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

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