We’re roughly at the mid-point of the season, so it’s time for the mid-season awards: who have been the best players so far in 2022? We also have a couple of awesome things from this weekend, and one not so awesome.
MVP – Ryan Lee. He’s only in his fourth season in the league but has taken over a Mammoth offense that includes Williams, McLaughlin, Wardle, Digby, and Robinson. He’s played every game this season and halfway through, is still on pace for an amazing 120 points.
Runners-up: Dane Dobbie, Lyle Thompson
Transition – Mike Messenger. He’s a transition guy but can play offense, can play defense, on the power play and PK, take faceoffs, and if I had to make a list of NLL players I’d want to fight, there would be very few people on that list below Messenger. In previous years, Messenger was one of those “pretty good at a lot of different things” type of players. But this year, he’s become a “really freaking good at a lot of different things” type of player. The Rush are struggling this season but Messenger is having a career year.
Runners-up: Challen Rogers, Kiel Matisz, Zach Currier
Defender – Brett Mydske. What he’s done in Vancouver with his play on the floor as well as his leadership has changed that franchise from the joke of the league to a serious contender in the West. Not to take anything away from the performances of Alex Buque, Mitch Jones, Keegan Bal, and Reid Bowering, not to mention the coaching of Chris Gill, but I think Mydske has made a huge difference there, and it starts with his defensive abilities.
Runners-up: Graeme Hossack, Brad Kri, Mitch De Snoo. Maybe having both Kri and de Snoo on the list is a bit of a homer pick but I think both have been excellent.
Goalie – Matt Vinc. It was basically a toss-up between Vinc and Warren Hill. They have comparable GAA and SV% numbers (as does Dillon Ward), and both Vinc and Hill have played every minute of every game their teams have played. Vinc is 8-1, Hill is 7-1. I gave Vinc the nod here only because he’s the fourth-oldest player in the league. Hill is 29 and should be at or near his prime. Vinc is 39 and is supposed to be past his.
Runners-up: Warren Hill, Dillon Ward
Rookie – Jeff Teat. Teat is 8th in the league in scoring, despite only having played 7 games. Everyone else in the top 22 has played 8 or more and a few have played 11 or 12 games. (Ryan Benesch, who is also having a great season, has five more points than Teat but has played five more games.) Second in the league in rookie scoring is Patrick Dodds, who’s tied for 24th. Had he not missed a couple of games on the Covid protocol, Teat would be on pace for 122 points, the third best total in league history. As a rookie. Expectations for Teat were really high but he’s met them all and then some.
Runners-up: Reid Bowering, Tre Leclaire, Larson Sundown
There were a number of great goaltending performances this past weekend. Doug Jamieson was excellent in the Albany win over San Diego, particularly in the fourth quarter. Steven Orleman didn’t have great numbers in the game against Toronto – a 13.01 GAA and a save percentage just under 70% – but it seemed like he was just making stop after stop and frustrating the Rock offense. Meanwhile, Nick Rose had a 17.97 GAA and a save percentage of 31.3% in that game, and Riley Hutchcraft (7.74 GAA, 80% saves) was given the loss. I understand why but it still seems unfair. In his Rush debut, Eric Penney allowed 9 goals in 66 minutes and made some excellent saves in the fourth quarter and OT to allow the Rush to win it. No, he can’t score goals and the Rush’s biggest problem wasn’t goaltending but regardless, having a solid 1A and 1B goaltending tandem makes the team stronger.
He came back earlier than anyone expected from his injury but Staats appears to be 100% now, and is back to scoring the unbelievable goals he’s become known for. Shooting behind the back, backhand, with two defenders hanging off of him, he doesn’t care. Whatever he has to do to get the ball in the net is what he’ll do, and he finds more innovative ways than just about anyone to do that.
Nick Sakiewicz out as commish
It was announced this past week that commissioner Nick Sakiewicz will be leaving his position but will “continue to advise the league until June 30, 2022.” I did not see this coming. Sakiewicz has stated many times that he wanted to grow the league to 16 teams very soon (we’ll be one away next year), and 30 teams in the distant future. I guess I just assumed that he planned to be around for as much of that as possible. Perhaps he got a better offer elsewhere, or perhaps he just figures he’s laid the groundwork for those changes, so the hard part is done.
Sakiewicz has done a lot in his six years as commissioner, including getting TV deals in both the US and Canada, introducing sports betting, grown league attendance, and introduced several new teams. The Seals, Riptide, Knighthawks, Wings, and Panther City have all come onboard during Sakiewicz’s tenure, and Las Vegas is coming in hot next season. There were a few moves as well – the Stealth renamed themselves to the Warriors and the move from Rochester to Halifax seems to have been a rousing success. I think the jury is still out on the move from New England to Albany but the attendance numbers so far are not significantly different from before.
He was also responsible for the rebranding of the league, with the new logo and new trophy. If you told me the NLL would completely miss half of one season and all of the next and yet still come out strong on the other side, I’m not sure I’d have believed you, but Sakiewicz made it work.
Thanks to Nick Sakiewicz for his strong leadership during his term as commissioner. I wish him well in the next chapter of his life and career.