2015 preview: East division

As I did with the West, a brief look at each Eastern Division team, how they’ve changed from last year, how I think they’ll do this year, one player that will have a breakout year and a haiku.


Bandits  Buffalo Bandits

 

Roster Changes

Veterans Shawn Williams, Glen Bryan, Rory Smith and Aaron Wilson are out, while Alex Kedoh Hill returns to the NLL, Nick Weiss comes east from the Stealth, and Jerome Thompson makes his NLL debut.

Look out for

Dhane Smith. After playing mostly defense and transition last season, The Great Dhane still put up 59 points. This year, he’s listed as a forward so we might see some big numbers from this big guy in 2015.

Prediction

Second in east.

Haiku

Another Thompson
joins Benny, Steenhuis, JT
Defense looks solid


Swarm  Minnesota Swarm

 

Roster Changes

Lots. Scott Jones, Mike Hobbins, and Cam Flint were released, Josh Gillam is injured, Jeff Gilbert was signed by the Rock, Tyler Carlson, Tyler Hass, and Brock Sorensen were traded, and the most painful for Swarm fans is that Rookie of the Year Logan Schuss will not be playing in 2015 due to work commitments. Veteran defender Mike Grimes was also acquired in the off-season but will also be missing the season because of work. But in their place are some familiar names and one exceptional rookie. Dean Hill returns to where he started his NLL career back in 2006, NLL vets Nick Cotter and Mitch Belisle also return to the league, Brodie MacDonald will fight Zach Higgins for the starting goalie role, Ethan O’Connor will bring his transition talents to South Beach Minnesota, and Miles Thompson rounds out the trio of Thompson brothers in the NLL this year (and look for that to expand again next season).

Look out for

I’m really looking forward to watching Miles Thompson light up the NLL.

Prediction

Fourth in east.

Haiku

Miles Thompson is here!
Hill, Cotter, Belisle too, but
Logan Schuss can’t play


BlackWolves  New England Black Wolves

 

Roster Changes

Way lots. I have twelve people who weren’t on the 2014 Wings roster that are on this one. There are some familiar names there, like Brett Bucktooth, Kevin Buchanan, Jesse Fehr, Ryan Hotaling, and Jamie Lincoln, but also some newcomers like Bill O’Brien and Quinn Powless (Johnny’s cousin). Ryan Ward and Tracey Kelusky retired, Brodie Merrill and Jordan Hall were traded, and Garrett Thul will be spending the season as a member of the US Army.

Look out for

I’ve always liked Kevin Buchanan, back when he was with the Blazers and then the Bandits. He has a laser of a shot and doesn’t need to be in close to be dangerous.

Prediction

Fifth in east.

Haiku

Not the Philly Wings
Playing in a casino
Lots of new faces


Knighthawks  Rochester Knighthawks

 

 

Roster Changes

Johnny Powless is out but Jordan Hall and Aaron Wilson are in, as is Chris Attwood. Attwood is making his NLL debut but was the CLax scoring leader and Most Outstanding Player in 2012. Stephen Keogh is also out to start the season but I don’t know how long he will be unavailable.

Look out for

Chris Attwood. His strong play in CLax earned him the spot on the Knighthawks roster, but now he needs to show that he belongs in the NLL. I think he’ll make up most of the 50-odd points that Johnny Powless would have contributed.

Prediction

First in east.

Haiku

The champs yet again
No Powless but Hall is back
First is theirs to lose


Rock  Toronto Rock

 

Roster Changes

Obviously the loss of both Colin Doyle and Garrett Billings is devastating, but at least they’ll get Billings back in February or March. Kevin Ross should see more playing time, and the Rock have also picked up Brett Hickey from Vancouver and rookie Brandon Benn also made the team. The defense is much bigger, with Brodie Merrill, Brock Sorensen, and Jeff Gilbert replacing Bill Greer, Ethan O’Connor, and Jimmy Purves. Defense was a problem for the Rock last year so this should be a big improvement.

Just like Vancouver with Chris Hall, Edmonton with Derek Keenan, and most of the league (particularly the Bandits) with Tucker Williams, the Rock will be playing for Terry Sanderson.

