Division semi-final picks

My overall record during the regular season was 31-41 (0.431). If I only get three of the seven playoff games right, I’m at .428, so I need to finish above .500 in the playoffs to beat my regular season record. Everyone wants to do better in the playoffs than they did in the regular season, right?

Despite what my picks for the first round look like, I did not just go with the higher ranked team. Well, I did, but I actually did think about each game.

Record: 0-0

Game

Comments

Pick

BUF @ TOR Of the three possible opponents for the Rock in the first round, this was my least favourite option as a Rock fan. I was hoping the Rock would face Rochester while the Wings disposed of the Bandits. Then the Rock could take out the Wings and head to the final again. It doesn’t matter how bad the Bandits were in the early (or even mid) part of this year – they played pretty well at the end, Cosmo seems to have found his stride, and the team is playing with confidence. This could be a really close game, going back and forth all night and finally solved by overtime, or it could be a blowout, one way or the other. None of those options would surprise me. Rock5
PHI @ ROC On March 23, the Wings were 7-4 and in first place in the East. Since then, they’re 0-5 and have scored 10 or fewer goals in 4 of those games. They’re outta time to turn things around – it’s now or never. The Knighthawks aren’t exactly flying into the playoffs either, having lost four of their last six. But one of those wins was against the Wings and the other was against the powerhouse Roughnecks, so things aren’t all bad. Knighthawks5
EDM @ CAL I like the Rush. Aaron Bold is my Goalie of the Year choice, Rubisch (my Defender of the Year choice) and Corbeil are two of the best defenders in the league, and Shawn Williams and Steve Toll are two of my all-time favourite players. Could they beat the Roughnecks? Could their defense and goaltending shut down the potent Calgary offense long enough for their forwards to put a few by Poulin? Sure, it could happen. But it won’t. Roughnecks
MIN @ COL I wanted to pick the Swarm, and I kind of hope I’m wrong. The Swarm have surprised and impressed me (and many others) this year, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they did pull off the upset, though I would be surprised. Sure, they beat the Mammoth last weekend, but Colorado was missing Gavin Prout and had nothing to play for in that game. Prout is back this weekend, and the Mammoth are not going to take this one lightly. Mammoth4

2012 NLL Award winners

The IL Indoor writing staff submitted their picks this week for the major annual NLL awards. Here are the names I submitted. I also made some predictions at the beginning of the year, so let’s see how I did on those.

Offensive player of the year – John Grant, Jr.

Grant set a new scoring record and did it while playing two fewer games than anyone else. He kept up an average of 8.3 points per game, and never scored less than six points in a game. He had two games all year without a hat-trick.

It’s amazing to me that John Tavares set the scoring record of 115 points in 14 games in 2001, and in ten 16-game seasons, nobody could beat it. Then in 2012 someone finally does beat it – while only playing 14 games.

Runners-up: Garrett Billings, Dan Dawson, John Tavares, Gavin Prout

Prediction: I didn’t make a prediction for offensive player.

Transition player of the year – Geoff Snider

Runners-up: Andrew Suitor, Brodie Merrill, Jordan MacIntosh, Travis Cornwall, Jesse Gamble

Prediction: Paul Rabil. Hahahahahahahaha

Defensive player of the year – Kyle Rubisch

Runners-up: Curtis Manning, Rory Smith, Kyle Sorensen, Sandy Chapman

Prediction: Kyle Rubisch. Yay, I got one right.

Goaltender of the year – Aaron Bold

I was really torn here. My first thought was Bold, but I had trouble giving Goaltender of the Year to a goalie on a 6-10 team so I switched to Mike Poulin. But then I remembered that Bob Watson won it for the Rock in 2008 when they were 7-9 and missed the playoffs. Poulin had a better team in front of him so he got more wins, but that doesn’t help us compare. But while watching games and highlights and looking over game reports over the course of the year, I remember thinking “wow” just a little more often with Bold than with anyone else. So I switched back.

Runners-up: Mike Poulin, Evan Kirk, Chris Levis

Prediction: Mike Thompson. Hey, he played in the All-Star game! But so did the now-unemployed Matt Roik.

