Lacrosse memories: 2012

One of the advantages to having a personal lacrosse blog is that I can write an article about myself. It’s rare, but here’s one of them.

It’s standard at the end of a year to go over the year and think about special things that happened during the previous 12 months. I had a few, the best of which were my wife’s graduation from teacher’s college and the birth of my niece Elizabeth. But this is a lacrosse blog, so let’s take a look at some of my more memorable lacrosse-related events from 2012.

January 16: My first article for IL Indoor was published. It was very exciting to see my name on an article on that site, which I’ve been reading since it was NLL Insider. IL Indoor has a +/- voting system on each article, and this article has a +4 rating with 14 votes. After crunching the numbers (half the difference is the number of down-votes), we find that nine people read the article and then clicked plus while five people clicked minus. To the nine: thanks! To the five: Sorry to disappoint, and hopefully you felt that things improved throughout the season. Note that I have no idea how many people read the article without clicking anything but I would guess that it’s the vast majority.

February 24: My first interview, done over email with Teddy Jenner, is published. With apologies to Delta Airlines, Teddy loves to talk lacrosse, and it shows.

February 26: The All-Star Game in Buffalo. This was my second NLL All-Star game (I was also at the one in Toronto in 2006), and despite the fact that it wasn’t a “normal” lacrosse game (almost no penalties, very little defense, pretty much no hitting), I enjoyed it.

April 27: My interview with future NLL Hall of Famer Steve Toll is published. This was my first “real” interview as it was done over the phone, and not over email like Teddy’s.

September 7: I attended Game 1 of the Mann Cup. The Langley Thunder defeated the Peterborough Lakers 13-12 in a bit of a surprising game. I don’t really follow the MLS or WLA that closely, but everything I’d read said “Lakers in a cakewalk”. That first game (and the second game which Langley also won) proved them wrong. The Lakers did win the next four to win it all, but it wasn’t as easy as many said it would be. We were sitting only a couple of rows back from the glass, in the row behind John Grant’s sister and her family. At one point, someone (not Grant) tried an over-the-shoulder shot but missed the net. I said “Who do you think you are, John Grant?”. She smiled.

October 1: The NLL Entry Draft. This was my first time at an NLL event that wasn’t a game, and I found it fascinating to see bits of the “inner workings” of the league.

October 31: My only non-Moneyballers article on IL Indoor was published, a story about Calgary’s Scott Ranger and how he deals with Type 1 diabetes. I’m very proud of this article, which received 43 votes, 41 of which were plus‘s.

December 18: The Toronto Rock’s first-ever town hall meeting. Checking out the Rock dressing room at the new Toronto Rock Athletic Complex was very cool. I also asked a question which both Colin Doyle and Garrett Billings answered.

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2013 NLL Predictions

As a lacrosse blogger, it is my solemn duty to post my predictions for all the major NLL awards. It’s a responsibility that I take seriously, and so after at least 45 seconds of consideration per award, here are my choices.

Final standings

East

  1. Rochester Knighthawks
  2. Toronto Rock
  3. Buffalo Bandits
  4. Philadelphia Wings

West

  1. Calgary Roughnecks
  2. Minnesota Swarm
  3. Colorado Mammoth
  4. Washington Stealth
  5. Edmonton Rush

 

Individual Awards

MVP: Dan Dawson. Runner-up: Garrett Billings

Goaltender of the Year: Anthony Cosmo. Runner-up: Aaron Bold

Defensive Player of the Year: Kyle Rubisch. Runner-up: Paul Dawson

Transition Player of the Year: Jordan MacIntosh. Runner-up: Paul Rabil. Yes, Rabil.

Rookie of the Year: Mark Matthews. Runner-up: Kiel Matisz

Les Bartley (Coach of the Year): Troy Cordingley. Runner-up: Joe Sullivan

GM of the Year: Curt Styres. Runner-up: Steve Dietrich

Presenting your 2013 Boston Blazers

BlazersOne of my earliest articles on this blog was a list of players that would be playing in the NLL had the Blazers not folded. This list came from players who I thought were good enough to play in the NLL but were not on NLL rosters. Just like last year, this year’s list includes players who were cut or appear on practice squads, but not those who are injured, are on holdout lists, or have retired.

Forwards

Alex Gajic
Derek Hopcroft
Cam Sedgwick – Oops, retired
Brett Hickey
Jamie Shewchuk
Brendan Thenhaus (interestingly, appeared on last year’s list too before being picked up by the Rock)
Roger Vyse
Jeff Zywicki

Transition

Tom Montour

Defenders

Brendan Doran
Travis Hill
Ian Llord
Eric Martin
Kevin Ross

Goalies

Angus Goodleaf
Chris Seidel

NLL 2013 team previews in haiku

A list of my 2013 season previews of each team in haiku forum, along with links to the longer form for each.

