As we wind down the 2015 NLL season, we take some time to look back at the season and reward those who did well. There’s talk of Champions, MVPs, and a bunch of <whatever> of the Year awards, and I’ve done my share of that on this blog, on IL Indoor, and on Addicted to Lacrosse. But now I’m going to look ahead to the 2016 season, beginning just seven short months from now. Here’s my wish list of things I’d like to see in the NLL in 2016. Now remember, this is a wish list, not a prediction list.
There are in no particular order. I started out with 4 or 5 entries, but as I wrote about each one, I thought of another one. Now I’m up to so many I decided to split the list into two.
The Edmonton Rush – I said no particular order, but I think this is still number one. I really want to see the Rush stay in Edmonton. Whether that’s Bruce Urban figuring out a way to stay or the Oilers buying the team, I honestly don’t care though I think the second option would be the best long-term solution.
The Georgia Swarm are successful – I wrote last week about the Georgia Swarm and the challenges that face them. I was rather pessimistic about their chances for success, but I hope I’m wrong.
All players return healthy – Tons of players missed time during 2015, both regular season and playoffs, due to injuries. My wish is that all of them return healthy and 100% for 2016. This includes players who missed the whole season like Kyle Sorensen, Matt Beers, and Curtis Knight; players who missed the end of the season like Callum Crawford and Andrew Suitor; and Cody Jamieson who got hurt in the playoffs. Even Garrett Billings seemed mostly better when he returned but played 8 games and only scored 5 goals. He only had as many as 6 points once in those eight games. This is uncharacteristic for Billings.
We see better lacrosse when all these guys are healthy.
Earlier season – I haven’t decided whether I’d prefer a 16- or an 18-game regular season. I think I’m fine with both. But the season is ending too late – just two years ago, the finals ended on May 11. This year it will be at least June 5th and possibly June 13th. That’s just too long, particularly for players who play in the MLL, MSL, or WLA who’ll miss a good chunk of the season. The MLL season started on April 12, so Toronto and Edmonton players who are also in the MLL (Kevin Crowley, Zack Greer, possibly others) will miss two full months (over half of the season) before they’re available. It’s certainly not up to the NLL to make things easier for other leagues, but they could start their season in early December and get back to finishing up in early-mid May. Speaking of that…
Shorten playoffs – I’d like to see the first and second rounds as single-game elimination (though as a Rock fan, I’m glad that’s not how it is this year), and the finals as the best of 3. Ideally, two of those three would be in the same weekend, but I’m not sure how to do that without a brutal travel schedule in between or back-to-back games in the same city on the same weekend, which would likely result in terrible attendance for at least one of those games.
Reduce bye weeks if possible – Jamie Dawick talked about the this in a recent interview. Three teams from each division means a bye in the first round, and since the Rock had a bye in the last week of the season anyway, the semifinal with Rochester was their first game in over three weeks. And as we discussed on A2L, the Rock weren’t allowed to practice during the playoff bye week, which is silly. Dawick said the lack of games was a huge disadvantage, especially since they were playing the Knighthawks who had played twice in between the last two Rock games and had several practices. It would be nice if something could be done to even this out a bit, though I haven’t been able to come up with a solution.
John Tavares retires – This is not exactly something I want to happen, but something I think probably should happen. John Tavares is probably the best lacrosse player in the history of the NLL. He has an unbelievable 24 seasons in the league – Josh Sanderson and Colin Doyle would have to finish the 2021 season before they’re even tied, and John Grant could score 100 points four times (starting at age 41) and still not catch up. He has so many amazing numbers that I could do a full month of @NLLFactOfTheDay just on Tavares. But Father Time has finally caught up with JT and I think it’s time he hung ’em up. The Bandits are in good hands with Ryan Benesch and Dhane Smith leading the offense, so now’s the right time.
More coming tomorrow.