The NLL is back! And with it comes my weekly reports on what was awesome and not over the previous week. If you want scores and game summaries, there are plenty of places to find those so I won’t repeat them here. But sometimes there’s one particular play or event that’s particularly amazing, terrible, or otherwise interesting. Sometimes it’s one player or team who had a great or terrible weekend. Sometimes it’s an interesting characteristic shared by multiple games, as we see from the first Awesome this week. I try to focus on the positive so I hope to have more positives than negatives most of the time, but sometimes there are things that are just, well, not awesome, and I don’t want to sweep those under the rug.
Three different games featuring a 10+ goal differential, another featuring 27 goals, another featuring 29, and only one “normal” sounding score of 11-10. Only one game (the 11-10 one, of course) didn’t feature at least three hattricks. If you were looking for one of those 8-7 goalie-clinic games, you’ll have to wait at least one more week.
This week I launched my new web site, nllstats.com, which features all available NLL stats. It currently shows standings and stats from all NLL seasons including data on all games, players, and teams. I will be adding more pages later that show more interesting results. I’ll have another article coming tomorrow that describes the site in more detail.
Games on TV
Two different games this weekend were broadcast on TV in Canada. Both Friday night’s game in Halifax and Saturday’s in Hamilton were on one of the TSN stations. The Halifax game was also on ESPN in the US. This is continuing what we saw last season with at least one game on TSN every week. I think the ESPN schedule features fewer games but that’s still better than a few years ago when games were streamed but that’s it. You want to watch the occasional game but don’t want to pay for it? Tough. You don’t know what lacrosse is and want to check it out? You better pay first. Not easy to gain new fans that way. Now, it may not happen often but at least the possibility exists that someone will stumble upon a game on TV and say “wow, what is this? This looks fun” and become a fan. I can now post on social media: “Hey, friends who like sports! You know that lacrosse thing I keep going on about? Well, you can check it out on TSN / ESPN!” I couldn’t do that a couple of years ago.
Randy Staats returns
Until last Friday night, Randy Staats hadn’t played an NLL game since March 8, 2020. Since then, he was traded twice and missed a full season. I have no idea how much time he spent around the Panther City team, whether he was part of that team in name only or if he showed up to practices or games or if he got to know his teammates at all. But his career record will likely not even list him as being there because he never suited up for a single game. But regardless of all that, he’s back on an NLL floor now and hasn’t lost a step. He is a very fun player to watch and looks like he’s fitting in nicely with his new Halifax teammates.
Cody Jamieson and Randy Staats, now teammates on a couple of teams
Toronto and Halifax were expected to be strong this season, and they came out flying. The Seals and Riptide were expected to have very good offenses, and put up a total of 29 goals. A lot of people figured that missing the playoffs was a bit of an anomaly for the Rush and they’d be better this year, and they dominated their first game as well.
Many people, myself included, ranked Albany last in the East. So they said “screw you all, we’re just going to come out and beat the freakin’ Bandits”. And they did. My concern with the Firewolves was their offense, but if your defense and goaltending can keep a team like the powerhouse Bandits to 10 goals, you don’t need outstanding offense to win. Kudos to the Firewolves.
NLL game stats
It’s still early in the season, and perhaps the NLL has changed stats providers once again but the game sheets are missing data. When the game sheet for Game 1 was initially posted, all penalties were listed as 1 minute and no power play goals were shown even though there were some. Those were fixed within a few minutes but the penalty data is still empty (we know who got the penalty and how long it was, but not what the penalty was for). I heard that the Time on Floor stat was returning but I don’t see it. Total team face-off data is there but not per-player (i.e. we don’t know who took the faceoffs). Last year we had Shots Blocked (i.e. shots the player took that were blocked by someone else) and Shots Wide, which are not there. (Note that Blocked Shots, i.e. shots that someone else took that were blocked by this player, is still there.) In previous years, we had the number of shots faced by a goalie per quarter. That is missing though it wasn’t there last year either. The decision column for goalies is “1” if they got the win and “0” if they didn’t, which means we can’t tell who was given the loss if the losing team played more than one goalie. Once again, goals and penalties are shown as “First initial Last name” which is fine unless you have two C. Dicksons on the same team (we had Carter and Curtis on the Roughnecks in 2019). We don’t this year but given the number of brothers throughout the league, it’s not unlikely we’ll see that again. Luckily the two J. Thompsons (Jeremy and Jerome) are on different teams.
I know that providing these stats is a lot of work and there are a zillion reasons why the league might change stats providers. But it’s frustrating that every year, the stats for the first week (sometimes the first several weeks) are missing data or are otherwise messed up. If this is the same stats provider as last year, there’s no excuse. If it’s a new company, I’ll give them a little bit more leeway but not much. I’ve worked in the software industry for thirty years; these problems should have been found and fixed long before the season began.
Philly tried to shake up their offense in the off season but still struggled against Halifax. But as Pat Gregoire said on the Off the Crosse Bar podcast last week, there’s no need for Philly fans to push the panic button yet. It might take a bit of time to get their offense all rowing in the same direction. Similarly, the Warriors have struggled offensively in the last few years, and were only able to put up 8 against the Rock. But again, they have a new coach, a new offensive star in Shawn Evans, and Mitch Jones is returning after missing most of last season. Not gelling in game 1 (especially when they played NO preseason games at all) is not unsurprising.
The Bandits were expected to dominate last season and did, despite losing the Championship. They didn’t make that many changes and so they were expected to dominate again this year, but only scored 10 in game 1 and lost. The Mammoth were expected to be good last season but I’m not sure a lot of people predicted a Championship, especially when Lee and then McLaughlin went down. So only scoring 6 in their season opener has got to be a bit disappointing.
I did not expect the two teams that went to the finals last year to both lose in week 1 this year.