The Orange Crew, Nick, Cayla, and the Roughnecks

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been watching a different historical NLL game every Saturday evening and live-tweeting it. I started with the 2000 final in Toronto, where Kaleb Toth scored with a second left to give the Rock their second championship. Then it was the 2013 Championship when the Knighthawks beat the Washington Stealth in Langley (before they moved there), and last weekend it was a Detroit / Philadelphia game from 1994 which got called after three quarters because of insane fights. I had a lot of fun watching these replays and I got some comments from people on twitter who appreciated it as well. I even had a few people watching along with me.

The NLL had replayed some historical games on Facebook and BR Live over the past couple of weeks, and on Saturday they decided to re-run game 2 of last year’s Championship final between Calgary and Buffalo. A group of fans in Calgary called the Orange Crew decided to set up a zoom meeting to get a bunch of people together to watch the game. They asked me to be a part of it and I thought it would be fun. I was right.

We started about 8:45pm (my time) with a few of the Orange Crew, me, and a few other fans. I gave a bit of an overview of the 2019 season and how Calgary and Buffalo got to the finals, as well as a quick summary of Game 1.

By the time the game started, it was well after 9:00 but we had a number of others join the call including some special guests: NLL commissioner Nick Sakiewicz, Roughnecks reporter Cayla Spiess and Roughnecks players Dane Dobbie, Tyler Richards, and Zach Currier. Curtis Dickson joined in a little while later sporting an impressive fu manchu, and eventually Rhys Duch also joined, coincidentally (or not?) with just a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, not long before he scored the OT winner. There were about 16-18 people on the call for most of the game.

Curtis Dickson

The game itself was fine, but the call ended up as basically a two-plus hour interview of Sakiewicz and the Roughnecks players, who couldn’t have been more accommodating. They answered questions in great detail, and we got a lot of background and some fun stories as well. The commish talked about streaming and TV deals and the NLL’s relationship with the MLL and PLL (they talk all the time and confirmed that if there ever was an agreement among NLL staff that they don’t mention the MLL, that’s long gone now). He also talked about his transition from being an MLS owner to the NLL commissioner and his first experience watching box lacrosse and how impressed he was with the game, the players, and the experience.

Cayla had some great stories of being between the benches, getting spit on, and interviews that didn’t go the way she planned. All of the players were forthcoming and willing to answer questions. Some of the questions were tossed around a little – Dane would answer some of it and then ask Zach or Curtis to give their viewpoints as well. After the game ended and the call was basically over, Curtis and Dane even asked if there were more questions, and said they were willing to stay on until they’d answered them all – this was after over two hours of doing just that.

Dane Dobbie was the most vocal. I don’t know about the Orange Crew but I had never met nor talked to Dobbie before, but he talked to me and everyone else on the call like we’d been buds for years. If you’ve ever watched him play, his passion for the game is obvious but it even came through in how he talks about it. He talked about his respect for guys like Curt Malawsky, Shawn Evans, and longtime NLL coach Bob McMahon, and how he was glad that Dan MacRae handed McMahon the NLL Cup as soon as he got it. He answered my question about how well Rhys Duch has fit in with the Roughnecks, he talked about his workout routine (“I’ve never lifted weights, I run, that’s about it”), and he talked about the weird situation a few weeks back where Calgary had a goal disallowed because the net had been moved; if the net had been in place, the shot wouldn’t have gone in so the goal didn’t count. He admitted that he and Dickson overreacted at the time but once they had the rule explained in detail, they understood and accepted it. We even got a cameo from his adorable little daughter just before she toddled off to bed.

Best line: With just a minute to go in a tied fourth quarter, Cayla mentioned that even though she knew the outcome, she was still excited and a little stressed watching such a close game. Rhys Duch: “Don’t worry guys. I got this.”

Thanks to the Orange Crew for setting up this call and for including me in it. It was a lot of fun even if we didn’t actually watch most of the game. Thanks also to Nick, Cayla, Dane, Zach, Tyler, Curtis, and Rhys for joining in, spending a couple of hours with us answering questions, and being the accessible and down-to-earth people that the NLL is proud to showcase.

Family connections in the NLL

When I posted my Who’s In, Who’s Out article last week, loyal reader Mike suggested creating a list of all family members in the NLL as well. I thought that was a fun idea, so here you go.

