Game Report: Minnesota 20 @ Toronto 11

With no traffic, I can drive from my house to the ACC in about 45 minutes. Because this is Toronto and traffic is unpredictable, I normally leave for a game at least an hour and a half before game time. On Sunday, I left home at 1:10pm for a 3:00pm start. We arrived at our seats just before half-time. The last hour and a half of the drive took place within 5 km of the ACC. By the time we got to the game, it was almost three hours after we left home. But once I got there and started watching the game, I realized that being stuck in traffic wasn’t all that bad compared to what was going on down on the floor.

Anyone who thinks I’m a total Rock homer or that the Rock pay me to write positive Rock articles while pretending to be impartial (hey Jamie, great idea, huh? Whaddaya think?), read on.

I thought about skipping this whole article and just doing my game report as a tweet:

Minnesota @ Toronto game report: Wow, did that ever suck.

That pretty much sums it up. The Rock offense was terrible. It looked like the first game of the season – balls were dropped, passes were missed, shots missed the net by a foot or two or hit the goalie full in the chest, rebounds were given up on, it was bad. Colin Doyle was working his ass off, but nobody else seemed to be. Leblanc was invisible. Manning looked old. I don’t even remember seeing Beirnes, who’s one of my favourite players. I do remember seeing Sanderson digging around in the corners once or twice but other times he was invisible too. Even Billings looked like he didn’t know what to do, so he just kept shooting from bad angles or with a defender right in front of him.

Most of the Swarm defense is freaking huge – and even the ones that aren’t huge seemed to be. They had the Rock completely covered all game long, and I’m sure there were Rock players who didn’t know who was in net for Minnesota since they could never see him, let alone the net itself. To those Rock players: it was Tyler Carlson, who was amazing.

Toronto’s transition has been much better this year than previous years, but they were making some bad decisions as well. The transition player would speed up the floor with the ball, and regardless of whether he had a lane to the net, he’d go in anyway and take a low-percentage shot instead of circling around and waiting for the forwards to come out. If he did wait for the forwards, it took so long to get set up that by the time there were five forwards on the floor, there were only 10 seconds left on the shot clock.

Nick Rose wasn’t terrible, despite what the final score might tell you. He wasn’t great, make no mistake, I wouldn’t even say he was good. But as bad as the Rock offense was, the defense was worse. Swarm forwards seemed able to just run around defenders at will, and get a few seconds all by themselves to decide where to shoot on Rose. Sometimes it almost looked like the Rock defenders got out of the way of the Swarm forwards.

Of course, the fact that they were killing penalties for most of the second half certainly didn’t help. The Rock were so undisciplined out there that I thought we were watching the Bandits. (Too soon, Bandits fans? Sorry.) The worst one came early in the fourth quarter. Someone (don’t know who) hit Patrick Merrill with what seemed to me to be a completely legal, if bone-crunching, hit. Scott Evans took exception to the hit and went after the offender, while Jesse Gamble went after someone else at the same time. Gamble was given two for facemasking (though I think he was just trying to get the guy’s helmet off so he could fight him) and two for roughing. Evans was given two for checking from behind, two for instigating, five for fighting, and a game misconduct. When all was said and done, the Rock were on a nine-minute penalty kill, two minutes of which was 5-on-3. Luckily Minnesota took a penalty shortly afterwards to even it up a little, but still – all four goals the Swarm scored after that were on the power play.

This is the second straight year I’ve had to write about a stupid penalty that handcuffed the Rock during a playoff game. The score at this point was 16-8. The comeback was definitely a long shot, but they had almost an entire quarter to do it. Now we’re down one forward and are killing penalties for 2/3 of the rest of the game. Why? Partially to get revenge for a legal hit, but mainly because the Rock were frustrated. Frustrated that their offense couldn’t get anything going, frustrated that when they did get a decent shot Carlson was there to stop it, and frustrated that the Swarm forwards were running roughshod over the Rock defense.

I don’t want to take anything away from the Swarm by implying that they won because the Rock played badly. Not true – the Swarm won because they played very well. Five different Swarm players had hat-tricks, and Tyler Carlson was almost unbeatable. I’m not a big believer in the whole “they wanted it more” thing, but that’s really what it looked like. In the fourth quarter, the Rock players looked like they just wanted it to be over ASAP. And you can’t really blame them.

So the Rock are done for the year, the Raptors are out of the playoffs, the Blue Jays aren’t nearly what everyone thought they were going to be (though it’s still pretty early in the season), and the Argo season doesn’t start for six weeks. It’s come to this. Toronto sports fans now have to hang their hopes on the Maple Leafs.

God help us.


2013 NLL Award winners

Every year the IL Indoor writing staff submit their picks for the annual NLL awards, and here are mine. Note that these are not picks for who I think will win, they’re picks for who I think should win.

Offensive player of the year – Shawn Evans

Runners-up: Garrett Billings, Rhys Duch, Callum Crawford

Billings had almost as great a season in 2013 as he did in 2012, and Duch set personal records in both goals (leading the league) and assists. Crawford only had 4 games (out of 14) with less than 6 points – none of them after March 3 – and had six straight games of 8+ points. But Evans had them all beat before he even began his final game. Evans had five games with 10+ points, more than John Grant had during his record-setting 2012 season, while only Crawford and Dan Dawson even had two.