Look out for

Brock Sorensen. He’s already a big tough defender but now rather than being on a young team with only a couple of veterans (Jeff Gilbert, now a Rock teammate,  was the only Swarm player over 30 last year and didn’t turn 31 until the end of the season), he gets to learn from some of the best of the vets in Sandy Chapman, Brodie Merrill, and Patrick Merrill.

Prediction

Third in east.

Haiku

Much bigger defense
Brodie plays with his brother
Captain Doyle is out

Advertisements

2015 preview: West division

A brief look at each Western Division team, how they’ve changed from last year, and how I think they’ll do this year. For each team, I’ve picked one player that will have a breakout year and as I always do, I’ve included a haiku.


Roughnecks  Calgary Roughnecks

 

Roster Changes

Nobody has fewer roster changes than the Roughnecks. Scott Ranger has retired and Tor Reinholdt is now on the practice roster. Back are former Roughnecks Scott Carnegie and Jeff Moleski. Former MVP Shawn Evans is currently on the injured list but will apparently be ready when the season begins.

Look out for

It’s likely that Matthew Dinsdale will get a lot more playing time this season, effectively replacing Ranger on the right side. We can probably expect more than the 17 points that he picked up last year. But I think my pick for breakout season would be Karsen Leung. Leung was not one of the final three Rookie of the Year nominees, but a lot of people thought he should at least have been mentioned. Leung is an effective offensive transition player who always looks comfortable on the floor.

Prediction

First in west.

Haiku

Ranger retired
But can Dinsdale replace him?
Hey, Moleski’s back!


Mammoth  Colorado Mammoth

 

Roster Changes

Gone are Joel Dalgarno, Tye Belanger, and Mike McNamara (and Casey Powell, though he only played 5 games anyway). In are Tyler Codron, Ian Hawksbee, Alex Turner, and rookies Robert Hope and Eli McLaughlin. If Dillon Ward falters, the Mammoth backup is Alex Buque, another rookie, so that might be a bit of a concern.

Look out for

Dillon Ward will be the best Mammoth goalie since Gee Nash. Can he lead the Mammoth back to the Championship like Nash did? Not sure I’d go that far, but I predict that if they don’t make it there, it won’t be because of Ward.

Prediction

Third in west.

Haiku

Grant leads the offense
They still have three coaches, and
Hope for the future


Rush  Edmonton Rush

 

Roster Changes

Not many. Ben McIntosh and Corey Small replace Alex Turner and Curtis Knight on offense, and Tyler Carlson replaces Brodie MacDonald as Aaron Bold’s backup. Knight is injured but I don’t know for how long. As I said in my listing of roster changes, the hard part will be deciding what to do when Knight is ready to return.

Derek Keenan will also be missing the season but the Rush have not announced who will be acting head coach this year. Maybe they’ll pull a Mammoth and go with a committee of coaches.

Look out for

Corey Small was injured all of last season, so he’ll be itching to get back onto an NLL floor. And we thought the Rush were good last year.

Prediction

Second in west.

Haiku

Corey Small returns
Last year: tough act to follow
Carlson backs up Bold


Stealth  Vancouver Stealth

 

Roster Changes

Chris Hall retired in June before passing away just before Christmas so this will be a difficult and emotional season for the Stealth. Dan Perreault takes over the coaching duties with a significantly modified roster. Johnny Powless is a big addition to the offense, but they’re down Alex Gajic and Bretts Bucktooth and Hickey. The transition and defense are very different from last season, missing Grimes, Beers, Moleski, and Sorensen. This might sound like a disaster but new faces Tylers Burton and Hass, Joel McCready, and Rory Smith will help. That said, it does seem that they have lots of transition and less pure D.

Look out for

Joel McCready. “The other guy” in the Powless trade will step up for the Stealth and become a solid if unspectacular part of the offense. He won’t replace Rhys Duch as the offensive leader or anything, but he’ll be more of a reliable Kasey Beirnes kind of guy who’ll have 3 or 4 points in each game and 7 or 8 every now and again.