I’m only listing relationships if both players are on active or practice rosters or are NLL coaches or GMs. I made a couple of exceptions for IR or holdout lists too, but if I start to get into retired players, we’d be here all day.

The majority of these I’m sure of but there are a few that I’m only mostly sure of. I tried to confirm as many as I could but if I have any wrong, or I’m missing one, please leave a comment or find me on twitter and let me know!

Buffalo

Jon Harnett – brother of Greg Harnett, Calgary
Quinn Powless – cousin of Johnny Powless, Toronto
Dhane Smith – cousin of Billy Dee Smith, (assistant coach) Halifax, also cousin of Tyson Bell, Calgary

Calgary

Tyson Bell – nephew cousin of Billy Dee Smith, (assistant coach) Halifax, also cousin of Dhane Smith, Buffalo, also cousin of Latrell Harris, Toronto
Zach Currier – brother of Josh Currier, Philly
Greg Harnett – brother of Jon Harnett, Buffalo
Jesse King / Marshal King – brothers
Update: Tyson Bell’s mom told me that there was an article a few years back saying that Billy Dee Smith was Tyson’s uncle, but that was incorrect – they are cousins. That article is where I originally got my information from. Thanks for the correction!

Colorado

Scott Carnegie – brother of Mike Carnegie, San Diego
Justin Goodwin – brother of Brandon Goodwin, Vancouver
Will Malcom – brother of Tony Malcom, New England

Georgia

Brendan Bomberry – cousin of Adam Bomberry, New England and Tyson Bomberry, New York
Jason Noble – (twin) brother of Jeremy Noble, San Diego
Kevin Orleman / Steven Orleman – brothers
Randy Staats – brother of Austin Staats, San Diego
Lyle Thompson, Miles Thompson – brothers of Jeremy Thompson, Saskatchewan. The fourth Thompson brother, Haina (aka Jerome), also played for Georgia last season.

Lyle, Miles, and Haina Thompson (photo credit: Corey Knapp)

Halifax

Graeme Hossack – brother of Matt Hossack, Saskatchewan
Cody Jamieson – nephew of Curt Styres, (GM) Halifax
Brandon Robinson – brother of Justin Robinson, Saskatchewan
Billy Dee Smith (assistant coach) – uncle cousin of Dhane Smith, Buffalo, also cousin of Tyson Bell, Calgary

New England

Adam Bomberry – cousin of Brendan Bomberry, Georgia and Tyson Bomberry, New York
Tony Malcom – brother of Will Malcom, Colorado

New York

Tyson Bomberry –  cousin of Brendan Bomberry, Georgia and Adam Bomberry, New England
Tyson Gibson – son of Darryl Gibson, (assistant coach) New England
Gale Thorpe – son of Regy Thorpe, (GM / head coach) New York

Philadelphia

Josh Currier – brother of Zach Currier, Calgary

Rochester

Paul Dawson – brother of Dan Dawson, Toronto
Shawn Evans / Turner Evans – cousins

San Diego

Mike Carnegie – brother of Scott Carnegie, Colorado
Zack Greer – brother of Bill Greer, (assistant coach) San Diego
Garrett McIntosh – brother of Ben McIntosh, Saskatchewan
Brodie Merrill – brother of Patrick Merrill, (GM / head coach) San Diego
Evan Messenger – cousin of Mike Messenger, Saskatchewan
Jeremy Noble – (twin) brother of Jason Noble, Georgia
Tor Reinholdt – brother of Reid Reinholdt, Toronto
Austin Staats – brother of Randy Staats, Georgia

Saskatchewan

Travis Cornwall / Jeff Cornwall – brothers
Ryan Dilks – brother of Jamison Dilks, Toronto
Matt Hossack – brother of Graeme Hossack, Halifax
Ryan Keenan – son of Derek Keenan, (GM / head coach) Saskatchewan
Ryan Keenan / Luke Keenan – cousins
Luke Keenan – nephew of Derek Keenan, (GM / head coach) Saskatchewan
Ben McIntosh – brother of Garrett McIntosh, San Diego
Mike Messenger – cousin of Evan Messenger, San Diego
Justin Robinson – brother of Brandon Robinson, Halifax
Brett Mydske – brother of Reid Mydske, Vancouver
Jeremy Thompson – brother of Lyle Thompson and Miles Thompson, Georgia

Toronto

Dan Dawson – brother of Paul Dawson, Rochester
Jamison Dilks – brother of Ryan Dilks, Saskatchewan
Latrell Harris – cousin of Tyson Bell, Calgary
Johnny Powless – cousin of Quinn Powless, Buffalo
Reid Reinholdt – brother of Tor Reinholdt, San Diego

Vancouver

Brandon Goodwin – brother of Justin Goodwin, Colorado
Reid Mydske – brother of Brett Mydske, Saskatchewan

2020 NLL North preview

This is my first-ever NLL North division preview! Here’s where I think each team will end up in the standings and who might have a breakout year.

