Considering I’ve only known about the Casey Powell trade for about twelve hours, I’ve changed my mind about it a surprising number of times. First it was great because it shakes up both offenses. Then it was dumb because Casey Powell is old. Then it was smart because he’s not that old. Then it was dumb because even if he’s not that old, he’s unlikely to play for long, making this a rental move. Now I’m back to good.
The offense for both teams did need a shake-up, and this deal will certainly provide that. Casey Powell wasn’t having an outstanding season – 22 points in 7 games, which would be a 50 point season over 16 games. This is far from terrible, but it would be his lowest point total since 2000. The Knighthawks offense was getting a little crowded, with Powell, Dan Dawson, Cody Jamieson, Mike Accursi, Johnny Powless, Cory Vitarelli, Stephen Keogh, and Craig Point. This move takes Powell out of the mix, giving the rest of them a little more floor time, which if nothing else changes the dynamic. It might allow the Knighthawks to see a little more of the 8-10 point Dan Dawson and less of the 2-3 point Dan Dawson. If the Knighthawks offensive problems were a case of too many cooks, this may help the broth turn out a little better. Hopefully better than that metaphor just did.
In the case of the Mammoth, John Grant is having a very good season, a little down from last year’s outstanding season, but that’s to be expected. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone else in the offense is down from last year as well. Adding Casey Powell to that mix will have the opposite effect than in Rochester. Rather than having too many people to pass to, the Mammoth only had one, and I’ve heard a lot of Mammoth fans talk about how all their offense flows through Grant. I’ve even heard suggestions that maybe sitting Grant for a game might be a good idea, just to let the offense know that it’s possible to take a shot yourself, even if Grant is on the floor. Adding Powell will change their dynamic as well, allowing them to not put Grant out there on every shift if they don’t want to. This also reduces the possibility of Grant being what we in the computer industry call a “single point of failure” – if Grant gets injured, the Mammoth offense might have fallen apart. With Powell in the lineup, they should be able to adapt a little easier. In fact, there is talk that Gavin Prout is injured and may miss the remainder of the season, in which case Powell simply replaces Prout.
There’s also the mentoring aspect – if you’re a young offensive player, particularly an American, it’s hard to imagine not being excited to have arguably the greatest American lacrosse player in history playing beside you.
The reason I thought this was a bad idea for a little while was based on an assumption that I do not know to be true – the assumption that Casey Powell will retire at the end of this season, or maybe next season at the latest. He just turned 37 and missed all of last season due to injury, so it stands to reason that he may not play much longer. If that’s true, then the Mammoth have given up Jon Sullivan (from a defense that could really use him) and a pick for at most a season and a half of Powell. Is he enough to turn the team around and make them contenders? If not, the deal makes no sense. They didn’t get Powell so they could be contenders for the next five years, this is a move for right now, and the Mammoth are in last place so there may not even be a “right now”.
But there are two reasons I changed my mind on this. First, 37 isn’t that old (right, John Tavares?). In fact, Powell is a year and four months younger than John Grant. Powell has retired from the MLL but he could play another few years if he can stay healthy. It’s a bit of a risk to assume that though.
The other reason is that in the current NLL, as long as you don’t finish dead last, you’re in the playoffs. And as Edmonton showed us last year (and several years ago in the NHL as well, now that I think about it), once you’re in the playoffs anything can happen. If Grant and Powell have a couple of very good games, Lewis and Belanger don’t have to be outstanding. If they’re just “good enough”, we could be talking about the 2013 Champion Colorado Mammoth. Weirder things have happened though admittedly, not many.
It’s likely that Powell is a rental player and will retire after this season. If the Mammoth get a Championship out of it, obviously it’s a good deal for them. Even if they just make the playoffs, you could argue it’s a good deal considering that they’re the team on the outside looking in at this point. If the Mammoth get a second season out of Powell, so much the better for them. It’s really only if he doesn’t play (or tanks) and they miss the playoffs that this doesn’t work out as as even a small win for the Mammoth.
As for the Knighthawks, the offense gets better through addition by subtraction, and they pick up a good experienced defender and a draft pick, so it’s a win for them as well.