I’ll be the one to say it. I’m not sure Johnny Powless will be the superstar the Stealth are banking on. He’s an exciting player to watch and certainly has skill, and yes he’s won three championships, but he’s been fourth in team scoring in each of his three seasons, scoring 50, 41, and 53 points. That’s while playing with Dan Dawson and Cody Jamieson (total: 199 points last year). Vancouver’s top two scorers last year were Rhys Duch and Tyler Digby (total: 138 points). Does this change give him the freedom to become one of those top two players, or will he end up in the 50-60 point range again and remain in the second tier? My gut (which has certainly been known to be wrong) tells me it’s the latter.

Prediction

Fourth in west.

Haiku

Powless has arrived
Defense is decimated
But lots of Tylers

The best of times, the worst of times

In the indoor lacrosse world, this is one of the best times of the year. It’s been seven months since the Championship series and over three months since the Mann Cup finished. But now the NLL training camps are in full swing, rosters have been announced, and we’re only a week away from the regular season beginning. Everything’s great, right? Not so much. This year, the entire lacrosse community is reeling from the passing of several people – including five within four weeks – who have had huge impacts on the sport.

Like every other community, the lacrosse family has come together in the past due to tragedy. Sometimes the outcome is positive, like the case of Jenna Pollock, wife of Swarm and Mammoth forward Sean Pollock, who fought breast cancer back in 2012 and won. Stealth coach Chris Hall missed most of the 2012 season because of cancer, but he beat it and was back behind the bench in 2013. Other times the story doesn’t end as well; despite never having met either of them, I know I shed a tear or two over the passing of Chris Sanderson in June of 2012 and Kyle Miller a year later.

But I don’t remember a period of time in which the lacrosse world was rocked by tragedy so many times.

At the beginning of June, Stealth head coach Chris Hall announced his retirement to focus on his health. The cancer that he had beaten a year before had returned with a vengeance. Chris was immediately nominated and elected into the NLL Hall of Fame.

After that, we had a pretty typical off-season until September, when multiple Mann Cup winner Dave Pirog died. Pirog may not be a name familiar to casual NLL fans, though he was a scout for both the Toronto Rock and Ottawa Rebel, an assistant coach for the Vancouver Ravens, and defensive co-ordinator for the San Jose Stealth. He won two Mann Cups playing in MSL and was a coach for several different junior teams both in MSL and the WLA.

Terry SandersonOn November 13, the Rock announced that GM Terry Sanderson had become ill while on vacation and would be taking some time off from his duties. T had suffered a heart attack while in Florida and passed away two weeks later on the 27th. The outpouring of sorrow from the entire NLL and the Orangeville community was immense; Terry touched a lot of lives in the lacrosse world and it seemed that everyone who played with him or was coached by him came away better for it.

A little over a week later, a name from the past resurfaced as former NLL commissioner Jim Jennings passed away from cancer. Jennings was commissioner from 2000-2009 and presided over the league during its most active period, when teams were being added, moved, and dropped all over the place. Not everyone agreed with all of the moves but there’s no denying that Jennings worked hard to try to expand and grow the league. He failed in places like Columbus, Chicago, and New York, but Colorado, Calgary and Edmonton also came into being on his watch so there were some big successes there too.

The very next day, Peterborough lacrosse player Mark Evans passed away. Evans had won three Minto Cups and three Mann Cups and was, I believe, the uncle of NLL players Shawn and Scott Evans.

But it doesn’t end there; in fact it just got worse.

On December 15, the Edmonton Rush announced that Derek Keenan would be taking a leave of absence from his GM and coaching duties to be with his wife Wendy, who is fighting stage four pancreatic cancer. Keenan actually disclosed Wendy’s illness at the NLL awards ceremony in September but the team knew about it last season. This may help to explain one of the most cohesive teams in NLL history – nobody was playing for personal stats or accolades, it was all about the team – or more accurately, it was all about Derek and Wendy.

Tucker WilliamsOnly two days after Keenan’s announcement came one of the most crushing blows of all, the passing of little Tucker Williams on December 17 after a year-long courageous battle with lymphoma. I never met Tucker and I’ve only met Shawn Williams once (and that was over ten years ago, before Tucker was even born), but Shawn’s uncle Mike and his family are very good friends of mine, and so this was difficult for me personally. I heard about Tucker in the morning while at work and spent the entire afternoon hoping nobody would come into my office and ask why my eyes were red. The outpouring of grief, support, and love for the Williams family on social media was just as amazing as the unfairness of losing an eight-year-old boy was incomprehensible.