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

The Bandits went to the finals last year, but have since lost Shawn Evans, Jordan Durston, and Thomas Hoggarth and replaced them all with Quinn Powless. That’s not to say that Dhane Smith, Corey Small, Chase Fraser, Josh Byrne, and Chris Cloutier aren’t a formidable offense, but that’s a lot of firepower to lose in one year. Defense looks pretty good and transition could be excellent. Back in the net, Matt Vinc is still Matt Vinc.

Look out for

Josh Byrne was headed for an excellent season in 2019 but missed half the season with an injury. Assuming he’s fully healthy, he could blow the doors off the East North division.

Prediction

Second in the north.


Thunderbirds-smallHalifax Thunderbirds

Last year’s Knighthawks had a lousy season up until April, when they won four of their last five. Halifax has made a few changes throughout their roster, but if you take Jamieson, Shanks, Boushy, and Jackson and add a full season of Ryan Benesch and Stephen Keogh as well as the highly touted Clarke Petterson, that’s a pretty solid group of forwards. Defense has lots of young guys and a few vets to show the way, but they also have Graeme Hossack, probably the best defender in the league right now. Warren Hill started last season as the backup but finished strong, playing every minute of those late-season wins with a save percentage above 80% in all of them (and almost 90% in one). Playing at that level for the entire season is a tall order but he’ll need to be in that ballpark for the Thunderbirds to compete with the Bandits and Rock.

Look out for

Warren Hill. In his first year as a bona fide starter, he’ll keep the Thunderbirds competitive and might even steal a game or two.

Prediction

Third in the north.


Knighthawks-smallRochester Knighthawks

Is Steve Fryer ready to be a #1 goalie in the NLL? Signs say yes and I hope they’re right, because his two backups have a total of 17 minutes of NLL experience between them. Dan Carey has put together quite a nice little team here, so we might see something similar to last year’s Seals – an expansion team that doesn’t really look like an expansion team. Lots of strength up front with Shawn Evans, Turner Evans, Cattoni, Knight, Lintner, and Caputo, and some vets on D as well. They have eight players listed as transition, but other than Frank Brown (starting the season on IR) and Zac Reid, only one has any NLL experience – Adam Perroni played in three games over two seasons.

Look out for

Curtis Knight has been an important role player for the Rush for years, but now out of the shadow of Matthews, Church, and McIntosh, he has the ability to be one of the top point producers on the Knighthawks.

Prediction

Fourth in the north.


RockToronto Rock

The Rock lost Dan Lintner in the expansion draft and Brock Sorensen got injured, so they went out and got a different Dan and a different Brock.

I’ve been able to see the Rock play three times already this season, though of course you can’t take much away from pre-season exhibition games. Nick Rose didn’t play in one of them, Tom Schreiber didn’t play in any of them, and while the Rock kept their roster size down, other teams were fielding what seemed like dozens of players. But that said, I really liked watching Dan Dawson on the Rock offense. After about 68 seasons in the NLL, he’s still a force to be reckoned with, his passing ability is amazing, and his floor vision is off the charts. The loss of Creighton Reid and Brock Sorensen will hurt the D, but the big veteran David Brock will make up for some of that. Like I said, Tom Schreiber didn’t play in any of the Rock’s pre-season games, so hopefully his addition on the same side as Dawson won’t mess things up. However, it’s hard to imagine two unselfish players with their skill levels wouldn’t mesh reasonably well.

Look out for

Damon Edwards only missed one game last year but his points dropped by half and his penalty minutes almost doubled. I’d love to see a resurgence from Edwards, if he can stay out of the box (though he couldn’t at last weekend’s game against the Rush).

Prediction

First in the north.

2019-2020 NLL Predictions

Here are my predictions for the final regular season standings as well as the major annual awards. The “Dark Horse” predictions are my “not as likely but could happen” picks.

Final Standings

I’ve also included my picks for overall standings in parens after the team name.