Buffalo Bandits

Many new Bandits
Chugger’s been a busy guy
JT’s still here, natch

Philadelphia Wings

Rabil, no Dawsons
Transition – or midfielders?
This is box, not field

Rochester Knighthawks

Few changes, but big
With Powell and the Dawsons
The champs have improved

Toronto Rock

Who will protect us?
Pat Campbell retired, but
Scott Evans is here

Calgary Roughnecks

Dave Pym, Kaleb Toth
Both gone, but no one can get
Through the Poulin Wall

Colorado Mammoth

Grant is the leader
Last year was record-setting
Only one Gajic left

Edmonton Rush

Lost Williams, Wilson
But wait, help is on the way
Matthews is the man

Minnesota Swarm

Surprisingly good
Rookies did the job last year
Still getting better

Washington Stealth

Zywicki, Bloom: gone
Lots of rookies join the team
Return to glory?

2013 Preview: Toronto Rock

RockThe 2012 season was a transition year for the Rock, as the first year of the post-Bob Watson era. As transition years go, finishing first in the East is probably a better result than fans had a right to expect. As the only East team that finished above .500 however, perhaps the Rock capitalized on weak years from the other East teams.

As it turned out, the Matt Roik era lasted just over 1/2 a season. I thought they gave up on Roik a little too quick, but I have to say I’ve been impressed with Nick Rose thus far. I’ve talked to a number of Rock fans who are concerned with the goalie situation for some reason, but Rose went 6-2 in a Rock uniform. The fact that Rose was both Goaltender of the Year and league MVP in the WLA this past summer may hopefully convince skeptical Rock fans that finding a “real” #1 goaltender is a problem that the Rock don’t really have.

Roster changes

A number of changes here and there but the core is the same. Gone are Glen Bryan and Bruce Codd, as well as backup goalie Pat Campbell. Former Bandits captain Chris White joins the defense and rookie Kyle Belton, who played forward during the Edmonton scrimmage and scored three goals, is listed as a defender. Zac Boychuk looks like the backup goaltender, and if you’re a Rock fan but not a WLA fan, you may be interested to know that the first-team and second-team WLA All Star goalies in 2012 were none other than Nick Rose and Zac Boychuk.

On the offense, Jamie Rooney was sent to the Bandits along with Bryan for draft picks. I liked Rooney – I thought he was a dynamic scorer and a welcome addition to the Toronto offense. The Rock also traded Aaron Pascas, who had a pretty good rookie season in 2011 but did not play in 2012. Dan Carey finally had to give into the concussion problems he’s been facing for several years and retire. It’s always unfortunate when a player has to end his career early because of injuries.

Shortly before training camp began, the Rock picked up Scott Evans, who was tossed onto the scrap heap by the Edmonton Rush after they benched him at the end of last season and throughout the playoffs. The message was clear – smarten up and don’t play selfish or you don’t play at all. Evans apparently didn’t get the message and showed up to camp out of shape. I did think at the end of last year that the Rock needed more grit and toughness which Evans can provide in spades, but I’m still not sure about this signing. If Evans does smarten up and provides some offense (and doesn’t expect to be the #1 forward – he’ll be #6 at best), it might be OK. But if he’s contributing two points and six penalty minutes per game, he’s not worth it. I’d keep Evans on a short leash. That said, he did score four goals in the Rock’s pre-season game in Montreal.

There’s been no word on the status of Phil Sanderson, who missed six games last season due to a concussion. There were rumours that his injury was career threatening though the Rock said back in November that he’s “expected to be ready for camp”. He did not play during the scrimmages with Edmonton or Rochester, and begins the season on the IR.

Burning question

My burning question for the Rock concerns Nick Rose, but it’s not “Can Rose be the guy?” because I believe he can. Rock fans were lucky to have seen Bob Watson, possibly the best box lacrosse goalie ever, for so many years. The problem is that they got used to having him back there and now any goalie that plays for the Rock is compared to him. Having a goalie that’s not as good as Whipper isn’t a glaring weakness, it just puts the Rock on a par with other teams. The burning question: will Rock fans come to realize this and get behind Rosey?

Prediction

Second in the east.

Haiku

Who will protect us?
Pat Campbell retired, but
Scott Evans is here

2013 Preview: Buffalo Bandits

BanditsThe 2012 season started off just fine for the Buffalo Bandits. They hosted the rival Toronto Rock and beat them 14-10. The next week they travelled to Rochester and beat their other rivals 12-9. Then the troubles started. Five weeks later, they were 2-6 and their coach was calling them stupid, a bunch of bush leaguers, and questioning their heart. This was a lack of success with which the Bandits organization was unfamiliar, at least lately. The Bandits hadn’t finished below .500 since 1999, and finished first or tied for first in the East in four of the previous six seasons.

Still, after all the drama they went 5-3 in the second half and ended up tied for second in the East (dropped to fourth due to tiebreakers). Anthony Cosmo allowed a mere 7 Toronto goals in the division semi-final, but Nick Rose only allowed 6, ending what was not likely Darris Kilgour’s favourite NLL season. After the season, I predicted “There will be lots of changes coming for the Bandits this offseason” and lo and behold, I was right. Not that this was a particularly Earth-shattering prediction.