Transition player of the year – Jesse Gamble

Runners-up: Geoff Snider, Jeremy Thompson, Brad Self

Is this a bit of a homer pick? Possibly, but I really thought Gamble had a hell of a year. He played strong defense, ran like the wind, scored a bunch of goals (including two on the power-play), and led the team in loose balls.

I thought about picking Jordan MacIntosh, who will probably win the award, but decided against it for the same reason I didn’t think Jeff Shattler should have won this award two years ago – he’s not really a transition player. He’s an excellent player, no question, and as good as he was, he even stepped up his game when Andrew Suitor went down with a season-ending injury. But he played a lot more shifts on offense than he did defense. In the division semi-final game, MacIntosh played as much offense as Benesch or Crawford did. Gamble is a true transition player.

Defensive player of the year  – Kyle Rubisch

Runners-up: Chris Corbeil, Scott Self

It sounds like Kyle Rubisch might be the winner of this award every year for the foreseeable future. The word I hear most often to describe his play is “beast”.

Goaltender of the year – Matt Vinc

Runners-up: Brandon Miller, Tyler Richards, Nick Rose

If not for Matt Vinc, the Knighthawks might have been hitting the links early, not the Bandits. To have a goalie with the best GAA and the best save percentage in the league and still finish at .500 tells you how bad their offense was. Similarly, as one Wings fan put it, the Wings would be 1-15 without Brandon Miller. I’m not sure it would have been that bad but the Wings had a similar problem to the Knighthawks – outstanding goaltending, but almost no offense to speak of.

Rookie of the year – Mark Matthews

Runners-up: Kiel Matisz, Shayne Jackson, Dhane Smith, Curtis Knight

From a stats point of view, it was closer than you might have thought. Matthews had 4.31 points per game, while Jackson and Matisz had 4.00 and 3.94 respectively. But Matthews turned the Rush’s mediocre offense from last year into the third highest-scoring in the league, and that’s after losing Aaron Wilson, Scott Evans, and Shawn Williams. Obviously Matthews himself didn’t make up the difference entirely, but he forced opposing defenses to focus on him. This opened things up for Ryan Ward, Corey Small, and Zack Greer, all of whom increased their point totals over 2012.

Unsung player of the year – Cory Vitarelli

Runners-up: Kasey Beirnes, Jay Thorimbert, Brodie MacDonald

When you think of the offensive stars on the Knighthawks, you think Jamieson, Dawson, Powless, Accursi, Point, even Keogh, but Vitarelli doesn’t always spring to mind. But he was third in team scoring, put up at least a point in every game he played this year, and scored some of the prettiest goals we saw all season. Beirnes has gotten more recognition in the last year or two for his hard work playing behind big-name guys like Doyle, Billings, and Sanderson, but he’s been doing that for years. Jay Thorimbert had almost identical face-off numbers to Bob Snider, which is impressive in itself. Thorimbert split face-off duties in 2012 with Brandon Francis and Jeremy Thompson, but became the Bandits’ only face-off man this year – and increased their team face-off win percentage from 48.3% to 59.7%. Brodie MacDonald only played in three games this year, but put in at least 20 minutes in each, and finished with a GAA of around 8 and a save percentage of 80%. Having that kind of backup goalie behind you has to be a great confidence boost for both Aaron Bold and Derek Keenan.

Coach of the year – Troy Cordingley

Runners-up: Chris Hall, Derek Keenan

The Rock were the most consistent team this year, in a league where many teams looked unstoppable one week and terrible the next. Chris Hall showed how important he is to the Stealth, bringing them back from their brutal 2012 season, much of which was played without him, to second place in the West.

GM of the year – Derek Keenan

Runners-up: John Arlotta, Curt Styres

Drafting Mark Matthews wasn’t the master stroke – every GM would have done that. But in the off-season, Keenan retooled the offense, turning them from the worst in the league to the third-highest scoring – and managed to do this despite losing Shawn Williams, Aaron Wilson, and Scott Evans. Keenan also turned Paul Rabil, a player who never played for him and wasn’t going to, into Jarrett Davis.

MVP – Shawn Evans

Shawn EvansRunners-up: Garrett Billings, Callum Crawford, Matt Vinc

Evans had an outstanding year. He led the league in both assists and points, almost setting records in both, and beat his next closest teammate by almost fifty points. He had almost exactly the season Garrett Billings had a year ago, and Billings was my choice for MVP then. How close were their seasons?

G A Pts PPG LB Shots SOG
Billings 2012 32 82 114 10 74 195 131
Evans 2013 32 80 112 12 69 186 139

Evans had the same number of goals as he did last season but picked up 33 more assists. Just to cap it all off, Evans scored the overtime winner in the last game of the season to clinch the Western division for the Roughnecks.

Division semi-final picks

I went 2-2 in the final week of the season, bringing me to 33-39. Not bad, better than last year, but still not up to the level of my IL Indoor colleagues, all but one of whom finished at or above .500. Only Ty Pilson finished with a losing record, and he was still two games ahead of me. I will need to step up my “make wild guesses” game.