North

  1. Toronto Rock (4)
  2. Buffalo Bandits (7)
  3. Halifax Thunderbirds (9)
  4. Rochester Knighthawks (10)

East

  1. Georgia Swarm (1)
  2. New England Black Wolves (6)
  3. Philadelphia Wings (11)
  4. New York Riptide (13)

West

  1. Calgary Roughnecks (2)
  2. Saskatchewan Rush (3)
  3. San Diego Seals (5)
  4. Colorado Mammoth (8)
  5. Vancouver Warriors (12)

Individual Awards

MVP

The picture came from a Google link to an article from the Saskatoon StarPhoenix but the actual article doesn't have the picture, so I have no way to give photo credit.Winner: Mark Matthews
Short list: Callum Crawford, Cody Jamieson
Dark horse: Zach Currier

Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Christian Del Bianco
Short list: Dillon Ward, Mike Poulin, Matt Vinc
Dark horse: Frank Scigliano

Defensive Player of the Year

Winner: Kyle Rubisch
Short list: Graeme Hossack, Steve Priolo
Dark horse: Brad Kri

Transition Player of the Year

Winner: Zach Currier
Short list: Challen Rogers, Joey Cupido
Dark horse: Kiel Matisz

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Andrew Kew
Short list: Ryland Rees

Same disclaimer as previous years: I don’t follow MSL or WLA in enough detail to really have a good idea. Just going by what I’ve heard on podcasts and read on IL Indoor and Twitter and such.

Les Bartley Award

Winner: Ed Comeau
Short list: Derek Keenan, Pat Coyle
Dark horse: Mike Hasen

GM of the Year

Winner: Patrick Merrill
Short list: Rich Lisk, Dan Richardson if the Warriors finish above .500
Dark horse: Dan Carey

2019-2020 NLL: Who’s in, who’s out

Here it is: a complete summary of all the roster changes for each team, all in one place.
Note that these are the changes as of the final roster from last season, so a player might be listed as “In” even if he played for that team during 2019. And a player who’s injured but still part of that team will be listed as “out”. Not all teams have announced who’s on their IR, PUP, or holdout lists.

Teams and players are each listed in alphabetical order. This article will be updated as things change up until about a week into the season.

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

In: Doug Buchan, Steve Dietrich (coach) Marcus Minichiello, Brent Noseworthy, Quinn Powless
Out: Jordan Durston, Shawn Evans, Zach Higgins, Rich Kilgour (coach) Thomas Hoggarth, Ethan O’Connor
IR: None
PUP: Thomas Hoggarth, Ethan O’Connor
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Okaeme Chukwuemeka, Devlin Shanahan


RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

In: Haiden Dickson, Marshall King, Liam LeClair, Ryan Martel
Out: Reece Callies, Rhys Duch, Riley Loewen, Dan MacRae
IR: Reece Callies
PUP: Rhys Duch
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Travis Getz, Landon Kells, Nick Scott, Sean Tyrrell


MammothColorado Mammoth

In: Tyler Carlson, Brett Craig, Carter Dickson, Warren Jeffrey, Dylan Kinnear, Will Malcom, Dylan Molloy, Josh Sullivan
Out: Steve Fryer, Julian Garritano, Steven Lee, Ian Llord, Jeremy Noble, Brad Self, Cory Vitarelli, Chris Wardle, Jeff Wittig
IR: None
PUP: Chris Wardle, Jeff Wittig
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Carter Dickson, Ilija Gajic, Justin Goodwin, Jake McNabb, Erik Turner


SwarmGeorgia Swarm

In: Jordan Hall, Ryan McSpadyen, Kason Tarbell, Joel White
Out: Holden Cattoni, Tyler Ferreira, Haina Thompson, Joel Tinney, Craig Wende
IR: Zach Miller
PUP: Jordan Gillis, Justin Lemcke
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: TJ Comizio, Steven Orleman, Sergio Perkovic


Thunderbirds-smallHalifax Thunderbirds

In: Cory Becker, Scott Campbell, Pete Dubenski, Eric Fannell, Stephen Keogh, Clarke Petterson, Trevor Smyth, Nonkon Thompson
Out: Angus Goodleaf, Oran Horn, Mike Manley, Darryl Robertson, Brandon Robinson, Dawson Theede, Mike Triolo, Luke Van Schepen
IR: Luke Van Schepen
PUP: None
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Johnny Jimerson, Chet Koneczny, Brandon Robinson, Clay Scanlon


