Ten things that happened this past season that I did not see coming. No particular order because I’m lazy.
1. Tom Schreiber. Would he be a very good player? Probably. Would he score a bunch of goals? Probably. Would he lead the Rock in scoring and finish in the top 10 in the league? Well, that’s overly optimistic, don’t you think?
2. Garrett Billings benched by the Stealth. Only a couple of years ago he had three consecutive 100-point seasons with the Rock. This year he couldn’t crack the roster of a team that was in last place for half the year.
3. Georgia’s offense. We knew it’d be good, but wow. The Swarm averaged almost 15 goals per game, became the first team ever to have seven players with 50+ points, and scored more goals in a season than any team in league history.
4. The Bandits. After making the finals last year, they struggled all season and missed the playoffs. Missing Dhane Smith and Ryan Benesch for multiple games didn’t help, nor did Anthony Cosmo’s injury trouble.
5. Vancouver had missed the playoffs for 3 straight years and as I said above, they were in last place for about half of this season as well. As late as week 15, they were in last. With a strong finish, they pulled off second place in the west. So four weeks after being in last place and out of the playoffs, they are hosting their first ever playoff game.
(And yes, I see the irony in posting a picture of a smiling Garrett Billings with the Stealth, given #2 above)
6. The crop of rookies this year was one of the best ever. My top 5 were Schreiber, Jackson, Mike Messenger, Ruest, and Currier but there are a bunch of others who had great seasons as well.
7. Last year, Eric Penney was The Guy in Vancouver, until Tyler Richards un-retired and was the starter the rest of the season. This year, Richards was supposed to be The Guy, until he faltered a little and Tye Belanger took over. Belanger grabbed the starting role and never let go. Assuming Belanger is The Guy at the beginning of next year, who’ll be their goalie at the end of next year?
8. After a decent but not altogether memorable rookie season, Lyle Thompson almost doubles his point total, increases his loose ball count by 50%, wins the scoring title, and is a leading candidate for MVP. No sophomore slump here. And he’s likely still getting better.
9. Evan Kirk, the reigning NLL Goaltender of the Year, finished the season ranked 8th among starters in GAA and 7th in save percentage.
10. The highest attended game of the year wasn’t in Buffalo, Saskatchewan, or Colorado, but Calgary – after they had already been eliminated from the playoffs.