What better way to do that than with four games that could easily go either way? I really should be used to that since that’s been the case in the NLL pretty much all season long.

Regular season record: 33-39 (.458)
Playoff record: 0-0 (.000)




PHI @ ROC Which Rochester team shows up? The one that scored 20 against Philly and then 15 against Buffalo the next night, or the one that 14 total against Buffalo and Philly over the next two weeks? I’m gonna say neither since I don’t see this being a high-scoring game, but I think Rochester will win it. The Knighthawks offense started to play better once they traded Casey Powell and while both goalies can steal a game, Vinc is my choice for Goaltender of the Year. Knighthawks5_thumb
COL @ CAL Tye Belanger does seem to be the real deal in net, but it’s his first season. I honestly don’t know if “playoff experience” is a real thing that actually affects how you play, but lots of people seem to think so, and Tye doesn’t have any of it. That said, the Roughnecks might be without Dane Dobbie and Scott Ranger. It’s not like there’s nobody else on Calgary that can score, but it puts a lot more pressure on Dickson, Shattler, and Veltman to produce. Roughnecks
EDM @ WAS The Rush have been the most complete team in the second half of this season. They gave up the second fewest goals in the league (fewest on the road), and their scoring is 3rd in the league (2nd on the road). They were 7-1 away from Edmonton this year. They also remember how close they got last year… Rush
MIN @ TOR Of all the teams Toronto could have faced in the first round of the playoffs, Minnesota would have been last on my list of preferences. The two teams played twice this year, each team winning 13-12 at home. Nick Rose better have a good night though, since we’ve seen that the Swarm can have an explosive offense, particularly Callum Crawford. Tyler Carlson is another potential game-stealer. I’m still going with the Rock, but this will be a tough win. Rock

Week 16 picks

In the penultimate week of the regular season, I went 3-2 – extending my .500-or-better streak to 6 weeks. I can’t hit .500 overall this year – 4-for-4 this weekend will put me at 35-37, or .486. On the upside, the worst I can do this year is 31-41 or .431, which is what my prediction record was last year.

People have worried that eight of nine teams making the playoffs means there are fewer “meaningful games”, but nothing could be further from the truth this weekend. All the games have playoff implications for all the teams – even the Rock, who aren’t playing.

Buffalo is fighting for their playoff lives, as are Rochester and Colorado. In fact, Buffalo and Rochester are fighting each other for their playoff lives. If Rochester wins, Buffalo’s out. If Buffalo wins, Rochester’s fate depends on the Mammoth-Swarm game. The Mammoth can clinch with a win, but also if Rochester wins.

The rest of the teams are playing for their playoff seedings – I think the Swarm and Mammoth are the only teams who can’t host a playoff game. I won’t go over all the possibilities in the west since they’re complicated. They’re all listed on anyway. Suffice it to say that all the remaining games are crucial and nobody’s going to be mailing it in this weekend.

If I get my picks right, we’ll have Colorado crossing over to play the Rock and the Wings playing in Rochester. In the west, Edmonton will host Minnesota (with the Swarm ready for some payback for last year’s embarrassing playoff loss) and Calgary will play in Washington.

Record: 31-37 (.456)




ROC @ BUF Who shows up this weekend – the Bandits from last week or the Bandits from the previous six? Either way, Matt Vinc is in the running for Goaltender of the Year and as much as I’d hate to see John Tavares finish his career (not that that is a sure thing either) on a losing note, I’m giving this one to the Knighthawks. Knighthawks5
CAL @ EDM The Rush have only won twice at home this year, but Calgary will be without Dane Dobbie. The Rush would love the “first overall” title to go along with their first-ever home playoff game(s). I think Bold returns from an off week to shut down the Roughnecks – at least, as much as they can be shut down. As a Rock fan, I’d love to see the Rush lose this one so the Rock can clinch first overall, but I’m picking Edmonton. Rush4
COL @ MIN The Swarm are averaging over 16 goals in their last six games, and Callum Crawford has been the league’s best player over the last several weeks. The Mammoth have been playing fairly well, beating the Rush and Wings in recent weeks, and they beat the Swarm back in February, but they’re no match for the new and improved Swarm. Swarm
PHI @ WAS I took forever to make this pick and changed my mind a few times. Both teams have strong goaltending but have been inconsistent all season. But the Stealth have a better offense, and if Iannucci returns this weekend, he’ll be itching to show his stuff after being benched for two weeks. I know they’re 4-5 when I pick them and 4-2 when I don’t, but I have to go with the Stealth again. Stealth4

When it comes to the playoffs, less is more

Understatement of the week: The fact that eight of the nine NLL teams make the playoffs has caused some controversy. Judging by the talk on twitter and the IL Indoor forums over the last year or two, many fans don’t like it. They feel it cheapens the regular season, making most of the games meaningless. As someone put it, they play 72 games to eliminate 1 team, then 7 games to eliminate 7 teams.

