Looking forward to 2018: West Division

Yesterday I went over the Eastern division teams and what changes they may need before next season. Today, we’re looking to the West.

Calgary

Christian Del BiancoOnly three teams gave up more goals than the Roughnecks in 2017, and one of their best goaltending performances of the season came from Zack Higgins, who was signed, played 44 minutes of one game, and was released. Both Frankie Scigliano and Christian del Bianco struggled in various games this season – Scigliano was pulled in three straight games, didn’t play at all in the next one, and then was pulled again. Given that, you might think that goaltending would be something that Mike Board needs to address in the off-season. You’d be wrong. We know Scigliano can be great, and he really came through at the end of the season with some excellent starts. Anyone I’ve heard who have watched del Bianco in the WLA say that he will be an excellent NLL goalie in the future, though he’s not quite there yet. Goaltender changes in Calgary are very unlikely.

As for the rest of the team, I’m not so sure. They scored 212 goals which was 7th in the league, but the middle was close – only eight more goals would have had them tied for 4th. They gave up 220 which is 6th; again, middle of the pack. If you look at the names on the roster, there’s no reason the Roughnecks can’t compete offensively or defensively with anyone else.

But Calgary missed the playoffs for the first time since the Nixon administration (or thereabouts), so there’s going to be some fallout. They released Jon Harnett near the end of the season, which was a bit of a surprise, so maybe they have some more surprises in store. But I’m going to guess that coaching is where the Roughnecks will make their changes. Malawsky is one of those very loud, very vocal coaches, a la Cordingley or Kilgour. It’s possible the team has had enough of that and has tuned him out. Maybe a quieter yet still forceful coach a la Keenan or Comeau should be their next step.

Colorado

I imagine John Grant is done. He’s announced his retirement from both summer lacrosse and the MLL because his 42-year-old body just can’t handle it anymore. Given that, it would seem unlikely that he’ll return to the Mammoth in 2018. But as great a player as Grant was, it actually won’t hurt the team much since they basically just finished a season without him anyway.

Honestly, I don’t see much of a need for the Mammoth to go shopping. Their offense looks solid: mostly young players with a couple of vets but nobody over 32. Crawford, Keogh, Noble, and Ruest form an impressive right side, while Greer, McLaughlin, and Wardle make up an equally strong left side, and you can likely add Herreweyers on the left as well. Their transition includes three of the best: Joey Cupido, Ilija Gajic, and Brad Self. Their defense is sort of the opposite of the offense: mostly vets with a few strong young guys in there.

Dillon Ward is one of the best goalies in the league and while I’ve seen some dissenting opinions out there, I think Alexis Buque is a more-than-capable backup. If we do have an expansion draft in the near future, watch for Buque to be one of the top candidates as a current backup that could be a starter on an expansion team.

Saskatchewan

See Georgia’s entry from yesterday. Great offense, better defense, great goalie, one of the best coaches in the game, and they even have 3 picks in the first two rounds of the upcoming entry draft. Seriously, where could you consider upgrading anything on this team?

Off the floor however, that’s a different story. FOUR of their eleven home games in 2017 (including playoffs) had attendance below 15,000. C’mon Rush, clearly you’ve got some work to do.

Vancouver

I was genuinely excited for the Stealth to be back in the playoffs again. It didn’t end the way they wanted it to, but they were in the game until the very end so they’ve got something to be proud of and build on.

Joel McCready - I would not want to be on the receiving end of this shot.At the front, the top three – Small, Duch, Schuss – are as good as any top three in the league. A full season of Cory Conway would help, and Durston and McCready give three solid players on each side.  James Rahe looked good in the 11 games he played. Evan Messenger only played in four games and Ryan Wagner in eleven and neither picked up a ton of points but given those top three, scoring points wasn’t their job – they were there to open up space for Logan and Rhys and Corey, which they clearly did. Could they upgrade their secondary scoring? Probably, but it’s not a huge priority.

Transition is not a problem for the Stealth either, with guys like Justin Salt, Travis Cornwall, and Jarrett Toll. With the recently added Jon Harnett, the Stealth have a defense full of veterans, but only two of their eight defenders are under 30 so an injection of youth in the D wouldn’t be unwelcome or unwise. Goaltending has been a problem in recent years, with Eric Penney not working out and Tyler Richards returning from retirement only to lose the starting job to Tye Belanger. But GM Doug Locker and head coach Jamie Batley will be quite happy if Belanger plays in 2018 the way he played in 2017.

The head coaching position is not likely to change, since Batley has done a great job with the Stealth in his first season. But perhaps given the number of injuries the Stealth have had over the last couple of seasons, maybe a new strength and conditioning coach?

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