BlackWolvesNew England Black Wolves

In: Jordan Durston, Andrew Kew, John LaFontaine, Ty Logan, Tony Malcom, Joe Nardella, Creighton Reid, Ethan Woods
Out: David Brock, Kevin Buchanan, Alex Buque, Joel Coyle, Tyler Digby, Greg Downing, Ryan Fournier, Andrew Suitor
IR: None
PUP: Greg Downing
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Bailey Brown, Mike Byrne, Tristan Rai, Joel Tinney


Riptide-smallNew York Riptide

In: Everybody
Out: Nobody
IR: None
PUP: Ryan Brown, Angus Goodleaf, Matt Kavanagh, Jack Rowlett
Holdout: Brier Jonathan, Dawson Theede, Kurtis Woodland
Protected: Myles Jones
Practice Roster: Jake Fox, Scott Johnston, Adam Osika, John Wagner


WingsPhiladelphia Wings

In: Kevin Buchanan, Nick Finlay, Brett Hickey, Zach Higgins, Anthony Joaquim, Ian Llord, Brandon Miller, Alex Pace, Liam Patten, Cory Vitarelli, Nate Wade, Ryan Wagner
Out: Gowah Abrams, Matthew Bennett, Frank Brown, Doug Buchan, Dylan Evans, Justin Guterding, Jordan Hall, Vaughn Harris, Chet Koneczny, Adam Osika, Eric Shewell
IR: None
PUP: None
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Matt Mariner, Kyle Marr, Austin Pifani, Daryl Waud


Knighthawks-smallRochester Knighthawks

In: Everybody
Out: Nobody
IR: Tyler Biles
PUP: Frank Brown, Travis Burton, Zac Reid
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Julian Garritano, Adam Perroni, Dustyn Pratt


SealsLogoSan Diego Seals

In: Wes Berg, Graydon Bradley, Mike Carnegie, Nick Damude, Garrett Epple, Mark Glicini, Eli Gobrecht, Zack Greer, Evan Messenger, Jeremy Noble, Matt Sykes
Out: Garrett Billings, Tyler Carlson, Dan Dawson, Paul Dawson, Turner Evans, Kyle Hartzell, Casey Jackson, Connor Kelly, Brendan Ranford, Adrian Sorichetti, Joe Walters
IR: Casey Jackson, Johnny Pearson, Austin Staats
PUP: None
Holdout: None
“Inactive Roster”: Oliver Bolsterli, Zach Bryant, Austin Divitcos, Devyn Mayea
Practice Roster: Jules Heningburg, Dylan Riley, Mikie Schlosser, Ethan Schott


RushSaskatchewan Rush

In: Ryan Dilks, Holden Garlent, Ryan McLean, Austin Murphy, Justin Robinson
Out: Nik Bilic, Scott Campbell, Nick Finlay, Curtis Knight, Brett Mydske
IR: None
PUP: None
Holdout: Jeff Cornwall
Draft list: Luke Keenan
Practice Roster: Cameron Dunkerley, Zach Gould, Tanner Thomson


RockToronto Rock

In: David Brock, Dan Dawson, Scott Dominey, Damon Edwards, Josh Jubenville, Zach Manns
Out: Phil Caputo, Dan Lintner, Kieran McArdle, Creighton Reid, Brock Sorensen, Jay Thorimbert
IR: Aaron Forster
PUP: Brock Sorensen
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Jamison Dilks, Mitch Gustavsen, Troy Holowchuk, Alec Simons


WarriorsVancouver Warriors

In: Nik Bilic, Sam Clare, Derek Lloyd, Riley Loewen, Mike Mallory, Chris O’Dougherty, Patrick O’Meara, James Rahe, Justin Salt, Bob Snider
Out: Jean-Luc Chetner, Zac Christianson, Brody Eastwood, Tony Malcom, Reid Mydske, Zack Porter, Jarrett Toll, Dallas Wade, Nate Wade
IR: Andrew Gallant, Joel McCready, Zack Porter, Mason Pynn
PUP: None
Holdout: None
Practice Roster: Keegan Bell, Lyndon Bunio, Reid Mydske, Tyson Roe


The GOAT

The Calgary Roughnecks signed Dane Dobbie to a multi-year contract last week. Considering Dobbie had a career year in 2019 and was deservedly named both season MVP and Championship MVP, it’s hard to argue against this, regardless of the term or money he was asking for. But when the NLL tweeted about it, they used a goat icon and I had to roll my eyes.