When there were six or seven teams in each division, this format made some sense, but now that there’s only nine teams, I’m not sure it still does. I don’t think I’ve seen the NLL actually state their reasons for making the decision not to change the playoff format , but there are advantages along with the disadvantages. Here are the top few of each:


  1. The more teams make the playoffs, the more fans get to watch playoff games, and who doesn’t want to watch their team in playoff games?
  2. More teams in the playoffs means more playoff games. More playoff games means more revenue. Now that the NLL is actually receiving money from a TV deal (CBS Sports), this is a good thing for the league.
  3. Unless a team has a really lousy season, every team is still in the playoff hunt until close to the end of the season, arguably making more games meaningful, not fewer. This year, with only four games left in the regular season, we only know the final seeding of one team, and three teams are still fighting for two remaining playoff spots.


  1. If you’re a good team and you’re confident you won’t finish last, you could mail in the first half of the season, knowing you’d still make the playoffs anyway. As long as you don’t finish last, the regular season is basically a warm-up for the playoffs.
  2. If two teams have a really lousy season, you could have a 5-11 team make the playoffs. And we have. For comparison, this is equivalent to 51 points in a full NHL season. The fewest points by a playoff team since the 2004-05 lockout was 88 by both Philadelphia and Montreal in 2009-10 – and many think the NHL also allows too many teams into the playoffs.

Con #2 is certainly an issue that I agree with. No team with a record that bad should be making the playoffs. But I’m not sure I buy Con #1. First off, if you make the playoffs but don’t finish first or second, you may not get a home playoff game, and I assume teams generally want to play playoff games at home. So simply making the playoffs isn’t enough. Also, if you mail in the first half and then screw up the second half and do miss the playoffs, you’re going to look pretty stupid. A stupid move like that is likely to cost you (as a coach or GM) your job, and in this league, it could cost you your fan base and ultimately your franchise. No executive is going to take that chance.

The NLL will be adding two more games to the 2014 schedule, but haven’t announced any changes to the playoff format. While I applaud the schedule expansion (two more games per team means 9 more lacrosse games to watch next year!), I’m wondering if the schedule change announcement would have been the right time to scale back the playoffs a bit. There are lots of ways to do this, but here are what I think are the best two:

  1. Nuke the divisional format and just have nine teams, ranked 1-9. Top six make the playoffs. In the first round, the top 2 teams get a bye, 3 plays 6 and 4 plays 5. Then 1 plays lowest seeded winner and 2 plays higher seeded winner. Winners of those games play for the Cup.
  2. If we must have divisions, then the top 3 from each division make the playoffs. No crossover. Top two get a bye, 2 and 3 in each division play. 1 plays winner, division winners play for the Cup.

Either way, we have five playoff games instead of seven, so the league may not like that. But the drama this weekend notwithstanding, it would make the regular season in general more meaningful, and reduces the possibility of a crappy team making the playoffs only because another team is crappier.

Of course, to go along with this would be a balanced schedule – but that’s a whole ‘nother topic for another day.

Behind the scenes at @NLLFactOfTheDay, Pt. 2

Yesterday, I described the sources of information I use for the @NLLFactOfTheDay twitter account. In this (much shorter) article, I discuss how I use all that information to create the facts that I publish.

Putting it all together

Now that I have all of this information, I start combing through for the actual facts. When Teddy Jenner interviewed me on the Off the Crossebar radio show, he referred to me as some kind of stats guru, and others have said similar things. While I greatly appreciate these compliments, let me set the record straight – I’m no savant. I don’t just know all of this stuff. I don’t have millions of stats memorized and running through my head for instant retrieval. At the risk of sounding immodest, I do have a pretty good memory for trivia and such, and I do have a Bachelor of Math degree (though in computer science, not statistics) so I understand the stats, but what I am good at is hunting for anomalies.

If I see a column of numbers that looks like “1, 2, 2, 1, 3, 0, 8, 1, 2”, I want to find out about that 8 and see what it means and if it’s interesting or not. I’ll sort one list by different values (eg. list of teams sorted by PP goals per game and then sorted by SH goals per game) and see if a team stays in the same position, or moves from top to bottom or vice versa. Maybe the league-leading team is in last place in some statistic, or the last-place team is leading in something. I look over the season records for repeated names. Maybe a player set two season records in the same season, or one person holds 8 of the top 10 records in some stat.

I look at the dates that significant events happened to see if there are any coincidences there. I look at the best seasons in different stats (eg. most goals in a season in the league – Athan Iannucci, 71) and for individual teams (eg. most penalty minutes in a season for the Roughnecks – Geoff Snider, 74). I look at career stats for the league (eg. most career goals in the league – John Tavares, 778) or a particular team (eg. most career assists on the Knighthawks – Shawn Williams, 491). I look at team stats (eg. most goals scored in home games – Philadelphia, 2151) and franchise records (eg. fewest goals scored by the Roughnecks in a game – 6, twice). I look at game, team, season, and league attendance records, both total and average.

Occasionally I think about a particular obscure statistic and look deeper into that. Recently, it was how often teams played two overtime games in a single weekend. I did some digging and came up with a few facts about that.

Once I’ve got a few facts I want to publish, I use a web app called HootSuite to schedule them. It allows me to write up the tweet, pick which account to use (mine or @NLLFactOfTheDay), and pick a date/time for the tweet to be sent out. I originally started tweeting at 11:00am, but then for some reason I have since forgotten, changed to 3:00pm.

