2014 preview: Vancouver Stealth

Stealth

The Stealth continue their west coast tour. They did six years in San Jose and four in Washington before moving north of the border, and now we’ll see if Vancouver is really the lacrosse town everyone thinks it is. Even if it is and every game is a sellout, the Stealth will still have the lowest attendance in the league, since the Langley Events Centre only holds 5,500 people. The lowest per-game average in the league last year, other than the Stealth, was Edmonton with 6,714. But Stealth ownership knew that when they made this decision, so presumably the lower arena costs and lower travel costs and who knows what else are sufficient reasons for the move even if they guarantee themselves the lowest attendance. Then again, said lowest attendance of 5,500 a game would still be over 30% higher than they had last year.

After a crappy 2012 which saw the Stealth finish dead last and miss the playoffs, they rebounded in a big way in 2013, not only finishing tied for first in the division but heading to their third Championship game in four years. They got about as close as you can get to “worst-to-first” in a year, but lost a one-goal final to the Rochester Knighthawks.

With appearances in three Championship games in four years, the Stealth have become an elite team. If they had won just one more of those games (or not finished last in the one other season), the word “dynasty” might even be floating around. Can they continue this high level of on-field success?

2013 season summary

Record 9-7 (Tied for 1st in West, seeded 2nd)
Home 5-3
Away 4-4
Goals for 193
Goals against 192
Top scorer Rhys Dych (97)
Playoffs Division semi-finals: Beat Edmonton 12-11
Division Finals: Beat Calgary 14-13
Finals: Lost to Rochester 11-10

Roster changes

When the rosters were announced on December 16th, the Stealth’s list was the first I saw, and was my first “holy crap” of the day. Athan Iannucci and Dean Hill, Washington’s #3 and #6 scorers last season, were both released while three rookies made the team. Hill is a veteran of eight seasons, while Iannucci is a former MVP and 100-point player. That said, it’s not like the Stealth released Gary Gait; Nooch only scored 100 points once and his second-highest total was 61. But he averaged 46 points over the last two seasons while Hill averaged 38, so the Stealth must have a lot of confidence in the likes of Cody Bremner, Tyler Digby, and Sean Lundstrom.

Also hoping to add to the Stealth goal totals will be Alex Gajic. Gajic is returning from injury, having missed all of 2013 and most of 2012, but he scored 48 points in each of the previous two seasons with the Mammoth. Alex joins his brother Ilija as the second and third Gajic transplants from Colorado, as Nenad did the same thing two years ago. Nenad only lasted three games with the Stealth in 2012, so here’s hoping Alex and Ilija have better luck.

The Steath will have a new face-off man this year, as Bob Snider was traded. Snider took 96% of the Stealth’s faceoffs last year, winning 61% of them, so whoever takes his place has big shoes to fill.

Also missing will be Tim Henderson. 2nd Lieutenant Henderson graduated from West Point in May and found out in June that he was being deployed to Afghanistan, and so will be unavailable to the Stealth at least until he returns. I don’t know how long his deployment is, but my buddy Google tells me that nine months would likely be the absolute minimum. So he’ll be out until at least March, and that assumes both the shortest possible deployment and that he’s ready to play the instant he returns. Probably safe to assume he won’t be playing in 2014 at all.

Burning questions

I have a couple of questions for this team, one on-floor and one off:

  1. Was releasing Iannucci addition by subtraction? Or will the Stealth be looking for more offense?
  2. Can the lower mainland sustain an NLL team if the ownership is completely on-board (which the Ravens’ ownership was not)? Can an NLL team survive on only 5,500 attendance (best case) per game?

Look out for

Lewis Ratcliff. After two 90+ point seasons, Ratcliff’s production dropped to 76 points in 2012 and 67 in 2013. IL Indoor ranked him 45th on their top 50 players, which means they think there are 44 players in the league – an average of five players per team – better than Ratcliff. That would have been unbelievable only two or three years ago. Is Ratcliff on the downside of his career at the ripe old age of 32? Or did he just have two substandard years? Almost everyone on the Stealth had a substandard year in 2012 – did it simply take Ratcliff an extra year to get back to form? He tweeted recently that he needs glasses – could a 20:20 Ratcliff get back to 90 points?

Prediction

Second in the west.

Haiku

Moved to Vancouver
No Snider but two Gajic’s
Iannucci’s gone

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One thought on “2014 preview: Vancouver Stealth

  1. Pingback: 2014 NLL Predictions | NLL Chatter

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