GOAT stands for Greatest Of All Time and it’s become a term that, in my opinion, is thrown around far too easily in the sports world. By definition, there can be only one GOAT in each sport. There may be controversy as to who it is, but there aren’t lots of them. I don’t think it’s a hot take to say that Dane Dobbie is not the greatest player in NLL history (despite his teammates saying he is). The hot take might be: he’s not even in the top ten. But that’s an article for another time.

Of course you can add your own qualifiers, and a player may be the GOAT of a certain subset of players. As Jake Elliott pointed out, the NLL probably meant that Dobbie is the Roughnecks GOAT, not the GOAT. That’s totally fair and Jake is quite likely right.

But that got me thinking: what about the other teams? Who is their GOAT? Some are obvious – Buffalo comes to mind – while others are more contentious.

One question we have to answer first is what do we mean by this? Is it the best player to ever wear that uniform, or is it the best player to ever have an impact in that uniform? For example, you could argue that the second Dan Dawson takes the floor as a member of the Toronto Rock this coming season, before he’s even touched the ball, he’s among the top three players ever to wear the Rock jersey. But is that meaningful?

For this article, I’m going to say that it’s not good enough to simply have worn a team’s jersey, you have to have played there for a significant amount of time. However I’m not going to define “significant” with specific guidelines (e.g. you have to have played x games or x seasons or have won some sort of major award). Just going with my gut here.

I’m going to skip the expansion Knighthawks 2.0 and Riptide for obvious reasons and also the Wings 2.0 and Seals since they have only played a single season.

Buffalo – Tough one, but I’m going to go with someone who many consider to be the GOAT of the league, if not the entire sport of box lacrosse. Of course it’s John Tavares.

Dane Dobbie (Photo credit: Greg Southam)Calgary – My “tough one” for the Bandits was obviously in jest but this really is a tough one. If you go with the “just wearing the jersey” rule, I’d put Josh Sanderson and Shawn Evans at the top of that list. Sanderson played two full seasons and part of a third and while they were outstanding seasons and included a championship, he’s more associated with the Rock. Evans is a tougher call because he played four seasons including two with 110+ points and one MVP trophy. The guy who started this whole conversation, Dane Dobbie, has played 12 seasons (all with Calgary), won two Championships, and is the incumbent MVP. Jeff Shattler was an MVP and played eleven great seasons in Calgary so he has to be considered. Kaleb Toth was never an MVP but was the quintessential Roughneck for years. What about Tracey Kelusky? Higher point averages than Shattler or Toth, and team captain for their 2009 title.

Given his longevity, I’m going with Dobbie.

Colorado – Is it John Grant or Gary Gait? Gait only played three years with the Mammoth while Grant played seven (well, six plus two games in the seventh). Interestingly, their points-per-game numbers are almost identical: Grant averaged 5.632 points per game over 98 games while Gait averaged 5.625 in 48 games. If Gait had played 98 games with the Mammoth like Grant did, he’d have 551 points. Grant has 552. Both won an MVP award with the Mammoth and neither won a Championship (Gait did as a coach), so basically, they were the same guy. Grant played twice as long in Colorado as Gait did so I’m going with Grant.

Georgia (including Minnesota) – If you just consider the four seasons in Georgia, I think the obvious choice would be Lyle Thompson. But if you include the Minnesota years, Callum Crawford and Ryan Benesch jump into the mix. They each had slightly higher points-per-game numbers than Thompson, but even at their peak, I don’t think either of them were as good overall as Thompson is.

Halifax – (as the Rochester Knighthawks) John Grant is the obvious choice because he’s one of the best players in the history of the league. But Matt Vinc has to be considered here. Grant won one Championship and an MVP award in his ten seasons with the Knighthawks. Vinc won three titles and about a hundred Goaltender of the Year awards. Grant’s dominance with the Knighthawks cannot be overlooked (he had an eight-year stretch with seven 90+ point seasons and only played five games in the eighth) but Vinc is probably the best goaltender of the last decade and definitely top three all-time. I honestly cannot decide so I’m taking the easy way out and calling it a tie.

New England* – Again Shawn Evans jumps out. He only played 2½ years in New England but averaged over six points per game in the two full seasons. Another candidate would be Kevin Crowley, who played most of four seasons with the Black Wolves. He wasn’t quite as dominant with the numbers but Crowley is great off-ball and defensively as well so his numbers don’t show how good he is. I’m going to go with Evans here.