Now that I’ve written it all down, it sounds like a lot of work, but it’s really not – now that I have the infrastructure in place. Whenever I come across an interesting stat, I fire up HootSuite and add it to the list of scheduled tweets – that takes a minute or two, tops. Once or twice a week, I make a point of spending 15-20 minutes adding new ones, so I usually have about a week’s worth done ahead of time. If I went off the grid right now, you’d still be seeing a tweet every day at 3pm for another 8 or 9 days. If something interesting comes up in the meantime, I can reschedule upcoming tweets to add in a more timely one. The hardest parts now are (a) try not to repeat any facts I’ve published before, and (b) to squash all the information down into 140 characters.

So that’s pretty much it – that’s how the magic happens. I say that facetiously, because there’s no magic here. I’m just a stats geek that enjoys sharing the facts that I find with others that might also be interested. For the cynics among you, I’m not doing this for the money – I haven’t made a dime off of this little project. In fact, I’m not sure how I could monetize it even if I wanted to. It’s just fun to come up with these things, fun to get replies from people asking questions about them, and fun to see that others enjoyed them enough to retweet them. If you follow, thanks, and I hope you enjoy reading these facts as much as I enjoy finding them.

Behind the scenes at @NLLFactOfTheDay, Pt. 1

I started writing the Money Ballers column on IL Indoor in January 2012. While writing the articles that year (or while writing other stat-related articles for this blog), I frequently came across interesting statistics about the previous weekend’s games, and tweeted them with the hash tag #NLLStatOfTheDay (or something similar). I found that a number of people responded to them, whether to ask about them, or mention a similar one, or just to RT them. I figured if I worked a little harder, I could probably come up with one of these every day and if I could find a way to schedule them automatically, this would be a cool thing. So I created @NLLFactOfTheDay (originally @NLLStatOfTheDay but I changed it so I could post things that weren’t stats) in April, 2012.

Since then I have tweeted more than 200 facts, and collected well over 600 followers. This is far more than I have on my own twitter account (recently passed 400! Woo!), which I created three years earlier. I originally did this for NLL fans/stats geeks like me, but there are a lot of NLL players and executives following now, and most tweets are RT’ed at least once. It even got me interviewed on Teddy Jenner’s Off The Crossebar radio show (mine is the Feb 24, 2013 one). It’s safe to say this has become a fair bit more popular than I imagined.

I thought some people might be interested to see where the facts come from. So today we’re going behind the scenes and I’ll let you in on some of the secrets. Note that much of this qualifies as “Behind the scenes at the Money Ballers” as well. This article started to get kind of long, so I’ve broken it up into two. The first part describes where the information comes from, the second describes how I mine the information for the actual facts and post them.

I basically have four sources of information that I use for these facts: three databases and a web site. The contents of the three databases come from from three different sources. The web site is Wikipedia, and many of the lacrosse articles are those that I’ve written or contributed to myself over the years. I’ll start with an overview of the databases (a little bit technical) and then describe where I got the information stored in them.

The Technical Stuff

I have been a software developer for more than twenty years. I’ve been working at Sybase (now part of SAP) for over fifteen years, as part of the SQL Anywhere database server development team. So of course when I needed to create a database, SQL Anywhere was the obvious choice – and not only because I’m very familiar with it. SQL Anywhere has a built-in HTTP server (which I helped patent), which means that I can write procedures in SQL that directly access the data, and then easily create web pages that display the data in any way I want. When I started the Money Ballers, I decided that the best way to compile the points (i.e. easiest, fastest, and most accurate) would be to write a program to download the information from the NLL and then crunch the numbers. I wrote a python script to download the game sheet and parse it, then insert the resulting information into the database.

Extreme Game Detail

Here’s what I get from each game sheet:

  • Date/time of game
  • Home team, away team
  • Final score, winning team, losing team
  • Attendance
  • For each goal: who scored it, who assisted, what quarter, what time, whether it was power play, shorthanded, empty net, or penalty shot
  • For each penalty: who got it, what quarter, what time, what class of penalty (major, minor, misconduct, match, etc.), and what type (holding, high-sticking, fighting, etc.). This includes bench penalties
  • For each player: number of goals, assists, points, power play goals, shorthanded goals, loose balls, face offs won, face offs attempted
  • For each goalie: number of goals against, saves, minutes, shots on goal

All of this information is pushed into a database, and then I can view one of the many web pages that summarize it. With this information about each game, I can calculate pretty much anything: league standings, league or team scoring leaders, yearly records like most goals/assists/loose balls/etc. in one game, number of power play or shorthanded goals per team, attendance records, and of course the Money Ballers numbers.

There are a few things that the game sheet does not include. For example, penalty shots that are not successful, time spent on the floor, goaltender win/loss (or who started the game), forced turnovers, stuff like that. Another notable thing that I do not have is power play efficiency. I know when PP goals are scored, but I have not put in the work to determine how many power play opportunities there were. There’s more to it than just “a team is on the PP for two minutes after every opposing minor penalty”, since we can have coincident penalties for each team, penalties that overlap, penalties that end early because of goals scored, that sort of thing. I believe I have all the information to calculate it, I just haven’t done it.

