Shawn Williams and the Toronto Rock

OK, I have to say that I didn’t see this coming. But I don’t really know why not, because there’s nothing about this deal that doesn’t make total sense.

Williams from his early days with the RockShawn Williams is once again a member of the Toronto Rock, having signed a one-year contract to return to the team where his career began back in 1998. It’s no secret that he was brought in to fill the void left by Colin Doyle’s injury, but it’s rare that a player is replaced by someone so similar:

  • Both players began their careers with the Ontario Raiders in 1998, and won a Championship with the Rock in 1999.
  • Both are lefties who are accomplished goal scorers but are also unselfish players known for their playmaking abilities
  • Both are very well-respected throughout the league and the lacrosse world in general
  • Both have played the majority of their careers in the east with a stint out west. Doyle played three years for the San Jose Stealth from 2007-2009 while Williams went to the finals with the Edmonton Rush in 2012.
  • Both hail from southern Ontario (OK, that doesn’t mean much; so does half the league)
  • Williams is a teacher, Doyle used to be
  • Doyle is an NLL captain (Toronto), Williams used to be (Rochester)
  • Both played for the Toronto Nationals in their first season
  • Both have won multiple Mann Cups – Doyle has 5 and Williams 2
  • Both have been MVPs – Williams was Mann Cup MVP in 2009, Doyle was NLL MVP in 2005 and has been NLL Champions Cup MVP 3 times
  • Both are known for their iron-man streaks – Doyle had a 200+ game streak from 2000-2012, Williams’s streak also began in 2000 and is still going strong at 230 games.
  • Both will be first-ballot NLL Hall of Famers (Technically, that’s speculation. But find me someone who disagrees.)

Shawn the Sunshine BoyDoyle has averaged about 5.24 points per game over his career, about 3/4 of a point more than Williams (4.48). This average would give them 94 and 80 points respectively in an 18-game season but even if Doyle were healthy, I think it’d be a stretch to expect those numbers from the 40-year-old Williams and the 37-year-old Doyle in 2015. Doyle had 72 points last season while Williams had only 49, his lowest total since 2000. But it’s not unlikely that the health issues with his son Tucker played a role in that; it’s got to be hard to concentrate on lacrosse – or anything else – while your child is going through cancer diagnosis and treatment. While Williams played in all 18 Bandits games, I’m sure a practice or two was skipped.

Unfortunately, Tucker has been in and out of the hospital over the summer, so his health is still a concern. But with home games in Toronto instead of Buffalo and practices in Oakville rather than Grimsby, the travel from Shawn’s home in Oshawa will be easier on him and his family. If Tucker is at Sick Kids hospital in Toronto, it may be possible for him to travel a few kilometres south to see dad play at the ACC, but heading an hour and a half to Buffalo – including a border crossing – would likely be too much.

So in a nutshell, the Rock pick up a lefty scorer who’s a well-respected leader, much like the man he’s replacing. He’s nearing the end of his career so you’re not going to get 100 points out of him, but you wouldn’t get 100 out of Doyle either. What you will get is solid scoring and playmaking (I’m going to fearlessly predict 65+ points for Williams this year), leadership on and off the floor, and one of the classiest guys ever to grace an NLL arena. One can’t simply replace Colin Doyle, but if you’re going to try, you can’t get much closer than Shawn Williams.

For his part, Williams gets to play closer to home and will likely see more playing time than he would have in Buffalo. This is a win all around.

Thanks to my buddy Mike Scanlon for the photos.

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