Roster changes

Steve Dietrich has only had the Bandits GM job since July but he’s been one of the busiest GMs in the league since then. Gone are Kevin Buchanan and Jeremy Thompson (both traded), Darryl Gibson and Mike Thompson (both retired), Brandon Francis, Travis Irving, Tom Montour, Ian Llord, Angus Goodleaf, and Roger Vyse (released), and former captain Chris White (signed with Toronto). A whole pile of new faces will don the orange and black in 2013, many of whom, strangely, are former Toronto Rock players. This list includes former Bandit (and Rock) Shawn Williams, Aaron Wilson, Jamie Rooney, Mike Hominuck, Glen Bryan, and Derek Suddons. Even Dietrich himself was the backup goalie in Toronto for one season, and goalie coach for one more. There are a few non-former-Rock additions as well: David Brock, Nick Cotter, and Kurtis Wagar.

There are also three rookies on the Bandits roster. Last year the Bandits had two Thompsons, this year they have three Smiths – all defenders. Billy Dee returns for his tenth season in a Bandits uniform, and his cousin Dhane was Buffalo’s first draft pick (5th overall) in the entry draft. Hayden was Buffalo’s second round pick, 13th overall, and is not related to the other two Smiths. The other rookie is Carter Bender, a forward who was taken 18th overall in the draft.

But even given the number of new faces on the team this year, some things never change: John Tavares, who has never played for the Rock (nor any NLL team other than Buffalo), returns for his eleventy-millionth season.

Burning question

Darris Kilgour the GM is gone but Darris Kilgour the head coach remains. Did the Bandits keep the right one?

Prediction

Third in the east because half the team is new, and it will take time for them all to gel together. But if they do that quickly and the Powell/Dawson/Jamieson experiment doesn’t work out, the Bandits could win the east.

Haiku

Many new Bandits
Chugger’s been a busy guy
JT’s still here, natch

2013 Preview: Philadelphia Wings

WingsOver the first sixteen years of the Philadelphia Wings’ existence, they missed the playoffs only once, and won five championships. But in the ten years since then, they have only made the playoffs twice, and lost both games. The Wings are no longer top of the heap when it comes to attendance – they haven’t had over 12,000 at a game since 2007. The long-suffering Wings fans have been thinking “Finally, this will be our year!” for almost ten years, only to be disappointed yet again. Keep that up for three more decades, Wings fans, and you’ll get a taste of what it’s like to be a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

In 2012, things started to look like they might be turning around for the Wings. In fact, two thirds of the way through the season, things were looking really good. They were 7-4, in first place in the East, and had beaten the Rock and Bandits twice each. Kevin Crowley was having an excellent rookie season and Dan Dawson was right near the top of the scoring race. And then things fell apart. They lost their last five games and only made the playoffs by virtue of the NLL’s generous playoff format (as someone put it on the Wingszone message boards: “72 games to eliminate 1 team followed by 7 games to eliminate 7 teams”) before being dispatched by the Knighthawks.

As I mentioned in my 2012 post-season report, “The decade-long rebuild of the Wings continues.”

Roster changes

I wrote most of this section a while ago and had it all ready to go, saying that the Wings hadn’t made many big changes. Then they went and made one of the biggest trades in NLL history. Gone are the Dawson brothers, in are a whole bunch of transition players. The day of the trade, the Wings had 8 forwards listed, one of whom was Dan Dawson, and 3 transition players. But Chris Schiller was listed as D, and he’s arguably another tranny. Add the four acquired from Rochester (Rabil, Hall, White, Campbell), and we have 7 forwards and 8 transition players.

I’m not sure how the Wings expect to make up the offense they’ve lost. They brought in Kevin Ross, who will certainly help. Rabil will probably score more than your average transition player, but he won’t make up for Dan Dawson. They traded Mike Hominuck and acquired Kevin Buchanan – call that a wash unless Buchanan reverts to his Boston / Minnesota form – his point total dropped by half last season. Add to that the fact that Brendan Mundorf will likely miss most of the season, and the Wings are down 133 points from last season.

Now, maybe Drew Westervelt will have a breakout season and score 90 points. Maybe Crowley will see the departure of Dawson as his opportunity to lead the offense and he’ll score 90. Maybe Ned Crotty and Rabil will finally take to the box game and they’ll score 50 each. OK, that last one may be a bit more of a stretch but either of the first two is possible. Remember how the Roughnecks were going to suck once they traded Kelusky and Sanderson away?

On the D, the Wings traded Paul Dawson and David Brock and lost Tom Hajek to retirement, and replaced them with… nobody. They had a few transition guys like Brodie Merrill, Max Seibald, and Chris Schiller; they traded for Kyle Hartzell; and they just got four more. Most of those guys will likely spend time on the defense as well, so it’s not like they have nobody to play back there.

Backup goalie Kurtis Wagar signed with the Bandits, leaving the Wings with Brandon Miller and Kevin Croswell. Miller was a workhorse last year, with only 3 goalies in the league playing more minutes, but didn’t have a great year, finishing 13th in GAA and 12th in save percentage.

Burning question

Will the Wings’ obsession with American field players finally pay off?

Prediction

Nope. Fourth in the east.

Haiku

Rabil, no Dawsons
Transition – or midfielders?
This is box, not field