Some game sheets are available from 2011 and previous seasons, but they are missing enough information that I don’t use them, so I only have this level of detail for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

An example

Here’s the “Game summary” section of the page for Philadelphia’s 10-8 win over Rochester on Feb 23, 2013. It lists each goal in order, separated by quarter. The pages are fairly plain; I’ve made no attempt to make them pretty. I don’t care what they look like as long as they’re functional. Note also that none of these pages are available on the internet – they are only on my computer. Click on the image to see a full-size version that might be easier to read.

Click to embiggen

The goals shaded in dark green are go-ahead goals, light green are tying goals, and red is the game-winner. The “special” column lists those three events as well as power play, shorthanded, empty net or penalty shot. You can see the current score, how far up the winning team is, how many goals in a row the team has scored, how long it’s been since the last goal, and how long it’s been since the last goal by the same team. The last four columns can be calculated given the rest of the information (if the score is 7-5, I know the difference is 2; I don’t really need the program to calculate it for me), but having it there makes patterns and extremes much easier to spot.

In this case, you can see the patterns in the goals – Rochester scored 4, then Philly scored 4, then Rochester scored 2, and so on. You can see that Rochester went almost 19 minutes between their 4th and 5th goal. You can see that Rochester didn’t score in the third and Philly didn’t score in the first, though I do have another chart that lists the number of goals in each quarter.

The idea here isn’t just to give me all the numbers, it’s to give me the numbers in such a way that I can see patterns or outliers. If I look at a game report like this and there are lots of dark and light green rows, then I know it was a close game. If there’s a green line at the top and a red line at the bottom, then one team led throughout the game. If the Special column is filled with PP and SH, then there were a lot of penalties.

All The Games

About a year ago, a reader of this blog sent me an email saying that he had a spreadsheet containing every game ever played in the NLL. He asked if I wanted it, and of course I said yes. I immediately put that into another database, and started creating web pages for that as well. With that, I can reconstruct the final standings of any season, show the entire win-loss history of any team, the head-to-head matchups of any two teams, all kinds of attendance figures, game score records, goal differentials, and even things like a team’s record on a particular day of the week.

All The Players

Between the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the NLL did some work on their web site. For a while, when you clicked on a player, there was a link to “Career stats” but rather than a page listing the stats for that player, the link gave you an Excel spreadsheet with the yearly stats for every player that has ever played in the NLL. I downloaded this spreadsheet and put that in a database as well. Not only can I search for any player and get their overall stats for any season (regular season and playoffs), but I can list all the players with their career stats, or list all the players who’ve ever played for a certain team, or display the final scoring stats for any season (Gary Gait led with 48 points in 1995), list the best seasons in any category, or combine seasons (eg. who scored the most from 1990-1999? Don’t fall over, but it was Gary Gait again, with 536).

I have since found that some of the stats are incorrect and some from the very early years of the league are missing. For example, there are no numbers from the 1987-1989 seasons, and apparently only five players were in the league in 1990. In the 2008 playoffs, did Cory Bomberry really take 360 face-offs in 3 games and only win 8 of them?

I looked at the top 20 single-season loose ball records and saw that Devin Dalep had 193 in 2002 and Erik Miller had 186 in 2003. I happen to know that those guys were goalies, but I notice that no other goalies are listed. In particular, there’s no Watson, no Eliuk, no Dietrich, no O’Toole, no Vinc. None of these elite goalies have had great loose-ball seasons since 2003? Strange. So I looked up their numbers. The same year Dalep had 193, Watson had 10. O’Toole and Eliuk had 11. Steve Dietrich had 0. I have a feeling Dalep’s numbers may not be correct.


A lot of people have a bad impression of Wikipedia. Since anyone can make changes to it, it’s got to be full of misinformation and crap, right? Well yes, there are a lot of pages that have rather non-encyclopedic content, and there are always pages with incorrect data, but for the most part I find things to be quite accurate. There are lots of people who edit Wikipedia as a hobby, and if any page they are interested in gets edited, they will know about it very quickly and correct any errors or vandalism within minutes. I used to edit Wikipedia quite a bit, and have created many pages on lacrosse players and teams. There is a page on every NLL team that has ever existed, as well as each NLL season since 1987 (and some pages for individual team’s seasons), each NLL award, the Hall of Fame, expansion; entry; and dispersal drafts, and so on. I created most of them.

There used to be a web site called The Outsider’s Guide to the NLL which had tons of press releases, game summaries, stats, and so on from games back in the ’90s and early 2000’s. That site simply vanished one day without a trace, a huge loss to the lacrosse world. But before that happened, I got a fair bit of information from it for the Wikipedia pages, so at least some of the information wasn’t lost. Some of the player pages are unfortunately outdated since I no longer have time to maintain them, but there are others that are doing a great job of keeping things as up-to-date as they can.

Even without the Outsider’s Guide, there’s still a fair bit of information in those pages, so some of the non-stat-related facts come from there.

So now I have a ton of information including lots of historical data as well as incredibly detailed stats on every game in the past two seasons. Tomorrow, I’ll describe what I do with all this information.

Week 15 picks

3-3 record last week thanks to Tye Belanger keeping the Rush offense to only 7 goals and the Wings remembering how to score goals. The only way I can finish at or above .500 this season is to go 8-1 or 9-0 in the last two weeks, so that is the plan. If it doesn’t happen, it’s not my fault – blame the players for not going along with the plan.