Saskatchewan (including Edmonton) – Mark Matthews was my first thought but Kyle Rubisch is probably the better choice. Matthews has been a top-10 offensive player for his entire career (top 5 for most of it) but there was a four year period where Rubisch was hands down the best defensive player in the league, and he remains in the top three now.

Toronto – I’m going with Colin Doyle not only because he was an outstanding player (#4 in career scoring) but a great captain as well. Like Matt Vinc in Rochester, Bob Watson also needs to be considered. Josh Sanderson is right up there too, and Jim Veltman and Brodie Merrill were also great players and great captains.

Vancouver (including the entire franchise history) – I wondered about Lewis Ratcliff, Gary Rosyski, Colin Doyle, and even Josh Sanderson from the Albany Attack days. But in the end, it’s got to be Rhys Duch. Duch averaged about 5.4 points per game over ten seasons with the San Jose, Washington, and Vancouver Stealths. He led the team in goals, assists, and points in four straight seasons and was either first or second in those categories in three more. He was the face of the Stealth for a decade which is why it was so surprising that they unceremoniously released him before last season. Hey, can someone remind me who scored the OT goal that gave Calgary the 2019 Championship? I forget.

* Maybe others don’t have this problem, but I find it hard to think of the Black Wolves as a continuation of the old Philadelphia Wings. As a result, I didn’t consider Wings players for the Black Wolves GOAT, even though I did consider previous teams in the Vancouver and Georgia franchises. But the Wings were around for 28 years, so they shouldn’t be just tossed aside. For the Wings, I’d have to choose between Tom Marechek (12 years, four Championships, 773 points) and Dallas Eliuk (again, top 3 goalie of all time). Gary Gait only played five seasons in Philly but was named MVP in three of them (in a row), so he’s got to be up there too. I’m going to go with Eliuk.

Examining the 2019-2020 NLL schedule

Winter is coming.

And this is good, because winter is NLL season! The 2019-2020 NLL season begins on November 29, which is only eleven weeks from now. In fact by the time you read this, it will be less than eleven weeks from now. The league released the schedule for the upcoming season this week, just ahead of next week’s entry draft. Of course the timing is done by design since now that the summer championships (President’s Cup, Minto, Mann, etc.) are done, there ain’t much happening in the box lacrosse world right now.

Continue reading

2019 Expansion draft

I imagine the last few weeks have been a nightmare for NLL GMs, and the next couple won’t be much better. The second expansion draft in two years is coming up in a couple of weeks so each GM had to go through their roster and choose eleven players to protect, knowing they could lose anyone not on that list. Then you need to call more than half of your players and tell them they’re not protected. Then you will lose two of them and need to adjust your team afterwards. Luckily they have five months or so before the season starts to do that. Just like last year’s draft, some GMs will have some big holes to fill after the draft, others might barely notice the difference.

Continue reading

Various musings lacking statistical correlation

I guess it’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. I’ve been writing weekly for IL Indoor and one article for Lacrosse Flash, podcasting every week, and active on twitter, so I guess my thoughts have been dispersed enough in other venues that I didn’t think to write about them here. That ends now.

Congrats

First off, congratulations to the 2019 NLL Champion Calgary Roughnecks. Their season didn’t start they way they wanted it to, with Curtis Dickson and Wes Berg holding out and Jesse King injuring his knee during the preseason. But Dane Dobbie grabbed the team by the lapels and said “Let’s go out and win this f**king thing”, or words to that effect. A month later they had Dickson back and while Berg never returned at all (and likely never will; any bargaining power he might have had vanished as soon as Duch’s shot hit the back of the net), King was able to return for the last two games of the regular season, just as the team was peaking.

Getting hot heading into the playoffs is never a bad thing, and that momentum led the Roughnecks all the way to the title. They weren’t most people’s favourites to win the west, and in fact they finished third. But at the same time, given the strength of the team and particularly Dobbie and Christian Del Bianco, nobody’s really surprised.

Curtis Dickson

I’m sure it doesn’t mean much but I offer my congratulations to the Bandits as well on their amazing season. After missing the playoffs two straight years, the Bandits were many people’s favourites to win the East, myself included. Obviously the biggest addition was Matt Vinc, who had an outstanding season and will probably win his eleventy millionth Goalie of the Year award, but the additions of Corey Small, the emergence of Thomas Hoggarth as a serious scoring threat, and a crop of amazing rookies in Ian MacKay, Chris Cloutier, and Matt Gilray were also instrumental in the Bandits’ success.