I was part of the way through writing this article when I found that I had to extend it. Chris Hall may have won the cancer battle the first time around, but as it all too often does, cancer ended up winning the war. Hall succumbed to his illness on December 21, only four days after Tucker. Yet again the social media pages were awash in praise for CH the coach as well as CH the man.

Chris Hall

With the holiday season upon us and the upcoming NLL season beginning, this should be one of the best times of the lacrosse fan’s year. I’m sure we’ll all be thrilled and excited once we manage to get past the devastating heartbreak.

#RIPT

#BraverThanBrave

#RIPCH

NLL 2015: Who’s in, who’s out

All the comings and going of each team in one handy place. I’ll do my actual team analysis and predictions and stuff later, but here are the changes from the final roster last year to the rosters just announced.

Buffalo Bandits

In: David Diruscio, Brandon Goodwin, Alex Kedoh Hill, Jerome Thompson, Nick Weiss, Mitch Wilde
Out: Glen Bryan, Jamie Rooney, Rory Smith, Kurtis Wagar, Shawn Williams, Aaron Wilson
IR: Jamie Rooney
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Matthew Bennett, Jordan Dance, Tyler Ferreira, Corey Fowler

A couple of last-minute cuts before the deadline were the most surprising changes, as Glen Bryan and Aaron Wilson were left off the roster. Wilson immediately signed with the Knighthawks. Jerome, also known as Hiana, is the older (I believe) brother of former Bandit Jeremy as well as Minnesota’s Miles.

Minnesota Swarm

In: Mitch Belisle, Sam Bradman, Nick Cotter, Dean Hill, Brodie MacDonald, Shane MacDonald, Ethan O’Connor, Corbyn Tao, Miles Thompson
Out: Tyler Carlson, Cam Flint, Jeff Gilbert, Josh Gillam, Tyler Hass, Mike Hobbins, Scott Jones, Logan Schuss, Brock Sorensen
IR:
PUP: Matt Gibson, Josh Gillam
Holdout: Logan Schuss
Practice Roster: Ian Crawford, Marcus Holman, Joe Maracle, Patrick Miles

Lots of changes for the Swam, the biggest of which is losing Logan Schuss for the season. But Miles Thompson was not drafted third overall for no reason, and the Swarm have been pushing his presence on the team quite a bit (particularly with the cool t-shirts with “Thompson” and a pony tail on the back). Ethan O’Connor impressed with the Rock last year, and Brodie MacDonald is really tall. Mike Grimes was acquired in a trade with Vancouver but will also miss the season. Maybe he and Schuss can get together and watch the games online over a few beers… except for the fact that they will be living over 3000 kilometers apart.

New England Black Wolves

In: Tye Belanger, Kevin Buchanan, Brett Bucktooth, Mark Cockerton, Michael Diehl, Craig England, Jesse Fehr, Ryan Hotaling, Jamie Lincoln, Mike McNamara, New England fans?, Bill O’Brien, Quinn Powless
Out: Don Alton, CJ Costabile, Jordan Hall, Tracey Kelusky, Brodie Merrill, Philadelphia fans, John Ranagan, Kyle Sweeney, Garrett Thul, Ryan Ward, Chad Wiedmaier
IR:
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Brent Adams, Sheldon Burns, Matt Crough, Josh Johnson

Twelve new players from the final Wings roster. Twelve. Out of twenty. High turnover was par for the course for the Wings, but this is crazy. Add to that a new location and new fans (and a bunch of pissed off former Wings fans) and nobody really has any idea what this team can do. Ryan Ward, Jordan Hall, Brodie Merrill, and Garrett Thul are some pretty big losses, but many of the new faces are familiar names in the NLL; guys like Buchanan, Bucktooth, Fehr, and Hotaling have all been around for a few years. Kevin and Kyle Buchanan are not related but are both good players, and having them both will confuse announcers and bloggers alike.