Record: 28-35 (.444)




ROC @ CAL Rochester will very likely make the playoffs, which wasn’t certain only a few weeks ago. Calgary already has but would like a home playoff game. Both teams have won 3 of their last 5 (for Calgary, it’s actually 3 of their last 4). Matt Vinc hasn’t given up as many as 12 in a game since January 19 and has held the Wings, Rock, Bandits, and Stealth to single-digits since then. Mike Poulin has only kept opponents below 12 four times this season. Knighthawks
MIN @ COL Minnesota seems to have become the team I thought they were going to be at the beginning of the season, though it took them a long time to get there. Callum Crawford is on fire (7+ points in 5 straight games) and Tyler Carlson has a GAA of 6.00 and save % of 88% in his last two starts. Since Minnesota keeps swapping starting goalies and Kirk lost in Philly last week, this is Carlson’s game. Swarm
TOR @ PHI The Rock really want that top seed overall, but the Wings aren’t guaranteed a playoff spot quite yet, and they always seem to give the Rock trouble. When Brandon Miller is “on”, he’s almost untouchable (though you could say that about almost all of the starting goalies in the league), and with Mundorf back from injury, the Wings offense just got stronger. The Rock currently have the best record in the league, so picking them is not a homer pick. I’m sticking to that. Rock
BUF @ WAS The Bandits seem to have lost interest in the 2013 season, while the Stealth still have a chance at a home playoff game. Buffalo is this close to being eliminated from the playoffs, so either they’ll pour on the energy this weekend in an attempt to stay in the race, or they’ll fold, figuring they have no chance. I didn’t see much fight in them last week or the week before, so I don’t expect much this weekend. Stealth
ROC @ EDM The Rush are 1-5 at home and 7-1 on the road, so maybe they’re not playing for home-floor advantage in the playoffs. The Rush looked too good in their games against Buffalo and Toronto the other week to bet against them. Every team had bad games, which is what they had against Colorado last week, but I think they’ll bounce back. Rush

NLL Annual Award short lists and prediction recap

There are still a couple of weeks left in the season, but here are some early player award possibilities as well as a look at my predictions from the beginning of the season. Some of them were pretty close, others… not so much.

The front-runners are the few people, in no particular order, who I think have the best shot of winning the award. For the most part, I haven’t made my actual selections yet, so these are just my short-lists. In most cases, I put a dark horse as well; someone who probably won’t win the award but should be considered.


Prediction: Dan Dawson, Garrett Billings. Dawson has been good but not outstanding. Billings has been outstanding.

Front-runners: Garrett Billings, Shawn Evans, Mark Matthews

Dark horse: Callum Crawford

Goaltender of the Year

Prediction: Anthony Cosmo, Aaron Bold. Cosmo hasn’t been great, though I wouldn’t blame the Bandits lousy season on him. Bold is 3rd among starters in GAA but 8th in save %. He has been very good, though not as good as last year.

Front-runners: Matt Vinc, Nick Rose, Tyler Richards

Dark horse: Tye Belanger has been excellent though has half the minutes of the other starters (other than the Swarm’s dynamic duo).

Transition Player of the Year

Prediction: Jordan MacIntosh, Paul Rabil. MacIntosh is on my short list. Rabil has been good but not Tranny of the Year good.

Front-runners: Geoff Snider, Jordan MacIntosh, Jesse Gamble, Jeremy Thompson, Jordan Hall

Dark horse: Brad Self

Defensive Player of the Year

I’ll admit it: I suck when it comes to evaluating defensemen. Part of it is because I’m a stats guy, and there are no really useful stats for defenders. But a lot of it is that I have no formal training – I’m self-taught in the art of watching lacrosse. I’m a fan who’s never actually played the game. When I’m watching a game, I’m watching the offensive players and the goalie. I will notice when a defender makes a great play or if a team seems to hear the shot clock buzzer an awful lot (implying a good defensive unit), but I don’t generally notice individual defenders. That said, I have made a point to watch Kyle Rubisch and Chris Corbeil because you hear about them so much, and Sandy Chapman has always been one of my favourite Rock players. I remember watching Paul Dawson shut people down (and occasionally beat the snot out of them) with the Blazers.

It’s weird though – I can look at a list of transition players and have general feelings on how they’ve been playing without looking at the stats. I have no idea how many points Brad Self has, or Jordan Hall, or Jeremy Thompson, but I know they’re having good seasons. I have no such impressions with pure defenders.

Prediction: Kyle Rubisch, Paul Dawson

Front-runners: Kyle Rubisch, Chris Corbeil, Paul Dawson, Scott Self

Dark horse: I got nothing.

Rookie of the Year

Prediction: Mark Matthews, Kiel Matisz. Woo, nailed it on this one. Unlike everyone else who also predicted Matthews as ROY.

Front-runners: Mark Matthews, Kiel Matisz, Tye Belanger, Mitch McMichael, Kyle Belton, Curtis Knight, Dhane Smith

Dark horse: Anyone but Matthews, really.

Update: Can’t believe I forgot Dhane Smith on the original list. Also, apparently Tye Belanger is not considered a rookie.

