aren’t going anywhere, and they’re not likely to trade Billings after the season he just had. Could one of Manning, Leblanc or Beirnes be on their way out? Or will the Rock look to the free agent market to shore up the back end?


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