Rochester Knighthawks

In: Chris Attwood, Jamie Batson, Jordan Hall, Zac Reid, Aaron Wilson
Out: Mac Allen, Tyler Burton, Stephen Keogh, Joel McCready, Johnny Powless, Brad Self
IR:
PUP: Stephen Keogh, Brad Self
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Mitch Dumont, Joel Matthews, Justin Pychel, Zach Williams

Stephen Keogh

More changes to the defending 3-time champs that one might expect. Johnny Powless was traded and Stephen Keogh (pictured above) is injured to start the year, but in are Chris Attwood, who has been lighting up CLax for a couple of years, and former Bandit Aaron Wilson so even without Powless and Keogh, the Knighthawks should be OK offensively. Hall and Reid are the only transition players listed, as Brad Self also starts the year on the PUP list and Burton and McCready are out west.

Toronto Rock

In: Brandon Benn, Jamie Dawick (GM), Jeff Gilbert, Brett Hickey, Brodie Merrill, Brock Sorensen
Out: Garrett Billings, Colin Doyle, Bill Greer, Mike Lum-Walker, Ethan O’Connor, Jimmy Purves, Terry Sanderson (GM)
IR:
PUP: Colin Doyle
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Steve Fryer, Jordan Robertson, Hayden Smith, Mark White
Protected: Garrett Billings

Nobody was hit harder by the injury bug than the Rock. Garrett Billings will miss at least a month or two, and Colin Doyle is out for the year. In their place are Brett Hickey (9 games and 10 points in his career) and rookie Brandon Benn. Ouch. Not saying they’re going to fail spectacularly, but even if they play as well as we can possibly expect, they’re not Doyle and Billings. On the other hand, the defense is much bigger than last season, as the team brought the 6’4″ Jeff Gilbert back and acquired the 6’4″ Brodie Merrill and the 6’6″ Brock Sorensen. And as I asked someone on Twitter the other day, who doesn’t love a big back end?

Calgary Roughnecks

In: Scott Carnegie, Jeff Moleski
Out: Shawn Evans, Scott Ranger, Tor Reinholdt
IR:
PUP: Shawn Evans
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Connor Goodwin, Patric O’Meara, Tor Reinholdt, Tyson Roe

Almost no changes for the Roughnecks, but one of them is pretty big. Scott Ranger retired during the off-season, and with no other changes to the offense, it would appear that Matthew Dinsdale will be getting a lot more playing time this year. Shawn Evans is on the PUP list, but apparently will be ready for opening day. Scott Carnegie re-joins the Roughnecks after a year off and veteran Jeff Moleski is also back after four seasons in Washington / Vancouver. Both of those changes will help strengthen an already solid defense.

Colorado Mammoth

In: Alex Buque, Tyler Codron, Jackson Decker, Ian Hawksbee, Robert Hope, Eli McLaughlin, Alex Turner
Out: Tye Belanger, Colton Clark, Joel Dalgarno, Chet Koneczny, Cameron Mann, Mike McNamara, John Orsen, Casey Powell
IR:
PUP: Eric Law
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Colton Porter, Mike Woods

For me, the biggest surprise for the Mammoth was the release of Joel Dalgarno. He’s no John Grant but chipped in a decent 42 points last season. Alex Turner joins from Edmonton (by way of Minnesota who actually traded for him and then released him days later), and rookies Jackson Tyler and Eli McLaughlin will also be on the Mammoth front lines. I imagine Casey Powell has retired from the NLL; he’s not on the roster, the holdout list, the PUP list, or any other Mammoth list I could find. He only played 5 games last season so it’s not a devastating loss. Tyler Codron and Ian Hawksbee both return to the NLL after missing two seasons (Hawksbee played one game in 2013), and Robert “don’t call me Bob” Hope is a highly-touted defender.

Edmonton Rush

In: Tyler Carlson, Ben McIntosh, Corey Small
Out: Curtis Knight, Brodie MacDonald, Alex Turner
IR:
PUP: Curtis Knight, Jarrett Toll
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Mitch Banister, Mac MacGrotty, Tyler Melnyk, Adam Shute

As you might expect from a team that went 16-2, not a lot of roster changes. Curtis Knight was injured during the off-season and Alex Turner was traded, but Corey Small is returning after missing all of last year, and Ben McIntosh was the first overall draft pick, so that could be a wash. The tough part will be deciding who to drop when Knight returns. The only other change is a swap of backup goalies: Tyler Carlson is in from Minnesota while Brodie MacDonald joins the Swarm.