Les Bartley Award

Prediction: Troy Cordingley, Joe Sullivan. Again, nailed it.

Front-runners: Troy Cordingley, Chris Hall, Joe Sullivan, Derek Keenan

Dark horse: Mike Hasen if the Knighthawks continue playing well in the last two weeks.

GM of the Year

Prediction: Curt Styres, Steve Dietrich. The Knighthawks and Bandits both made significant offseason moves and I thought at least one of them would be successful. The offseason Rochester moves didn’t seem to make the team appreciably better, but the Powell-for-Sullivan, Self, and Purves moves were all good. The Bandits moves made the team worse and other than Dhane Smith, didn’t really set them up for the future either (though the Cosmo trade that lost them next year’s first round pick was Kilgour, not Dietrich).

Front-runners: Derek Keenan, John Arlotta

Dark horse: Johnny Mouradian. Dawson+Dawson for Rabil+Hall isn’t nearly the disaster I thought it might be.

Careers cut short

Again this year, the NLL has been hit by the worst kind of injury bug – the one that takes a player out of the league permanently. It’s been almost two months since Knighthawks defender Ryan Cousins was forced to retire due to persistent injuries. Cousins is a former two-time Defender of the Year and was captain of the Minnesota Swarm for seven years. Now, he also played in the league for eleven seasons so it’s not like his career was cut short after only a few years, but at 31, he could easily have played 5 or 6 more years and possibly more than that.

As an aside, while looking for details on Cousins’ retirement, I came across this article by Rochester fan (and NLL employee) Alex Hinkley and was stunned to read that Hinkley believes Cousins should not have retired. Cousins makes what is likely one of the most difficult decisions of his life and Hinkley has the gall to say he shouldn’t have retired? Yes, he was injured last year and came back to play, but he says himself that he had yet another injury before this season began. Normally when a player retires due to injury, it’s not because he can’t be bothered to do the work required to get back in shape, it’s because their doctor has told them that any further injuries could do irreparable damage. Cousins might have decided that playing one more year of lacrosse wasn’t worth spending the rest of his life walking with a cane. It’s possible, even likely, that Cousins may come to regret retiring. But I think it’s more likely that Cousins, along with his family and doctor, decided that he’d much rather retire and wish he hadn’t than not retire and wish he had.

Ryan CousinsCousins wasn’t the only player who retired this season because of injury. Dan Carey, also 31, announced his retirement just before the season began after suffering a concussion near the end of the 2012 season. Carey also missed half of 2009 and all of 2010 due to concussion. Phil Sanderson, another concussion victim on the Rock, hasn’t officially retired, but he missed the last two games of 2012 plus the playoffs and has yet to play in 2013.

If you go over the list of NLL players who have had to retire early due to injuries, a few pretty big names show up:

  • Merrick Thomson accumulated 124 points in two seasons with the Wings (and was an MLL star as well) before concussions ended his very promising career in 2011 at the age of only 27.
  • Ken Montour, the 2009 NLL goaltender of the year, experienced a concussion during a game in 2010 (also at age 31) and never played again. Montour (as well as Thomson and Tracey Kelusky) talks about his experiences in a must-read interview with IL Indoor’s Stephen Stamp from back in 2011.
  • Paul Gait retired after the 2002 season (during which he scored 114 points, the third highest total ever) at the age of 35 due to knee injuries. We’ll ignore the four games he played with the Mammoth in 2005. His twin brother Gary played 3 more full seasons with the Mammoth before retiring, and then unretired in 2009, played 24 more games with the Knighthawks, then retired again.
  • Mark Miyashita was the first overall draft pick of the Vancouver Ravens in 2003 but only played 46 games over 5 seasons with Vancouver, Colorado, and Minnesota before multiple ACL injuries forced him to retire.

The quintessential example of an athlete forced to retire early because of injuries is Bobby Orr. Orr, considered by some as a better hockey player than Wayne Gretzky, played nine full seasons in the NHL and then parts of three more before retiring at age 30 because of repeated damage to his knees. Now Sidney Crosby is in danger of being added to this list, having missed much of the last couple of seasons due to a couple of serious concussions. Last week, he was hit in the head with a puck, breaking his jaw. He’s reporting no concussion symptoms from that, but we all know that if he suffers one more concussion, his career is likely over. Crosby won’t even be 26 until this summer.

There has been a lot of research and a lot more discussion on head injuries in sports in recent years, which will hopefully reduce the number of concussions and early retirements. But due to the nature of sports, particularly contact sports like football, hockey, and lacrosse, you will never completely eliminate the possibility. It’s something the athletes know and a risk they’ve accepted. When you see a freak accident like the one that ended Andrew Suitor’s 2013 season, you start to appreciate the ability of players like Colin Doyle, Shawn Williams, and John Tavares to be able to play for so long. How do they do it? There’s some conditioning involved – being in top physical shape can help you avoid some injuries and recover more easily from others. Being a smart player, and therefore being able to avoid situations that could result in injury, is another advantage these guys have. But Suitor is also a professional athlete, in top shape, and is unquestionably a smart lacrosse player.

Sometimes, as they say, shit happens. Part of the “secret” to a long playing career is just to be lucky.

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