Rookie of the year – Jordan MacIntosh

Before the season started, a number of people seemed to have already decided that this award should just be given to Kevin Crowley, and Crowley certainly impressed. But even once the season began, I never had Crowley pegged as the runaway winner of this award, because Adam Jones was always right there with him. They both slowed down a little in the second half, dropping to about 5 points per game. Still excellent debut seasons, to be sure. But MacIntosh quietly amassed 51 points, only 20 less than Crowley and 25 less than Jones, as a transition player. He also played defense and took the majority of the Swarm’s face-offs. Neither Crowley nor Jones were in my Offensive Player of the Year list, but MacIntosh was in my list for Transition, and Kirk was in my list for Goaltender of the Year, so he gets the second place vote.

Runners-up: Evan Kirk, Adam Jones, Kevin Crowley, Johnny Powless, Travis Cornwall

Prediction: Kevin Crowley. Again, not a terrible pick, and I couldn’t really argue with any of my top four.

Coach of the year – Bob Hamley

Hamley took a 5-11 team with a lot of roster changes and rookies and turned them into one of the best teams in the league – second place overall, a 6-game winning streak, and the highest goals/game and PP goals/game averages in the league.

Runners-up: Joe Sullivan (and Mike Lines, if a replaced coach can win such an award), Troy Cordingley, Dave Pym

Prediction: Darris Kilgour. Talk about your polar opposite. Not that his team’s terrible (at times) play was entirely his fault, but I was not impressed with the way he handled it, calling them out (by name in some cases) as publicly as he did. Still, the team did turn it around at the end of the year.

GM of the year – Steve Govett

See the Coach of the year entry – Govett made the roster changes that allowed Hamley to do what he did.

Runner-up: Joe Sullivan John Arlotta. (Update: Sullivan is listed as “Associate GM” on Minnesota’s web site, and nobody is listed as GM. Turns out John Arlotta is the guy who makes the decisions.)

Prediction: Derek Keenan. That was before the whole Iannucci thing happened, though I did think that even without Nooch, the Rush would have been better than they were.

MVP – Garrett Billings

Garrett Billings

With respect to John Grant’s remarkable season, Billings meant more to the Rock than Grant did to the Mammoth. Grant missed two games with an injury and while he was out, the Mammoth went 1-1. When Gavin Prout missed two games near the end of the season, Grant recorded 6 points in each game (obviously not bad, but his lowest tallies of the year) and the Mammoth lost both games. For the Rock, Blaine Manning missed most of the season, Colin Doyle and Josh Sanderson missed games as well, and Stephan Leblanc had a subpar season, but Billings stepped up and became the de facto leader. He outscored everyone else on his team by almost fifty points. The Mammoth had a very good season, but without Grant, they still had two other players (Jones and Prout) who were in the top ten in scoring, and would still have been pretty good. The Rock’s second place scorer (Leblanc) was seventeenth. They did have a pretty good season (can’t argue with first in the division) but without Billings, it would have been much worse.

Runners-up: John Grant, Dan Dawson, John Tavares

Prediction: Dan Dawson.

Confession

I kind of hate the fact that my MVP list is so similar to my offensive player list, because that implies that goals and offense are the most important things. Considering my interest in statistics, it may seem that I look only at the numbers when deciding on a player’s worth: “Obviously Mike Hominuck is way better than Kyle Rubisch because he has way more points!” This is definitely not the case, but I do have to admit that it’s more difficult to evaluate defensive players when you’re not watching them all the time – and sometimes, even when you are.

I saw every Rock home game live (plus one in Buffalo), and almost all the road ones on TV or the internet. Overall, did Cam Woods play better or worse than Glen Bryan this year? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I could write a huge post on why the numbers by themselves don’t give you anywhere near the whole story when it comes to determining how important a player is to his team, but oh look, Marty O’Neill has already done that.

Anyway, there were certainly some big goaltending and defensive performances this year, but with both Grant and Billings breaking offensive records, offense was the big story.