Vancouver Stealth

In: Tyler Burton, Brandon Clelland, Tyler Hass, Bradley Kri, Joel McCready, Mitch McMichael, Eric Penney, Dan Perreault (coach), Johnny Powless, Rory Smith, Caleb Wiles
Out: Matt Beers, Cody Bremner, Brett Bucktooth, Alex Gajic, Mike Grimes, Chris Hall (coach), Brett Hickey, Jeff Moleski, Matt Roik, Kyle Sorensen, Nick Weiss
IR:
PUP:
Holdout:
Practice Roster: Kyle Belton, Conrad Chapman, Cody Hadegorn, Matt Delmonico

Lots of changes for the last-place Stealth. The biggest is Johnny Powless, who they have been pushing as their team superstar. Wonder how Rhys Duch feels about that. Joel McCready wasn’t just a throw-in in that deal though; he, Tyler Hass, and Tyler Burton (giving Vancouver 5 of the 7 Tylers in the league) combine with Ilija Gajic and Tyler Garrison for a pretty strong transition core. Rory Smith adds grit to their defense, and Eric Penney supplants Matt Roik as Tyler Richards’ backup.

Being a sports blogger

I’ve been blogging since 2005, and some of my earliest blog articles are about lacrosse. I didn’t start writing for lacrosse-only blogs until 2010, but I’ve now written for four different ones, including what are two of the most popular lacrosse blogs anywhere. For anyone who’s interested in such a career occupation job pastime (for any sport, not just lacrosse), here is a bit of information I’ve discovered through my experiences. I hope this helps future generations of sports bloggers.

There’s only one real rule for being a sports blogger:

  • You have to make pre-season predictions on final standings and awards such as MVP and Goaltender of the Year. Feel free to ignore your predictions at the end of the season when the actual winners are announced and you realize that your Goalie of the Year pick finished 11th in GAA – in a 9-team league.

Many people seem to have opinions about sports bloggers. I have been accused of each of these:

  • If you choose the team from the city in which you live to win anything, you are a hopeless homer who knows nothing about sports. Doesn’t matter if your home team is 13-1 and they’re playing the 2004 Anaheim Storm.
  • If you do not choose the team from the city in which you live to win something, you are obviously a hater and not a REAL fan. REAL fans of the 2004 Anaheim Storm picked them to win every game cause that’s what REAL fans do. REAL is apparently not short for “realistic”.
  • You created a sports blog, therefore you are arrogant and consider yourself an expert with knowledge exceeding that of everyone else. You couldn’t possibly have created it just because you like to write.

haters-gonna-hateWhen making game predictions, there are four possibilities for each game:

What you pick the team to do: What the team does: What it means:
Win Win You got lucky. Or everybody knew that that team was going to win, so your pick doesn’t mean anything.
Win Lose It’s your fault. Somehow your pick affected the players or the coaches or the equipment manager or the space-time continuum enough that it made the team lose. Or you got it wrong because you just don’t know anything.
Lose Win You obviously don’t know anything.
Lose Lose See the first entry – the team you picked to win did win, so you got lucky.

 

And in all seriousness, these final rules are the most important. These are not specific to lacrosse or blogging, but pertain to publishing or performing anything: writing, acting, music, sports, etc.:

  • Some people are going to think your performance sucks. A small percentage of them will tell you so. Some people are going to think your performance was excellent. A small percentage of them will tell you so. The two percentages are unrelated. They generally depend on the size of your audience and are not always indicative of the quality of your performance.
  • Take and use constructive criticism and, as difficult as this sometimes is, ignore the insults and personal attacks. Don’t change what you’re doing to please the haters.

Personally, I’ve been lucky so far as a sports blogger. I’ve only had a handful of overtly negative comments and only a couple that turned into personal attacks. But I know others who get them all the time. This is purely a question of audience size, not because people disagree with me less than they do other people.

In May 2013, Wil Wheaton posted an article that discussed dealing with the haters. To the bloggers and writers and athletes and musicians and actors out there, here it is in a nutshell: Making hurtful comments is easy. Doing what you do is hard.