Every year, I go through the teams and give my analysis for each one. I also pick a player who I think will have a great year, and give a prediction on where I think the team will end up. And every year, I write a haiku for each team. Why? Just because. Here’s the West, and we’ll do the East tomorrow.
Curtis Dickson and Wes Berg haven’t signed yet but it looks like the Roughnecks are preparing for the possibility of playing without one or both of them, at least for a while. They traded for Jesse King and Dan Taylor and signed Rhys Duch the second the Warriors released him. If Dickson and Berg both return, they could have an embarrassment of riches with all of those guys plus Dane Dobbie up front. Tyler Richards is backing up Christian Del Bianco and while Richards was an excellent goalie in his prime, he didn’t play at all last year and had a GAA of about 13½ the year before. Of course, if Del Bianco has his way, Richards will play about 17 minutes this year anyway.
Look out for
Rhys Duch apparently had some injury trouble last season which is why it was a down year for him. Assuming he’s healthy (and five goals in last weekend’s scrimmage implies that he is), he’s going to be out to show the Warriors that releasing him was a bad move. I don’t see him hitting 100 points again but 80 isn’t out of the question.
Second in the west.
No Dickson or Berg?
Maybe but Rhys Duch will help
King and Taylor too
Very few changes for the Mammoth, but they didn’t really need big changes. They have a solid offense with a good mix of young players and vets. Their strong defense lost Bryce Sweeting and Cam Holding (who didn’t play last year anyway) but they’re getting Dan Coates back and adding John Lintz. They also have one of the best goalies in the league, and three coaches who were excellent NLL players. Williams and McBride have no NLL coaching experience but have coached at various other levels, and there’s no reason to think they won’t excel at this level as well.
Look out for
Tim Edwards dominated the face-off dot in the Mammoth’s scrimmage against the Rock. I don’t think he’ll replace Joey Cupido as the top transition guy on the team but with Jay Thorimbert out of the league (at least for now), Edwards could be the top face-off guy in the NLL.
Third in the west.
Captain Coates returns
Willy and McBride help coach
Benny leads the O
The Seals are a first-year expansion team so they’re gonna suck, right? Maybe not. There are some big-name players here. Dawson and Merrill may be past their prime (though Merrill’s only a year removed from his most recent Transition Player of the Year award) but not far enough past that they can’t be productive, and having all the young players learning from these two is invaluable. It’s funny that when they acquired 31-year-old Kyle Buchanan, I thought he‘d be the veteran leader on the team. I had a comment here about Billings and Walters not having played much in the last two years but they can still be productive. Then the rosters were released. Walters was cut and Billings is on the “inactive roster” so, um, never mind.
Add in guys like Holding, Evans, Clelland, Reinholdt, MacIntosh, Jackson, Scigliano, and Sorichetti and you have young guys with experience, and scoring phenom Austin Staats will be amazing. As I said in my IL Indoor comment: If everything works out, the Seals could be very good but even if it doesn’t, I don’t think they’ll be that bad.
Look out for
Kyle Buchanan has bounced between 50 and 70 points per season for the last five years but I think he’ll make the jump to the next level. Not sure I see 100+ points for him but 80+ or even 90 is definitely possible.
Fourth in the west
Lacrosse in the sun
Brodie and Dan are leaders
Seals are surfacing
Losing guys like Ryan Dilks and Jeff Cornwall would be devastating to some defenses, but not the Rush. They have enough great D guys that they will be able to weather the storm but just in case, they brought in Travis Cornwall. They also lost Dan Dawson to free agency and Adrian Sorichetti to the expansion draft, so this is likely the biggest single-season roster “overhaul” that we’ve seen in Saskatchewan in several years. Will the changes be enough to drop them from their standard spot of favourite in the west? Nope.
Similar to Dickson and Berg in Calgary, I’m assuming they re-sign their holdouts Church, Messenger, and Bilic.
Look out for
Travis Cornwall will be given more playing time than he got in Vancouver last year, and I think he will make the most of it.
First in the west
No Dilks but different Cornwall
Rush are still the faves
I hate to put Vancouver at the bottom again. In previous off-seasons, I thought they should have been making big changes to their lineup but they didn’t. It seemed that they made a few changes here and there in the hopes that things would magically work this time. This season, they changed everything – the announced roster has only eight guys (out of 21) who were on the roster at the end of last season (though that doesn’t include Salt and McCready, who were on the IR). They acquired a solid #1 goalie and they’ve made significant changes to their lineup, knowing the lineup that got them to 2-16 last year wasn’t good enough, and that’s good. But they lost their top two scorers (Duch and Small) and Pat Saunders and Casey Jackson and replaced them all with Mitch Jones. Jones is a great player, but he can’t replace all four of them. They lost Chris O’Dougherty, Travis Cornwall, Cliff Smith and Andrew Suitor and replaced them with rookies. Building for the future is great and sometimes necessary. It’s short term pain for long term gain, but I think this season might be painful.
Look out for
I don’t know much about them but I’m going to go with the Porter brothers. I did see them play in the Mann Cup in Six Nations a couple of years ago and was impressed with their effort and grit. Maybe there’s a reason that nobody’s given them a chance in the NLL up to now, but now that they have that chance, I think they’ll play their hearts out to make sure people know they deserve to be there.
Fifth in the west.
Changes in BC
Stealth are now the Warriors
Roster is all new