MVP

Until a couple of years ago, I wasn’t a big fan of Dane Dobbie. There was no question that he was a great lacrosse player, but I thought he was a bit of a hothead and a little too arrogant for my taste. Not really a team guy.

DEAD. WRONG.

After paying a little more attention, I started to see some of the unselfish plays he would make and it became obvious that his main goal was not to pad his numbers but to help his team win. I had always appreciated the heart and effort he gave game in and game out. The celebrations that I interpreted as “I scored another goal, I’m so awesome” started to look more like “we scored another goal”. Imagine my surprise when I realized I was a Dobbie fan.

Then came the 2019 season. As good as Dobbie was before, he got better. He managed to tack on an extra 25 points to his best season total. He played with more heart and intensity and carried the Roughnecks through their challenges in the early part of the season. And it wasn’t just until Curtis Dickson returned; Dobbie kept up that intensity the rest of the season and throughout the playoffs. And if that wasn’t enough, in a post-Championship interview, the Finals MVP basically deflected all the credit to his teammates and coaches. Yes, he plays with passion but he’s clearly not a hothead, not arrogant in the least, and there’s no bigger team guy in the NLL. Congratulations to Dane Dobbie on an MVP-worthy season and post-season, and a Championship.

Awards

This afternoon, the NLL announced the nominees for the annual awards. Not a lot of surprises but I found it interesting that some categories are near or perfect clones of last year while others are entirely different. None of the players nominated for MVP in 2018 (Matthews, Church, Crowley) were nominated in 2019. Similarly, none of last year’s Les Bartley award nominees were nominated this year. On the other hand, the Transition Player of the Year list contains two players (Zach Currier and Challen Rogers) who were nominated last year, which means that at least one of the two will lose it two years in a row. Defender of the Year also has two (Graeme Hossack and Kyle Rubisch – Hossack won last year), and the third is Steve Priolo who’s been nominated in five of the last six years. The 2019 Goaltender of the Year nominees are Vinc, Del Bianco, and Ward: exactly the same as last year.

I’ve worked with two of the three nominees for the Tom Borrelli award: Bob Chavez is my editor at IL Indoor and has been amazingly supportive of my lacrosse writing for eight years. I wrote an article for Tyson Geick’s Lacrosse Flash website this past season, and may be doing more there in the future. They are both deserving but since Chavez has won it before, my vote (though I don’t have one) would go to Tyson. I know very little about Barstool Jordie but I find it difficult to believe that his impact as a member of the NLL media was as big as Teddy Jenner, Jake Elliott, Evan Schemenauer, Stephen Stamp, Pat Gregoire, and others. I’m not a fan of Barstool Sports in general, so I’m pretty sure I saw “Barstool” in his name and thought “Oh, those guys” and ignored him throughout the season. Maybe he’s done an excellent job and I’ve just missed it all.

Expansion

The second expansion draft in as many years is a little over a month away, and I’m excited about it. I’m hoping that they do it in one of two ways: either say in advance “Here are the players that the two GMs decided to choose” or conduct an actual live draft. Last year it seemed that they actually did the former but announced it as if it were the latter. It was obvious that the picks had been made in advance, and the whole thing was over in about ten minutes. It doesn’t need to be a whole three-hour event with Stephen Stamp and Andy McNamara doing analysis after each and every pick, though I’m sure those guys would be happy to do it, but don’t just zip through the picks like a new episode of Game of Thrones is about to start.

Last year, I posted an article where I predicted who would be chosen from each team. However I did that before the teams announced who they were protecting, so my guesses were mainly wrong. This year, I’ll wait until the protected lists are out.

Game report: Toronto @ Buffalo, East division finals

As we have done many times in the past, my son and I travelled down the QEW to Buffalo to watch the Rock and Bandits duke it out. Of course, this wasn’t just any game, this was the Eastern Division finals, where the two best teams in the East (“that’s arguable” say the Swarm fans) battled for the right to host the Roughnecks in this year’s NLL Championship series. The Bandits were the clear favourite, being the #1 seed and all, but the Rock had won a number of games this season that they probably shouldn’t have, and the Bandits did take them seriously.

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